The U.S. Green Building Council recently announced that the total footprint of commercial projects receiving LEED certification has surpassed 2 billion square feet. And there are an additional 7 billion square feet of currently registered projects across the globe.
The USGBC reports that each day, 2 million square feet of commercial building space in more than 130 countries is receiving LEED certification. It also notes that there are nearly 50,000 commercial projects, making up 9 billion square feet of construction space, currently participating in LEED. Additionally, there are nearly 23,600 homes across the U.S. that have earned LEED for Homes certification, with another 86,000 projects in the pipeline. All together, there are more than 159,000 LEED registered and certified projects around the world.
There is little doubt that the green building industry continues to grow at a very rapid pace, and New York City-based Turner Construction Co. has the numbers to prove it. According to Michael Deane, LEED AP BD+C, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Turner, the company’s green building business has grown by about
$400 million a year for each of the last four years. “Last year, 58 percent of our business, or about $4.6 billion worth of our volume, was green buildings,” he says. “And it’s grown every single year since I’ve been at Turner, which is from 2004.”
Benefits and Challenges
The benefits of sustainable building are pretty well known, and, as Deane says, “people recognize that green buildings are better. They are more energy efficient, they are more water efficient, and they create a better environment to spend a lot of time in. And, they have a higher asset value.”
On the plus side, Deane says that green buildings can be built for the same cost as traditional construction. The fact that sustainable buildings are more energy efficient also means that they cost less to operate. “[Green buildings] tend to be more pleasant places to live or work or go to school because of the material selection,” Deane adds. “You don’t have things with chemicals that off-gas and so forth.”
Even though there are a lot of reasons to build energy-efficient buildings, there are still some people who are hesitating. “I think the major reason that people would choose not to build a green building is simply that they are not informed about the benefits,” Deane says. “I think [people] have the wrong idea sometimes that a green building is more difficult or expensive to build. And that’s simply not true.”
When it comes to having a building LEED certified, Bob Zabcik, PE, LEED AP BD+C, director of research and development, NCI Group Inc., Houston, believes that the largest reason stopping people is that they aren’t familiar with the requirements. He also notes that some people have had bad experiences in the past with trying to get a building certified, which may prevent them from wanting to try again. “I think by and large, it’s just that people are not as familiar with the requirements or the process, and because of that unfamiliarity, they just don’t want to take the risk of the extra time that it might take for documentation and things like that,” he says.
Importance of education
Educating builders, architects and potential clients is the best way to show the benefits of sustainable building. Organizations such as the American Institute of Architects, Metal Construction Association and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, all offer education programs. Manufacturers such as NCI and Memphis, Tenn.-based Varco Pruden Buildings, a division of BlueScope Buildings North America Inc., have also started reaching out to architects, engineers and builders, offering their own education programs. Zabcik explains that NCI’s programs can shed light on particular aspects of green building rating systems, in addition to where particular products are strong. They also show that the manufacturer is there to help. “Architects and manufacturers are given a change to interact and trade information, allowing us to do a better job providing the type of information to make sure the architect gets the proper design.”
Craig Edwards, LEED Green Associate, business development manager for sustainable construction at Varco Pruden Buildings, explains that it trains its authorized builders to help them sell green buildings while meeting and exceeding energy codes. “Energy codes are changing to require us to adapt a lot more, and we have certainly chosen to embrace that,” he says.
When it comes to codes such as ASHRAE 189.1 and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), Zabcik believes that they are moving towards focusing on life cycle analysis impacts, or looking at a building’s environmental impacts over the course of its life. He says the focus on green building will shift to more measurable metrics like life cycle costing, energy use and life cycle analysis impacts. “It is these selling points that will help convince architects, engineers and building owners to build a highly energy-efficient green building,” he adds.
Edwards holds a one-day “VP Green” educational training seminar across the country, focusing on selling and marketing techniques, in addition to covering LEED, energy codes and daylighting. “We also teach on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Comcheck tool, educating our builders on how and why they should use it,” Edwards says. “It is very effective in proving that you are meeting or exceeding energy codes across the U.S.”
VP is also educating its internal staff so that when contractors are working with their service centers, they will be informed and able to educate and assist builders with the proper choices for building solutions, adds Edwards. Those solutions include everything from adding daylighting to specific insulation solutions or cool metal roofs, as well as potential third-party solutions with lighting controls, photovoltaics, water reclamation and rainwater harvesting.
With more than 250 LEED projects already completed and another 250 in the works, Turner relies on facts. “We have a lot of experience, and we have a lot of facts,” Deane explains. “We have cost studies and we can prove to clients the benefits of green buildings. And we can prove that based on our experience, it doesn’t have to cost more.”