Consultant Releases Annual List of Green-Building ‘MegaTrends’

Dec. 19, 2011
Despite ongoing economic difficulties in most developed countries, the global rebound of green building will continue in 2012, green-building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson predicts in his annual list of top 10 green-building “MegaTrends.”

Despite ongoing economic difficulties in most developed countries, the global rebound of green building will continue in 2012, green-building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson predicts in his annual list of top 10 green-building “MegaTrends.”

“What we’re seeing is that more people are building green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements,” Yudelson, chief executive officer of Tucson, Ariz.-based Yudelson Associates, says.

Following is Yudelson’s list of the top 10 green-building trends for 2012, gleaned, he said, from conversations with green-building-industry leaders in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia over the past year:

1. Green building in North America will rebound in 2012. “In 2010 and 2011, the continuing slowdown in commercial real estate and the end of federal recovery funding put a crimp in new green-building projects,” Yudelson, author of 12 books on green building, says. But while the growth rate of new green-building projects fell dramatically in 2010 and 2011, domestic Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design- (LEED-) project registrations are up almost 40 percent over 2010 levels. “We see faster growth in green retrofits and notice that ongoing college and university projects and NGO (non-governmental organization) activity are serving to backstop the fall in commercial and governmental construction,” Yudelson says.

2. Green building will continue to benefit from the Obama administration’s strengthened focus on greening the executive branch, which includes a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold certification for all federal projects and a concentration on major energy-efficiency renovations.

3. The focus of the green-building industry will continue to move from new-building design and construction to greening existing buildings. One of the fastest-growing LEED rating systems the past two years has been LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, with the cumulative floor area of LEED-certified existing buildings now greater than that of LEED-certified new construction, Yudelson says, adding, “I expect this trend to pick up in 2012.”

4. Awareness of the “coming global crisis in fresh-water supply” will increase, with building designers, owners, and managers taking further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings.

5. The global green-building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries create their own green-building incentives and develop their own green-building councils. More than 90 countries with green-building organizations will drive considerable green-building growth in 2012. Citing “Green Building Market and Impact Report 2011” by Rob Watson, Yudelson says that in 2011, for the first time, nearly as many LEED-registered projects were in progress outside of the United States as inside, up more than 50 percent over 2010 levels and representing 44 percent of all new LEED-project certifications.

6. Zero-net-energy buildings will become increasingly commonplace, as LEED and Energy Star certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners.

7. Performance disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California, Seattle, and other locations. Commercial-building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public at large. This trend is established in Australia and will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions.

8. Green buildings increasingly will be managed in the “cloud,” as evidenced by a large number of new entrants and new products in the fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls, and information management in 2011.

9. Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. At least 20 more cities—most in “blue” states—will introduce commercial-sector green-building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions will lead more government agencies, universities, hospitals, and corporations to require green buildings from design and construction teams.

10. Solar-power use in buildings will continue to grow, with the prospect of increasing utility focus on aggressive state-level renewable-power standards for 2020. Third-party financing will continue to proliferate, providing capital for large rooftop systems. There will be fewer very large solar and wind systems, as federal support begins to decline.

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.