Ten Green Building Predictions for 2010
smart energy management, home energy labeling, water conservation, calculating carbon footprints, and zero-energy homes will be among the top trends to emerge this year.
Source: residential architect online
Publication date: January 14, 2010
By Stephani L. Miller
The housing industry's ongoing distress has not dampened the enthusiasm for energy-efficient, healthy, and environmentally sensitive homes. To the contrary, green home building has persevered during the housing downturn and is set for significant future growth. According to the Earth Advantage Institute (EAI), the nonprofit provider of the Earth Advantage New Homes green building program based in Portland, Ore., 10 trends will emerge in 2010, helping to drive interest and market acceptance of green building. residential architect and sister magazine CUSTOM HOME both have noted and covered many of these developing trends over the past two years.
The EAI's predictions for green building in 2010 are, in no specific order:
1. As utilities continue to develop a smarter energy grid, solutions that allow homeowners to track their real-time energy usage—in the form of home- and Web-based display panels or "dashboards"—will be developed and will help them make informed decisions about their energy usage and encourage them to modify their habits. Read more about the smart grid here, about energy management solutions here, and about the rising demand for energy-saving systems and solutions here.
2. Energy agencies and municipalities around the country may seek to mandate energy performance labeling for homes and other buildings that would be made publicly available through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), providing an easier method for comparing buildings and homes and possibly spurring owners to make energy improvements to increase resale value. Read more about the benefits of home energy labeling.
3. Use of building information modeling (BIM) software will proliferate among smaller firms and individual builders because BIM software developers are likely to begin offering more affordable small-business packages. Also, the addition of BIM tools that allow more precise energy modeling will continue to assist in accurately predicting building performance. Read more about BIM's promise in the residential design and building industries.
4. Mortgage lenders and insurance providers are getting on the green bandwagon by developing reduced-rate loan products and insurance packages in recognition of the lower financial risks that greener homes represent—i.e., homeowners who value and maintain their homes and who are stronger because of their homes' reduced operating costs.
5. Oversized homes are out, smaller "rightsized" homes are in for 2010, reflecting a switch from the bigger-is-better mentality to one that's more energy- and cost-conscious. Lower home values, rising energy prices, and an expected mid-year increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve will keep homebuyers' square-footage ambitions in check. During the past two years, we have heard from many architects and builders around the country that their clients are expressing greater interest in smaller, more efficient homes. Read more about the "rightsizing" trend here, here, and here.
6. Several major cities are encouraging the formal development of "eco-districts"—walkable, low-impact communities that provide built-in access to all or most necessary services. The movement is even growing in the suburbs as planners, developers, and the public begin to recognize how unsustainable traditional suburban sprawl is. Read more about the redevelopment of suburbia here.
7. Water conservation in homes will become even more important as restrictions on publicly supplied water usage tighten in drought-stricken regions, but even areas with plentiful water resources will seek to reduce demand. Water-saving fixtures and appliances are common in homes today, and there's a growing emphasis on rainwater catchment for landscape irrigation around the nation. Water conservation measures are addressed by most green home certification programs, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched its own building guidelines for reducing water consumption by at least 20 percent with the WaterSense New Homes program. Read more about the WaterSense program here; read more about water-saving landscapes here.
8. Reducing carbon emissions will come into sharper focus as manufacturers and builders seek to reduce the carbon footprint of products and homes. Several organizations and building science experts have been hard at work developing methods for conducting life cycle analyses of building materials and whole buildings, while federal and state building authorities are developing carbon offset policies and carbon credit strategies. Read more about calculating carbon here, here, here, here, and here.
9. Net-zero energy homes and other buildings will gain momentum. Already, net-zero energy projects are proliferating around the country as homeowners learn about the cost effectiveness of homes designed and built to use very little energy and to generate the energy they do use from renewable sources onsite. Some of these residential net-zero projects are initiated by individual clients, while the construction of others has been prompted by states issuing net-zero home challenges, for example, Massachusetts' 2009 Zero Energy Challenge and Connecticut's 2009-2010 Zero Energy Challenge. Read about other net-zero energy homes here, here, and here.
10. Sustainable and green building education will increase and spread to every profession involved in residential design, construction, financing, insuring, and sale as home buyers continue to drive demand for green-built homes. Opportunities for education are being provided by an ever-expanding field of organizations. The U.S. Green Building Council, in particular, has fine-tuned its professional accreditation program to target the various types of individuals seeking LEED credentials; read about it here. In 2009, the American Institute of Architects announced a new annual requirement for sustainable design education for its members; read about it here.
Three of the trends noted above will be especially important because they will help change homeowner behavior, according to Sean Penrith, EAI's executive director: home energy labeling, real-time home energy dashboards, and new lower-rate financial and insurance packages for green homeowners.
Home buyers are driving demand for green building, particularly in metropolitan areas, notes Penrith, and their motivations vary from financial savings to a desire for healthier living environments. As surveys continue to show that green-certified homes still command premium prices—between 3 and 10 percent in the Northwest—over conventionally built homes, builders have become more willing to learn about and advocate green buildings to protect against price erosion, Penrith says.
All 10 trends have been developing and slowly gaining steam over the past several years, each driven by a variety of different forces within the building industry and housing market, but one driving factor they'll all have in common as 2010 progresses is the growing recognition that they are simply good business practices that will provide both short-term and long-term financial returns, according to Penrith.
"But we should not ignore two powerful influencing factors," he adds. "The drive of the current administration to address the issue of energy efficiency, and the global talks recently completed in Copenhagen that keeps climate issues (and solutions) front and center."
EAI developed its predictions for 2010 green building trends based on discussions with builders, architects, real estate brokers, appraisers, lenders, and homeowners late in 2009. EAI certifies new homes under the Earth Advantage program throughout Oregon, Northern California, and all seven New England states. The organization also certifies homes under Energy Star and LEED for Homes.