Green construction may become a $200 billion industry in 2018. While once a niche sector, green building is booming with expected 15% growth year-over-year, outpacing general construction. While green features are popular with residential properties, commercial construction is dominant in the growth of the green construction industry.
What’s Green Construction?
Sustainability and low-impact processes are the foundation of green construction. Wise use of materials is part of every stage in the life cycle of the building from sourcing materials and construction to operation and demolition.
Green construction includes:
- Specialized designs and materials with limited environmental impact
- Processes that are environmentally responsible
- Focus on conserving as much energy and water as possible
- Use of recycled or renewable materials
- Resource efficient processes
Saving the planet is not the only motivation propelling the green building trend. Durability, savings, and efficiency are also compelling reasons “green” is big business. In fact, it’s such a big deal, that there’s a major international certification program with rating systems for the green design, construction, and operation of buildings, homes, and neighborhoods.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely used third-party verification for green buildings. Points are earned across sustainability areas when a project pursues LEED certification. Buildings that have earned LEED certification save money, lower emissions, and are resource efficient. Construction teams are inspired to innovate and find new ways to improve our communities and our environment.
There is LEED certification for new construction, schools, retail, healthcare facilities, warehouses, homes, and neighborhoods and cities. LEED projects score an average 89 out of 100 ENERGY STAR score, and a study found that more than 90% improve energy performance by at least 10%.
Why is Green Construction Big Business?
So what’s the cause of all this “green” growth? Factors include:
- Mainstreaming of the environmental movement: “Ethical shopping” has grown substantially in multiple sectors; 70% of American consumers considering environmental factors when shopping. Energy efficient light bulbs, recycling, and organic food are just a few of the areas where the environmental movement has invaded commerce. Why not construction?
- Technological advances: New, cheaper solar technology has resulted in new solar installation projects and new green jobs.
- Necessity: Increases in global temperatures, caused by greenhouse gases produced by humans, will continue; scientists forecast a 2.5- to 10-degree F increase over the next century. S. buildings consume more energy than the transportation and industrial sectors and account for nearly 40% of national CO2 emissions.
- Demand: 72% of executives in firms that own green buildings say they go green to reap energy savings and lower operating costs, a 2009 McGraw-Hill Construction survey found. Green is a growing trend in residential construction as well with green building materials, health-conscious interiors, solar panels, low-impact designs, water-saving measures, and self-sufficient features.
- Savings: The US Green Building Council predicts $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, and $715.3 million in maintenance savings by 2018. LEED-certified buildings have 34 % lower CO2 emissions and consume 25% less energy.
- Cost-effective: Green buildings are more valuable, enjoying lower maintenance and energy costs. ROI is fast, with green retrofit projects paying for themselves in seven years and reducing operation costs by 10% in one year.
At the moment, we only have one planet to call home so it’s critical that we do everything we can internationally, nationally, and locally to preserve it. Many of the resources we need most are costly or damaging to procure and in limited supply. Green construction combines recycling, efficiency, sustainably, and smart technology to make high-quality buildings that will last and have a low impact on the environment.
Green building will be a permeant trend in the future, becoming the standard way to construct homes and other buildings. It’s the right thing to do but also the smart thing.