We Need More Green Buildings

July 1, 2010
Ten years ago, HPAC Engineering published an editorial on the impact of the growing population on America's infrastructure and our ability to feed, clothe,

Ten years ago, HPAC Engineering published an editorial on the impact of the growing population on America's infrastructure and our ability to feed, clothe, and employ the increasing number of people. Back then, our friends in the U.S. Census Bureau were predicting that by the year 2100, the population of this country would be around 571 million — more than double the population at that time (270 million).

Today, the Census Bureau is in the middle of its 2010 survey (which as of this writing is boasting about a 72-percent participation rate). So, the most current data are based on the 2008 National Population Projections, and our population growth remains on track to hit that 571 million number.

According to the Census Bureau Website (www.census.gov), our current population is nearly 310 million.

The good news is that such population pressures are key drivers of the construction industry, and that means keeping tabs on Census numbers is important. We must know how many office buildings, hospitals and medical-care facilities, schools and universities, manufacturing facilities, and government buildings we'll need to build and how many existing buildings to maintain.

And the most important part of this is that all of these structures are vast consumers of energy, land, and other resources that are finite and expensive. Does it not, then, make sense for us to become more conscientious about designing environmentally sustainable mechanical systems, construction processes, and operations and maintenance methods?

The idea of “green buildings” certainly isn't new. Heck, we were writing about them 10 years ago. But the need for them grows as the years roll by.

As an industry, we are working very hard to meet those needs. In fact, green building currently accounts for 5 to 9 percent of the retrofit and renovation market, which equates to a $2 billion to $4 billion marketplace for major projects, according to a 2009 McGraw-Hill Construction study.

Several other market-research studies released over the last four months forecast high growth in the green-building sector over the next three to five years. One, from venture- capital firm Good Energies Inc., finds that about half of the non-residential building stock will be green (as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy Environmental Design standards) by 2015, up from about 15 percent today, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

That article quotes Greg Kats, senior director and director of climate change for Good Energies, as saying a non-residential green building costs about 2 percent more than a comparable traditional building. He also says payback for a green building is about three to four years, and over a 20-year period, the payback is four to six times the investment cost.

This is fantastic news. We need more green buildings, and the HVACR industry sits in the catbird seat. Now is the time to learn more about the opportunities that lay before you — opportunities through new technologies, Smart Grid, better design practices, commissioning, building energy rating systems, and more.

You can get a head start on some of this by joining us in Baltimore for the seventh annual Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Expo (www.egbconference.com), where these and many other topics will be discussed by leading experts.

The population growth in the United States is fueling the growth of our industry. Are you on board?

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