Monday, January 4, 2010

Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2010

Green building is one of the keys to economic recovery. Not only is it a better way to do business, it drives innovation, improves efficiency standards, makes for happier and healthier people and creates new "green collar" jobs.

The trend topics on this list will be no surprise to others who are experts in this area; they are products, systems and concepts that have been quietly percolating. The purpose of this list is to identify those "big picture" trends that we see becoming more mainstream in 2010.

Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2010:

1. Green walls — Green roofs were all the rage in 2009 - and their numbers will continue to grow - but why stop there? Incorporating green walls into a building's design creates additional opportunities to reap the benefits of vegetative surfaces: added insulation; reduced stormwater runoff; absorption of pollutants; natural habitat for birds, bees and butterflies; and reduced outside noise.

2. Living Buildings — More comprehensive than LEED Platinum and beyond net zero, the Living Building Challenge is the highest standard of sustainability in the built environment. Functioning as complete, natural and self-sufficient systems, Living Buildings represent a radical step forward in green building when there is growing consensus that the time for baby steps is past. 2010 will be a big year for Living Buildings; four years after the launch of the Challenge, the first Living Buildings are finally expected to be certified.

3. Green retrofitting — President Obama is planning a new federal economic stimulus plan that will train workers in home energy audits and green retrofits. New and green is sexy, but the bulk of the opportunity to address energy efficiency lies with our existing inventory of buildings.

4. Indoor Air Quality — With one in four Americans suffering from allergies and/or asthma and with Americans spending 90% of their time indoors, tighter and more energy-efficient homes demand more attention to IAQ. The EPA has updated rules coming on line in 2010 with new requirements for remodeling work to reduce the harmful impacts on children and adults.

5. Green neighborhoods — An individual green building is great, but again, why stop there? It's time to make the whole neighborhood green too. Walkability, transit-oriented development, smart growth principles - all elements of a green neighborhood.

6. Green modular — Mostly factory-built and assembled onsite, modular housing poses several benefits - monetary savings, reduced material waste and less time on-site, for starters - that will propel the green building movement forward in 2010.

7. LED lights — Commercially and in homes, LED lights will become more mainsteam in 2010. Previous problems in design and distribution are being corrected. And even though LED lights are still a little pricey, consumers are getting savvier about the life cycle assessment of the products they choose, as well as the long-term pay-off of using a more sustainable lighting alternative.

8. Environmental labels — Like the nutrition labels on food, green building labels offer easy-to-digest data and performance metrics for building materials.
9. Performance counts — We’ve seen the modeling for green buildings, now we want to see some results. In other words, prove it! In 2010, expect to see more and moe studies from academia, non-profits and corporate America that document the rental premiums, cost savings, health benefits and long-term investment value of green.

10. Updating community and homeowner association rules — Rules hindering environmentally-friendly behavior are being overturned: clotheslines are back, white roofs are okay, and compost bins and recycling containers are a point of pride, rather than hidden away.

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