Sustainability Is Changing Our Industry

Dec. 8, 2012
Having attended the Greenbuild conference for the first time last month, I walked away with an interesting change in perspective—this is a serious show that lacks serious HVAC industry participation.

For years we’ve been talking about the “green” movement and its impact on our industry and the corporate world at large. With the advent of the U.S. Green Buildings Council and it’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program, there became a formalized process for ensuring that both new construction and renovation projects achieve high levels of sustainability.

But in the HVAC industry, the Greenbuild event doesn’t seem important for some reason. Perhaps it’s because in the beginning, the event seemed to attract roofers, door manufacturers, and companies that used recycled blue jeans for insulation. Today, it is so far removed from those beginnings that more than 25,000 real-estate developers and architects descended upon Moscone Center in San Francisco and crowded well over 1,500 exhibition booths and attended hundreds of seminars.

It became quite apparent to me, while walking the convention-center halls, that Greenbuild represents a massive change in how different trades view buildings and how those buildings operate, interact with occupants, and use energy. It’s NOT all about the mechanical systems, but certainly is mostly about them. So where were the mechanical systems designers and contractors?

I recently read three studies conducted by different entities that all arrived at the same conclusion: In the building construction industry, sustainability is widespread and is no longer something to consider out of obligation—it is a standard part of the process.

Siemens, in conjunction with McGraw-Hill Construction, released the results of its 2012 Greening of Corporate America study ( in October and found that the number of firms highly engaged in sustainability practices rose from 18 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2012. According to that study, energy and cost savings remain the most important drivers encouraging sustainability practices.

A recent Turner Construction Co. of more than 718 key executives in the corporate owner-occupant, architecture, construction, and real-estate consulting industries, found that 64 percent expect to begin new construction projects, 71 percent expect to begin renovation projects, and more than 90 percent are committed to environmentally sustainable practices.

Good news. This study, known as the 2012 Market Barometer Survey, says reducing energy costs and operating expenses are key drivers to green construction. According to the study synopsis, 52 percent of the respondents over the last four years seem to have become “more knowledgeable about the means and methods of designing and constructing green buildings.”

The third study, The 2012 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, finds that 80 percent of real-estate managers and investors have some sort of sustainability strategy in place. This study includes data from 450 property-management companies and funds worldwide involved with 36,000 properties representing more that $1.3 trillion in assets.

This study also highlights a significant trend: a rising prevalence of some sort of green building certification. The executive synopsis says, “More than half the respondents indicate their portfolios include properties that have earned LEED certification.”

To me this all ties back to my thoughts on the Greenbuild event. The HVAC industry needs a much bigger presence there. As an industry, we already are very green and getting greener by the day. Shouldn’t we be better represented?


Oscar Einzig Photo
Rick Fedrizzi addresses a crowd of more than 6000 to open Greenbuild 2012