There is one facet of the future for the built environment that is crystal clear. It must be green.
The built environment in the United States currently accounts for 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions, but for the most part, the construction industry has escaped scrutiny. Far more emphasis for reducing emissions has been focused on the transportation industry and setting fuel-efficiency standards. Yet automobiles and other modes of transportation account for 28% of greenhouse gasses – not much more than the 23% of CO2 emissions generated by the heating and cooling of residential buildings alone.
Today the technology does exist to construct a carbon-neutral or net-zero energy house – a structure that is capable of generating as much power as it consumes on an annualized basis. To encourage the adoption of such technologies, the United Kingdom has mandated that new homes be carbon neutral by 2016 and that new public housing be carbon neutral by 2013.
Similar legislation has not yet been mandated in the United States at the federal level, permitting the construction industry to take a “business as usual” position. But state and local governments have begun to push the agenda:
- The State of California passed in October 2007 a requirement that all new homes to be carbon neutral by 2020 and all new commercial buildings by 2030.
- The California city of San Jose in September 2007 became the first city in the nation to adopt a green building policy and set a goal that 50 million square feet of the city’s buildings be built or retrofitted to green standards by 2023.
In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. This aims to improve energy efficiency standards in buildings by 30% by 2010, and 50% by 2016.
Pending legislation for green building is mirror by the growing market demand for green buildings and related construction materials.
- The green building products market is projected to be worth $30 to $40 billion annually by 2010. (Source: Green Building Alliance)
- By the end of 2009, 82% of Corporate America is expected to be greening at least 16% of their real estate portfolios, and of these corporations, 18% will be greening more than 60% of their portfolios. (Source: McGraw Hill Construction: Greening of Corporate America Smart Market Report)
- When provided with the option to purchase either a traditional home or a green home for the same cost, consumers overwhelmingly stated they would pick the green home.
With the evolving landscape for a genuinely sustainable built environment, the most forward-thinking companies within the construction industry – those who abandon the “business as usual” mentality – will be the ones rewarded with sustainable revenue streams in the future.
For more industry information, Infineco has compiled a list of additional resources.