Major Trends in Green Building

By Mark S. Kuhar

What are the major trends likely to affect the green building industry and markets in the United States in 2014? As one of the world’s leading green building consultants, Jerry Yudelson thinks he knows the answers. In fact, his list of green building megatrends has become an annual event.

At the top of Yudelson’s 2014 list is the prediction that green building in North America will continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. “Green building is the tsunami of the future that will inundate the entire real estate industry,” said Yudelson.

The second megatrend on Yudelson’s list is the growing focus on energy efficiency in all kinds of buildings, including the increasing role of building automation for energy efficiency using cloud-based systems. Yudelson said, “The convergence of corporate and commercial real estate, information technology that is based in the Cloud, and energy efficiency leads my list of new green building megatrends for 2014.”

The third megatrend is the design and operation of zero-net-energy buildings. Yudelson stated, “We know that green building has hit the mainstream. To distinguish themselves, many building owners and developers are taking the logical next step: getting to zero net energy on an annual basis; Why? The most widespread reason is that more people than ever believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Rounding out Yudelson’s top 10 trends for green building in 2014 are the following:

LEED will attract competitors as never before. Yudelson said, “It’s likely that LEED’s cost and complexity will open up the market to other competitors such as the Green Globes rating system offered by the Green Building Initiative.” One reason: Recent Obama administration actions have now put this system on a par with LEED for federal projects.

The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new building design and construction to greening existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010. Yudelson’s green building book, Greening Existing Buildings, documents the strategic and tactical components of this trend. Yudelson predicts that more than 500 existing federal buildings will seek green building ratings in 2014.

Green buildings will increasingly be designed and managed by innovative information technologies that are based in the “Cloud.” In fact, Yudelson calls 2014, “The Year of the Cloud,” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.

Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend, highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance. Yudelson stated he expects this trend to spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.

Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern, will become increasingly contentious, as manifested through such tools as Health Product Declarations. Yudelson predicts, “Building product manufacturers increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns.” We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.

Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. Yudelson expects that third-party financing offerings will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.

Yudelson said, “Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase, as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide.” Yudelson’s 2010 recent water conservation book, Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, shows how this is being done in green buildings all over the developed world.

Yudelson Associates’ founder, Jerry Yudelson, a LEED Fellow, is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading green building and sustainability consultants and an internationally recognized keynote speaker. In 2011, Wired magazine dubbed him the “Godfather of Green.” He is the author of 13 green building books. 

EPA Agenda Includes Clean Water Act Expansion

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Nov. 27 regulatory agenda included items related to the Clean Water Act, lead paint programs, post-construction stormwater and stormwater ELG, among other items.

A final conference report on water resources legislation will almost certainly have to wait until early 2014, according to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA). Conferees to the Senate-House negotiations are signaling that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) are putting the finishing touches on a conference report, but time is simply running out.

Both sides were hoping to finish the year with a presidential signature on a major piece of legislation dealing with infrastructure, but kicking off 2014 with such a victory may not be a bad way to get the ball rolling toward a similar deal on surface transportation, NSSGA said.

Clean Water Act
New to the regulatory agenda is a proposed rule that would likely expand the EPA’s jurisdiction under the federal Clean Water Act. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), along with the Waters Advocacy Coalition, recently submitted comments on a draft scientific report released by EPA on the connectivity of water, which is intended to guide the proposed rulemaking. The rule is listed on the agenda for December and is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget.

Lead Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program
EPA has moved a rulemaking that would expand its existing Lead Paint Renovation and Repair Painting rule to include public and commercial buildings to long term action. ABC, as part of the Commercial Properties Coalition, recently aired their concerns with the proposal at a public hearing in June.

Post-Construction Stormwater
EPA continues to list its post-construction stormwater rule under long-term action. In a 2010 settlement agreement, EPA agreed to issue a proposed national stormwater rule for developed and redeveloped sites by June 2013. The agency has yet to issue a proposed rule.

Stormwater ELG
EPA continues to list February 2014 as the date to issue a final rule on the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Construction and Development Point Source Category. In April, EPA issued a proposed rule in response to a settlement agreement which withdrew the numeric discharge limit from the existing 2009 Construction and Development Effluent Limitations Guidelines Rule. According to the settlement agreement, EPA will take final action by Feb. 28, 2014. E

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