Building Green in 2019

In 2019, the number of green building projects has increased to match demand

By JULIA EDINGER

Sustainability in the built environment has been a major topic of conversation in 2019. There has been a green wave of progress in the past year, from the solar mandate in California – which requires all new homes of three stories or less to be powered by solar – to the increased focus on water conservation nationally. Change is happening throughout the building sector.

Builders and architects are looking at ways to design buildings differently in a major way for the first time in a hundred years. There are two main reasons for this: protecting the homebuyer and protecting the planet.

A Better Home for the Buyer

The first reason that we are seeing an increase in green building is because there is an increase in demand. Green building is no longer a niche, but rather, an indication of where the broader home- building market is heading.

“Since 2006, the green homes market has seen a consistent increase in green home construction,” described Sarah Stanley, Director of Communications for the United States Green Building Council. “And with the number of single-family and multifamily builders with a high level of green building activity expected to grow through 2022, signs point to a promising future.”

It was the Environmental Protection Agency that first shed light on a staggering statistic that led to an increased awareness for consumers: the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors. With that knowledge, people have become more conscious about indoor air quality.

In fact, today’s buyer is not only interested in having a healthier home, but they’re willing to pay extra for energy efficiency, according to a report from the National Association of Home Builders. Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are drawn to homes with energy-efficient features, both because it can improve their health and because it can save money.

While adding things like solar to a home can increase the home’s initial price point, the savings on utility fees will be felt immediately by the homebuyer, and informed buyers will see the value. However, as we shift towards that position, the leaders in the building industry can help to inform prospective buyers that may not know how these things can benefit them.

A Better Home for the Planet

Recent reports from sources internationally have declared the urgency of transforming our built environment. In fact, according to a report from the World Green Building Council, buildings account for 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. The same report claimed

that the building sector needs to improve by 30 percent on average before 2030 to be on track with the goals set in the Paris Agreement. The administration withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord will have lasting impacts on the way we address these needs, but the sense of urgency has not been lost.

Extreme storms are impacting many regions and the design strategies are being adapted to make homes more resilient. Homes with windows built to withstand hurricanes, or homes with solar storage that do not rely on a fallible electric grid, will have a high value to homebuyers.

Some states are mandating green features, like California’s building energy code. The new changes taking effect on January 1st, 2020 for Title 24 will require solar to power all new homes of three stories or fewer. That may seem drastic, but California builders have been preparing for the change for years.

“Ultimately, it is our responsibility as global citizens — and as design and construction professionals — to use our talents and skills to protect and preserve the planet through our thoughtful design and construction decisions,” states Benjamin Kasdan, Associate Principal with KTGY Architecture + Planning. “Together we can reverse climate change, but we have to do so now, before it is too late.”

Predictions for a Sustainable Future

Industry leaders continue to push their standards of sustainability. The evidence that the green movement is growing is in the number of certifiably green homes across the country.

This year, the United States Green Building Council released a report revealing a 19-percent increase in LEED-certified homes.

“It can be difficult to see why prioritizing a green home is important, but the environmental and personal health outcomes are very real,” stated Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC, in the release.

Between benefitting the buyer with lower utility fees and better indoor air quality, benefiting the builder with value added through solar and resilience against extreme weather, and benefiting the environment by reducing carbon emissions of the built environment, the advantages of going green are undeniable.

The industry is shifting. What will 2020 bring?

Julia Edinger is the Editor for Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at julia@builder.media.