It’s been one year since we launched GreenExpo365.com – yahoo! Looking back over the numerous participants’ blogs, forums, and speaker presentations, the green building discussions have covered everything from net-zero energy construction to capturing business with green certifications. All of those details underscore larger developments arising in green building design, construction and operations. Rolling the expert insights of the site’s participants together, below is our take on three big trends we see over the next five to ten years:
1. Washington comes calling – as does Sacramento, Beijing, New Delhi...
No surprises here, and no fortuneteller of the year award for saying that building codes, marketing regulations and other laws will become more stringent, but what likely will be different is their increased pace and reach. As society becomes more complex, global and interconnected, pressure will mount on governments to take action on the use of increasingly constrained resources. Think of the two billion people in China, India, and other parts of the world aspiring to middle class lifestyles and greatly increasing global consumption.
In this environment, it will be imperative to push for performance-based solutions rather than prescriptive requirements. Checklists of standards by nature rely on existing knowledge, whereas performance goals allow for new thinking and creative approaches that can potentially be economically beneficial, as well as environmentally helpful. Legislators and administrators must hear that message clearly from their constituents – regardless of which continent they’re on.
2. Water: The new battleground
Energy efficiency is the diva of the green building ball that everyone now courts and talks about, but water supply will soon be clamoring to fill its own dance card. Energy will not go away as a green building focus, but in many ways, water is a more fundamental and far-reaching issue. Life is possible without electricity (although maybe not for teens with their video games and cell phones) and gasoline, but water trumps virtually all other human needs.
The developed world has largely taken fresh, clean water for granted since it has been abundant and many of the delivery costs are hidden. You only need look to the West where thirsty cities and farms in California, Arizona and Nevada are already jostling for water rights. The Midwest, Southeast and East are next.
Low-flow showerheads and the like serve a purpose, but more far-reaching changes in water consumption will be required – from farms to industry to how we landscape private and public spaces. Just turning off the water while we brush our teeth isn’t going to cut it.
3. A whole greater than the parts
Green building is still frequently done piecemeal by selecting individual materials or methods with various environmental features, instead of considering the building as a whole system that should integrate with its surroundings. Some of this is a function of learning and awareness among building professionals, while green building programs themselves also play a role. For example, it’s possible to earn a high project rating while not fully addressing comprehensive performance.
Building science research and the continued evolution of life cycle assessments offer promise to change this. Product manufacturers will likely be called on more to consider how their materials perform with others throughout the building. There will be more opportunities for partnerships among manufacturers, dealers, designers and builders to develop buildings holistically.
We have to admit it’s fun predicting the future. Get it right and there’s always bragging rights. Fail miserably, and most people won’t remember what you said anyway. Isn’t that what a lot of human history has been about?
So what do you think? Where do you see green building evolving in the future?