There was a time in the not so distant past when few contractors knew what LEED stood for, let alone had encountered its requirements in a bid request. Today, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, with environmental standards/requirements almost commonplace for commercial building projects across the country.
Consider statistics released in late June by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (www.NYSERDA.org). They indicate a 38% increase in applications for high-performance green building incentives from January to May 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. (High-performance buildings are designed to optimize energy use, and are constructed using environmentally sustainable building practices.) In addition, leads on new construction or substantially renovated high-performance building projects are up a whopping 77% over the same period.
The growth in green building activity is unlikely to subside anytime soon. According to McGraw-Hill, it grew 50% between 2008 and 2010, from $42 billion to $71 billion, and accounted for 25% of all new building last year. Projected market spending for green building is expected to reach $135 billion by 2015. In five years, new nonresidential green building is projected to reach up to $145 billion, or roughly 48% market share.
Green building renovations are following a similar path. Green renovations currently account for about 7% of the total renovation market, and are expected to grow to 13% by 2015, based on a report by SBI Energy (Global Green Building Materials and Construction, 2nd Edition). Much of the growth can be attributed to stimulus funding targeted to renovations to improve energy efficiency. However, as green building practices and materials prove their cost savings, and energy costs continue to escalate, the report predicts green building to become the "new normal" in the foreseeable future.
The focus on environmentally sound construction practices presents opportunities for those firms with the training and expertise to take advantage of it. In order to become more desirable green industry partners, many contractors are seeking to:
- train their staff in LEED requirements and other environmental procedures/standards;
- develop or acquire methods for recycling/reusing material on site;
- investigate sustainable construction practices that can help to reduce their company's carbon footprint on the jobsite, etc.
Such steps take time and, in some cases, a sizable capital investment, but can open doors to new and potentially profitable opportunities. To learn more about green construction best practices, as well as how other firms are capitalizing on the growth in this market, visit www.sustainableconstruction.com, or turn to the iTunes store to download the new Sustainable Construction iPad app.