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The green building market is among the fastest growing industries in the world, and North America is leading the pack, accounting for 29.41% of the global share and valued at more than $59 billion. That number is expected to climb to nearly $100 billion by 2023.

Driving the growth is concern over environmental sustainability by both public and private sectors. Some construction companies see the green building movement as a threat, while others see it as a major opportunity to differentiate themselves from other commercial builders in the market and gain a competitive advantage.

Here, we’ll help you gain a greater understanding of the green building trend and how it may impact the future of your company and the environment.

What is Green Building?

According to the World Green Building Council, green building reduces or eliminates negative impacts and can even create positive changes in our climate and natural environment.

Through a project’s design, construction or operation, green buildings help conserve natural resources through renewable energy and reduced pollution. To qualify, the materials used also need to be sustainable and non-toxic. Not only is a green building meant to improve the environment; it’s also intended to improve the quality of life for those who work, live and play inside these structures by ensuring good indoor air quality and an overall design that supports healthy living.

Developers and property owners who “go green” also benefit through potential state and federal incentives and rebates and higher resale values. Green buildings can also attract and retain higher quality tenants, appeal to potential employees and enhance their productivity.

How to Obtain Green Building Certification

Improving a building’s impact on the environment requires more than good intentions and implementing a few “green” practices. Whether new construction or renovation, green certification has become the expectation.

Contractors who construct these structures require training to become green certified, which is one of several challenges facing the industry . The most highly sought-after certification program is the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly known as LEED.  It stands out as the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

Various industries and building projects require different types of LEED certificates and, to alleviate the pressures of acquiring certification or potentially overlooking compliance issues, some contractors hire a green consultant.  

In addition to LEED, Energy Star rating is widely used, and other forms of green certification are gaining momentum in the construction industry as well. 

Green Building Trends

Whether a small-town construction company or a large-scale commercial builder in an urban center, keep the following green building trends on your radar.

Zero-net Energy Buildings

Going off the grid is often associated with the stereotype of a hermit living in a remote cabin in the northwoods. Today, however, some state-of-the-art commercial buildings are being designed to generate their own power. The goal with these structures is to be self-sufficient, sometimes even generating enough power to sell back to the grid. Though it’s been promised for years, solar power is expected to finally break through and become a driving force in zero-net buildings and sustainable sites. While expensive at the onset, the investment to construct these facilities will likely come down as demand increases.

Prefab and Modular Construction

Increasingly, contractors are seeing the introduction of prefabricated building components on jobsites. The use of this technology may not seem to provide environmental benefits at first glance. However, when lead times for completing a project are reduced, so is the use of electricity and fossil fuels needed to operate heavy machinery and equipment.

Green Building Materials

Energy-efficient windows and doors have long been used to conserve resources and lower energy use. Today, building projects also utilize other materials to go green, such as cool roofing and recycled wood or plastic used in composite lumber. Recycled steel products are also helping to minimize environmental concerns by reducing dependency on this limited resource. Considering that construction accounts for more than 50% of the world’s steel production, this initiative can have a significant impact.

Water Conservation

Expect to see heightened concern over water quality and technology that aids in reducing consumption of this vital resource with water-saving fixtures and gray water recovery systems. Building contractors may also need to partner closely with landscape architects to design surrounding features such as native or adapted vegetation, rain gardens or basins that catch roof run-off, in addition to other approaches that can minimize waste water, erosion and pollution.

How to Adapt to Green Building Initiatives

To meet growing demand, contractors will need to stay informed about these emerging trends and adapt to remain competitive in the industry. Leveraging technology and embracing innovative ideas can help ensure your company isn’t left relying on past laurels.

It’s easy to attempt to become a Jack of all trades and master of none, so determine which green initiatives you want to specialize in and provide continuing education for your workers. Then, consider relying on specialized subcontractors who can tackle areas that fall beyond your expertise on construction projects.

You have the power to stay ahead of emerging trends and build success for the long term. Green building is quickly becoming the norm and is being written into construction contracts with increasing frequency. Contact the risk management team at McClone to review your contract and help ensure compliance for these and many other issues. And be sure to access our complimentary Guide to Construction Contract Compliance Oversights below.

Construction Contact Compliance Guide

 

 

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