When talk of ecologically-minded design first began to enter into our conversations in the 1960′s and 70′s, it was generally thought about as something to which only the hippie counter-culture could and would relate. Mainstream society was far from ready to accept the notion of conservation and sustainability into our everyday lives. Here we are, forty years later, and it is finally starting to be embraced by the mainstream building industry. As sustainable and green design continues to become more commonplace and more widespread globally, those crazy hippies are suddenly starting to look pretty smart after all. Higher quality, more cost effective products, technology and resources are being created. As the economy starts to rebound, people are starting to spend money again, but with a new outlook. People are thinking in terms of sustainable, quality products that are beautiful, long lasting, and affordable. Energy efficiency is finally being seen as not only good for the planet, but good for our pocketbooks. Incentives are in place by the current federal and state administrations and as a result, 2011 is expected to be a year in which green design finally hits its stride. To summarize our findings, we’ve created a list of what we expect to be the top five green trends of 2011:
- Greening existing buildings. While new construction still lags in the economic times, we will continue to see more greening of existing buildings as opposed to new. As the real estate market tumbled, people are figuring out ways reconfigure their existing smaller homes and buildings, making them more efficient for a growing family or business. Instead of buying new homes, people are building “Accessory Dwelling Units”, which are small, free-standing out-buildings used for offices, in-law apartments, and art studios. The USGBC has a category for LEED Existing Buildings, and it is fast becoming its most commonly applied category.
- Affordability. The development of new technologies, incentive programs, and the mainstreaming of high performance materials has made healthy homes and buildings within an affordable price range for most building and home owners. For example, Green Depot, an environmental building supply store with locations throughout the east coast, has made shopping for green building products affordable and accessible. Longleaf Lumber in Cambridge, Massachusetts offers a wide range of reclaimed lumber and flooring as well as cork and bamboo lines. In addition, Massachusetts offers a number of assessment and incentive programs for businesses and homeowners to help save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Click HERE for more information on these programs.
- Water Conservation. As the global crisis of fresh water supply continues to be of concern, the need for conservation is critical. Whether you are working with new or existing buildings this can mean specifying new, or retro-fitting existing fixtures with low-flow and auto-sensor fixtures as well as rainwater recovery systems. Using WaterSense labeled fixtures can help you to find what you need. This is an area of sustainable design where cost-savings, water savings and energy savings are immediate and substantial.
- Zero-Net-Energy Buildings (ZNEB). Massachusetts has implemented plans to adopt a standard of zero net energy buildings for new residential and commercial construction by 2030. Many other states have implemented similar plans. Zero net energy is, as its name suggests, a design whereby buildings and homes actually produce as much energy as they consume. To find out more about Massachusetts’ plan for ZNEB, click HERE.
- Solar Power and other Renewable Energy Systems. We will continue to see a real use in solar power for homes and buildings, and this will continue to grow as demand goes up and technology enhances the options. The 2010 Tax Act that President Obama signed into law in December was a major milestone for the renewable energy industry. The act provides a one year extension for cash grants equal to 30 percent of the project costs for solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, waste energy, hydropower, marine and fuel cell power projects, and 10 percent of the project costs for microturbines, geothermal heat pump systems and combined heat and power cogeneration systems. Read more about the bill HERE.
At 99cambridge we are committed to doing our part in preserving our planet through responsible building and design. We hope you find this information helpful in making your building or home happier, healthier and safer.
The above information was sourced from: Earth Advantage Institute, Global Strategic Management Institute, Jetson Green, Yudelon Assoc. GreenBuild Blog.