Green buildings are on the rise, and new trends are emerging which indicate that sustainable construction is more effective and widespread than before.
Net-zero buildings are on the rise
The global construction industry is increasingly employing green building practices and the latest trend to emerge is net-zero energy – buildings that produce as much energy as they consume. Some NZE buildings even generate more energy than they require to operate.
New Buildings Institute reported that net-zero energy buildings will see rapid growth over the next 20 years and will collectively be worth $690 billion by 2020 and $1.3 trillion by 2035, according to Pike Research. With a compound annual growth rate of 43 percent, the growth forecasted for this industry is impressive by any standard.
A significant portion of the rise in NZE buildings will be in the European Union, where regulation requires that public buildings achieve net-zero status by 2019, and all construction by 2021 will also achieve net-zero status, noted NBI. The EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – a governing entity – is expected to help lead these initiatives over coming years.
A database of net-zero buildings
GreenBiz reported on the world's greenest buildings, as indicated by their placement in the Getting to Zero Buildings Database, administered by NBI. Currently, the database includes 280 buildings across the United States and Canada, representing a range of climate zones, proving that net-zero is achievable anywhere.
According to the news source, of the 280 properties in the database, 135 are office buildings, 69 are schools and the remainder is comprised of various buildings such as factories, group homes and government buildings. Thirty-seven of the buildings have already achieved net-zero status and have a year's worth of collected data to prove it. Dennis Hayes, chief executive of the Bullitt Foundation, described the database as a welcome guide.
"This new tool will be a boon for information sharing and will help speed the adoption of new thinking and technologies in green building," said Hayes, according to GreenBiz.
The source noted that the Bullitt Foundation is responsible for developing the greenest office building in the world – located in Seattle, Washington.
Elite status is desirable
Many developers and building owners seek to obtain LEED status and other green building certifications, but net-zero buildings represent elite status. Research analyst Eric Bloom explained that while net-zero requires significant investment, it is achievable for many buildings around the world, reported Sustainable Business.
"Following the surge in LEED and other green building certifications worldwide over the last few years, net-zero energy building has emerged as the 'holy grail' in green building design," said Bloom. "Technically, net-zero energy building design is feasible for many building types in many regions, but concerns about the upfront cost continue to impede it in the market."
In an update to its previous report on the status of net-zero energy buildings, New Buildings Institute Executive Director Ralph DiNola commented on the future of the industry.
"The growth and diversity are important indicators for what we should expect in the coming years," said DiNola. "We are seeing this play out in the shift from a handful of projects primarily in the public domain, to private companies such as Walgreens and TD Bank embarking on these building projects and using those experiences to inform future development."
Net-zero is not just for new buildings and public companies
The NBI's report also highlighted some key points that are pertinent to the rise in green buildings, notably that NZE is achievable in all regions and climate zones, it is possible to implement in many different buildings types and sizes, and it can be accomplished through retrofits and not just new construction. The NBI indicated NZE is a growing trend that is seeing increasing interest from the private sector – 26 percent of net-zero buildings developed this year were for private companies.
In a world that is looking to move away from dependence on fossil fuels and increase reliance on sustainable development, net-zero energy buildings demonstrate that green initiatives are not only achievable, but good for the bottom line. When considering the the costs saved in utilities, and the positive press coverage, it is obvious why more companies will want to achieve net-zero status for their corporate properties. A building that produces all the energy it requires is a cost-saving investment that also sets a positive example for society. Perhaps most importantly, NZE buildings prove that sustainable technology can satisfy energy demands.