The Ever-Expanding Green Movement

From record improvements and cultural relevance in 2017, what will 2018 bring to the green movement?

By Jason Forrest

The worst-kept secret in homebuilding is that the green movement gained more steam in 2017. Where it’s headed in 2018 could be even more interesting—and not just the technology side of it—but also the culture of the movement itself.

Since LEED Certification started releasing annual numbers in 2010, the number of certified homes rose to an all-time high in 2017. In seven years, the number has doubled from 32,000 to 65,000, and it’ll continue to top itself in 2018. Just take a look at what companies like Thrive Homes Builders are doing in Denver. Thrive has been a Grand Winner at four consecutive Housing Innovation Awards ceremonies, thanks to their Zero Energy Ready homes. In emergencies, they can run on their own stored power for a limited amount of time.

The public interest in green homes will only continue to grow as we go further into the new year. A lot of this is because the technology is evolving so quickly; the most exciting area for technological growth in 2018 is in solar technology. In 2016, the U.S. hit its 1 millionth solar-powered home, and in 2017, Project Sunroof declared four in five homes in the U.S. has the potential to be powered by solar energy.

The cost-effectiveness is hard to miss. In 2017, solar-powered homeowners in the U.S. saved an average of $900 on their energy bills. Over a 20-year period, that works out to around $18,000, and the savings are only increasing as the technology improves.

In 2018, expect more solar innovation to hit the market. With more efficient and cost-effective models becoming available every year, more change is on the way—and fast.

“The leaps and bounds where [solar power] has grown are exponential,” said Matt Belcher at Verdatek Solutions, which specializes in eco-conscious home development. “The solar arrays on the International Space Station they replaced two or three years ago are about 800 times more efficient than what we can put on the roof of a house right now. But you know, the technology is going that way, and along with that, the cost effectiveness will go.”

The technology is coming along nicely, but the real success of the green building movement, and the weathervane pointing us into 2018, has been in its increasing cultural relevance.

Why did more companies build green homes in 2017 than ever before? The same reason companies like Whole Foods has grown so popular: there’s a moral stake attached to it. All company cultures want to be “off-the-grid” cultures in the sense that long-term reliability and self-sufficiency is best for the culture itself as well as the bottom line. As companies, we want to store our energy and prepare for the worst so, if something does happen, we can be stronger than ever on the other side.

If we’re honest, all CEOs and leaders want their companies to be dependent on their own power, not dependent on the whims of circumstance. How much more secure and certain would employees feel in that situation as well? If you know your job is safe even when the market tanks, you’ll be more likely to drive more profit. That’s what fostering an “off-the-grid” culture can do for you.

This is the true value of the green building movement as we enter 2018. People are seeing in much larger numbers the certainty a bank of solar panels on your roof can provide. They’re seeing how an electric generator can feed into that “off-the-grid” culture or how rainwater harvesting and smart thermostats are contributing to the sense of long-term reliability without sacrificing short-term convenience.

Whether you’re making a home capable of sustaining itself or a work culture that can power through shortages, going “off-the-grid” has never looked better for 2018.

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Jason Forrest is the CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Forrest Performance Group in Fort Worth, Texas. He may be reached at www.fgp.com.