Green Building Megatrends: Part 2

THE FUTURE OF GREEN BUILDING: Top 10 Megatrends: Part 2

In my forthcoming book, Reinventing Green Building (RGB), I identify 10 megatrends that I believe will shape green building technologies, markets, government rules and certification systems through 2020 and beyond. The first post discussed the overall concept of megatrends and identified the first two. The next four trends deal specifically with energy-related issues, while the final four deal with larger issues of solar power, water, building materials and performance disclosure.

Megatrend #3: Zero-net-energy (ZNE) buildings are on the rise.

Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace. A 2014 survey by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) identified more than 160 ZNEBs in the U.S., with an additional 53 low-energy buildings that were “net zero energy capable.”

If a project wants to be newsworthy, it needs to incorporate something NEW. Developers of speculative commercial buildings (and, in some places, new home developments) have begun to showcase ZNE designs to differentiate their projects. This trend has been developing slowly since about 2011 and now seems ready for takeoff. 

However, the 2014 NBI study could verify as net-zero only 33 buildings out of the reported 160 total. This means that the number of “verified” ZNEBs is likely to remain lower for some period of time. 

Megatrend #4: Competition among rating systems will step up.

In the U.S., LEED may see heightened competition in new construction ratings from the Green Globes rating system and possibly from new entrants in specialized niches, such as retail or office interiors. In 2013 and 2014, the federal government put LEED and Green Globes on an equal footing for government projects, lending further legitimacy to Green Globes.

BREEAM International is marketing its system in 60 countries and seems poised to enter the U.S. market should the new LEEDv4 falter. BREEAM has already established a North American beachhead in Mexico. In Europe, the UK’s BREEAM rating system is aggressively marketing itself in Western Europe, where it competes with country-specific systems such as HQE in France and DGNB in Germany and Austria. 

Other North American systems include the Living Building Challenge, which has certified only a handful of buildings, and LEED Canada, which competes in existing buildings with BOMA Canada’s BOMA BESt rating system. BOMA BESt has certified more than 3,000 existing projects since 2005.

In Asia-Pacific, the likely scenario is for country-specific rating systems to dominate, especially in more established markets such as Australia, Singapore, Japan, India, and China.

Megatrend #5: Look for a sharper focus on existing buildings.

Starting with the global financial crisis of 2008–2010, the green building industry began to switch from evaluating new building projects to assessing existing buildings and tenant spaces. This trend has been solidly in place since 2011, and I expect it to accelerate, for two reasons. First, the uptake of third-party green building rating for new construction peaked during 2012–2014 and is now a steady 2,000–2,500 projects a year in the U.S., representing about 300 million sq.ft. of new construction a year (out of about 1.8 billion sq.ft. of total commercial construction.)

With new construction certification basically flat, the existing building market is getting greater attention, particularly with energy-efficiency retrofits and a renewed focus on using the Energy Star system. LEED certification is not as newsworthy as it once was. 

LEED existing building certification accounted for fewer than 550 buildings in 2014, about 1% of the total U.S. nonresidential building stock of 5.5 million buildings.

Megatrend #6: Cloud computing and Big Data analytics provide needed direction.

Building owners and third-party service companies increasingly manage larger buildings remotely, using software platforms that provide performance monitoring, data analytics, visualization, fault detection and diagnostics, portfolio energy management, and text messaging, all using the cloud.

This trend is reflected in the large number of new offerings in building automation, facility management, wireless controls, and building services information management in the last few years, as well as the spread of energy dashboards, cheap sensors, a greater awareness of the business case for energy upgrades, and more government regulation and actions for cutting energy use.