Buildings Go Green

Top trends include increased use of alternative energy sources and daylighting

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Green building is on the rise, with half of all new U.S. retail and hotel projects expected to be green by 2015, according to recent surveys. The boom is credited to a number of factors, including higher energy efficiency standards, a move toward greater transparency, decreased operating costs, increased sustainability awareness and a more responsible use of building resources. 

According to Lux Research, an independent research firm specializing in emerging technology, the green building sector is expected to grow by $280 billion globally by 2020.

As stores and commercial buildings go green, here are the top trends* to look for:

•  Alternative energy sources: More businesses are turning to alternative energy sources in efforts to lower utility costs, meet green building standards and generate their own electricity. One increasingly popular choice is solar power, which harnesses the sun’s free, clean energy to power HVAC, lighting and more — while lowering electric costs and impact to the environment.

•  Increased visibility: The release of publicly disclosed building use in New York City is likely to set up a trend for other U.S. cities, making businesses more accountable for their utility use. Building product manufacturers are catching on, too, offering increased transparency with environmental product declarations.

•  Net zero: Net-zero building status once seemed impossible to obtain, but it’s becoming more common (net-zero energy buildings generate as much energy as they consume). Now, commercial building developers and architects are starting to showcase net-zero energy designs as a means of differentiation from competitors.

•  Daylighting: An increasing number of new building designs and retrofits rely on daylighting to reduce energy costs by up to one-third, positioning windows, skylights or other openings and reflective surfaces to take advantage of the sun’s natural light. This method also relies on a daylight-responsive lighting control system that automatically adjusts brightness when daylighting is inadequate, helping to keep energy use and costs in control.

•  High-efficiency HVAC: Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning can account for 40% to 60% of a building’s energy use, making it an obvious first item to tackle in greening efforts. High-efficiency HVAC units are not only equipped to meet current building efficiency standards, but also are built with features such as MSAV (multi-stage air volume) supply fan technology that can boost overall comfort while dramatically reducing electricity costs.

•  Local sourcing of raw materials: Local material sourcing reduces the amount of energy involved in transportation to the building site, resulting in lower carbon emissions. (*Trends source: Lennox Industries)