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Green Building Sees Growth, But Fewer Firms Pursue LEED

By Erin Weaver
This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com.
January 11, 2013

Three new surveys indicate that green building remains strong despite the uncertain global economy, with designers and builders anticipating an increasing number of green projects. McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC) has released two reports: “2012 World Green Building Trends” surveyed building-related firms in 62 countries, while “2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook” focused on the expectations of U.S. firms. Turner Construction’s “Green Building Market Barometer” surveyed 718 executives of U.S. firms.

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The reports indicate increasing demand for green building, with 81 percent of U.S. executives believing that the public expects them to institutionalize sustainability, according to the Dodge report. Worldwide, the MHC trends report found that firms’ top reasons for green projects were largely economic, from client and market demand to lower operating costs; this marks a shift from 2008, when the top reason given was “doing the right thing.” Overall, says United Technologies Corporation president Geraud Darnis, the new emphasis on value “confirms that we now see more pull than push for green buildings.” Firms not identifying any of their work as green still cite doing the right thing as the primary driver in green building and expressed concern with payback on upfront costs.

The green building market has grown tremendously, from $10 billion in 2005 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012, with expectations of exceeding $200 billion by 2016, according to the Dodge report. Globally, 51 percent of firms told Turner Construction they expect about two-thirds of their projects to be green by 2015—nearly double the percentage reporting that expectation in 2008. Green homes account for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. residential market—a percentage expected to increase by a few points each year, according to the Dodge report—and one-third of U.S. residential builders expect to be “fully dedicated” to green building by 2016.

Globally, the MHC trends report found that 63 percent of firms have new green commercial construction planned by 2015, with 83 percent of firms in Brazil—a construction hotspot—reporting such plans. Green renovation work is expected by 50 percent of firms worldwide, up to approximately two-thirds in Singapore and the U.K.

Health-related factors such as indoor air quality were among the benefits of green building cited as most important, with 55 percent of global firms naming occupant health as a top factor—an increase from 29 percent in 2008, according to the MHC trends report. In fact, the authors of the Turner survey observe that “when environmental factors influence the decision to incorporate green features, these are typically improvements to the indoor environment” rather than the global environment: only 37 percent of executives felt it was very important to reduce a building’s carbon footprint. In the MHC trends report, among factors traditionally considered “environmental,” 72 percent of firms named energy use reduction as the top reason for green building, while 25 percent favored reduced water consumption—up from 4 percent in 2008.

There has been a decline in U.S. firms reporting it very likely that they would seek LEED certification, from 61 percent in 2008 to 48 percent, according to the Turner survey. Firms not considering it likely cited perceived costs and difficulty of the LEED certification process, although many reported that they were somewhat likely to seek certification under other systems, such as Energy Star. The authors of the Turner survey speculate that, as companies become more knowledgeable about green building, they are moving away from reliance on LEED as a guide: 52 percent of firms indicated a preference for their own internal standards.

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