The use of green building techniques is a fast-growing trend in the construction industry. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certifies 2.2 million certified square feet per day, according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The global market for green building materials is expected to grow to $364.6 billion by 2022.
Various factors are causing this push toward buildings that consume less energy, use more environmentally friendly materials and offer healthier indoor environments for their occupants. Here are five of the biggest drivers.
1. Environmental Concerns
Concerns about the state of our environment, namely climate change and resource scarcity, are one significant reason for the increased focus on sustainability in construction.
Buildings use significant amounts of energy and therefore contribute to climate change-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the World Economic Forum, around 30 percent of GHG emissions come from facilities built by the infrastructure and urban development industry. The construction of buildings also uses about 3 billion tons of raw materials every year.
As climate change and other environmental problems become more apparent and well-understood, the construction industry is taking steps to reduce its environmental impact to help address them.
2. Cost Reductions
In addition to its environmental benefits, making construction activities more sustainable has economic benefits. Although employing green building techniques can sometimes increase initial costs, it leads to savings over the long term and increases the value of buildings.
Heating and cooling constitute a significant portion of the cost of operating a building and requires large amounts of energy. Green building techniques aim to make heating and cooling more efficient. One way green builders do this is by improving the insulation in a building to tighten the thermal envelope, or reduce the amount of air that escapes.
Green buildings can also reduce the cost of lighting, which can make up 10 to 30 percent of a building’s energy use, by incorporating more efficient technologies such as LED bulbs and allowing in more natural light.
3. Increased Comfort and Health
Green construction companies are also increasingly focused on making buildings healthier. Many of the same measures that make buildings more environmentally friendly can also make them more comfortable and healthy for the people that occupy them.
Green builders often focus on improving ventilation so occupants get more fresh air and allowing more natural light into the building. Green buildings often use more natural materials and fewer harmful substances.
One recent study found that occupants rated green buildings 10 percent more comfortable than other structures. A Harvard study also found that working in a healthier, green building can improve cognitive scores, potentially making employees more productive. The study found that workers’ cognitive scores increased by 61 percent after one day in a building with improved ventilation and 101 percent after two days.
4. Standards and Regulations
Both voluntary standards and legal requirements are increasing the use of green building techniques around the world. Many companies are seeking certification for green building standards to increase the value of their facilities. These standards are becoming more well-known, and many new rating systems have emerged in recent years.
Some of these standards include LEED, the International Code Council’s International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. Sustainable construction also contributes to global objectives, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
5. Public Pressure
Public pressure and consumer demand are also significant drivers of the use of green building techniques. According to the World Green Building Trends 2016 report from Dodge Data & Analytics, client demand was the top reason for using green building techniques with 40 percent of firms citing it as such.
Consumers are starting to value sustainability in the products they purchase and the buildings they buy or rent. Many businesses want to operate out of sustainable buildings to help them meet their environmental targets, reduce their costs and improve their reputation among consumers.
Due to the benefits green buildings provide, consumers, businesses and governments are pushing for more environmentally friendly buildings. Sustainable building techniques will be an increasingly important part of the construction industry in the years to come.
Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. She covers topics in conservation, sustainability and renewable energy. See her latest posts. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.