Sustainable building is becoming more appealing to both builders and buyers as more government incentives for energy efficiency are offered.
"Green building has been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster year [in the building industry],"said Sean Penrith, executive director of Portland, Ore.-based Earth Advantage Institute.
Recently a memorandum of understanding was signed between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which established parameters to design and deliver energy performance labeling for buildings. The Energy Performance Score (EPS) for buildings is comparable to the miles-per-gallon sticker on many cars and can be used to deliver incentives to builders, homeowners or businesses.
"I think that many state and local governments are going to be charged with either implementing their own version of the DOE-sanctioned label or implementing a DOE-approved label nationwide," said Penrith in an interview with Government Technology.
The EPS, developed by the Energy Trust of Oregon, is a publicly available number that is associated with a new or existing building. This means that property buyers can compare energy performance on similar buildings.
Energy performance labeling is just one of the green building trends for 2010, according to Earth Advantage Institute. Here's what else made it onto the top 10 list for 2010:
- The smart grid and connected home. While utilities will continue to make upgrades to the grid for more effective generation, storage and distribution of power, the big news is in the home. The development of custom and Web-based display panels that show real-time home energy use, and even real-time energy use broken out by individual appliance, will go a long way toward helping change homeowners' energy behavior and will drive energy conservation.
- Energy labeling for homes and office buildings. The advent of more accurate energy rating systems for homes and office spaces -- similar to the mpg sticker on your car -- has caught the attention of energy agencies and legislators around the country. Not only can it make a building-to-building or home-to-home comparison easier, but a publicly available score on the multiple listing service could galvanize owners to make needed energy improvements while adding value to their building.
- Building information modeling (BIM) software. The continued evolution of CAD software for building design has produced new add-on tools with increasingly accurate algorithms for energy modeling as well as embedded energy properties for many materials and features. This will prove instrumental in predicting building performance. BIM developers will soon offer more affordable packages aimed at smaller firms and individual builders.
- Financial community buy-in to green building. Lenders and insurers have come to see green homes and buildings as better for their bottom line and are working to get new reduced-rate loan products, insurance packages and metrics into place. Lenders and insurers are realizing green home and building owners are more responsible, place higher value on maintenance and lower operating costs, and are less likely to default.
- Rightsizing" of homes. A larger home no longer translates into greater equity. Given that the forecast for home valuation remains conservative, that energy prices are expected to rise over time, and the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates mid-year, homeowners will likely feel more comfortable building smaller homes and smaller add-ons.
- Eco-districts. A number of cities are already on the bandwagon with this one, encouraging the creation of greener communities where residents have access to most services and supplies within walking or biking distance. The creation of walkable, low-impact communities in the suburban setting is also gaining steam.
- Water conservation. Because indoor and outdoor residential water use accounts for more than half of the publicly supplied water in the United States, the EPA finalized the voluntary WaterSense specification for new homes in December 2009, which reduces water use by about 20 percent compared to a conventional new home. Water will be the essential resource in the next decade.
- Carbon Calculation. With buildings contributing roughly half the carbon emissions in the environment, the progressive elements in the building industry are looking at ways to document, measure and reduce greenhouse gas creation in building materials and processes. This effort will be heightened once a federal cap-and-trade mechanism is launched in this country.
- Net Zero Buildings. A net zero building is one that generates more energy than it uses over the course of a year, as a result of relatively small size, extreme efficiencies and onsite renewable energy sources. While the Architecture 2030 Challenge sets forth net zero as the goal for all new buildings by 2030, we are already within striking distance on energy efficiency know-how.
- Sustainable building education. The continued demand for greener buildings, especially in progressive cities, will supply new learning opportunities, not just for designers and builders but also for the entire chain of professionals involved in the building industry, from real estate to finance and insurance.