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Monday, 09 January 2012 15:36

West Michigan experts identify new green building trends

Written by  MiBiz Staff
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Compiled by Renae Hesselink and Chuck Otto

Click here for "WMSBF gets state grant for sustainability initiatives"

We recently polled several area green building experts to identify the industry trends and issues they see affecting West Michigan and the world in the near future. Here, in no particular order, are our findings:

  • Energy: Interest in renewable energy use for buildings is increasing, along with confusion on how to incorporate it and the funding to make it happen. Energy standards for buildings will continue to rise. Mandatory energy measurement and verification standards are proposed for LEED 2012. Building owners are starting to ask for more sophisticated building controls systems for better measurement. Energy efficiency should remain a priority.
  • Water: Water remains an inexpensive commodity, even in already water-stressed areas. Water conservation and strategies must and will continue to evolve, but cannot be driven by consulting firms that sell water foot-printing services, as this could hinder momentum. Interest in best practices around storm water management is on the rise.
  • Green Building Standards: “Me-too” checklists posing as standards and certification programs to compete with LEED are an emerging trend. Simultaneously, international collaboration and shared consensus on and alignment of high-performance green building standards are gaining ground. Volume certification, which establishes verifiable guidelines that streamline certification without compromising LEED’s rigorous standards, is on the rise, as is the adoption of LEED for Existing Building (LEED: EB) standards.
  • Funding: Increasingly, LEED and green building standards will become a requirement for building-specific grants and incentives. Additionally, more green building funding options will be needed. There will also be more education and buy-in to the concept of “Paid from Savings” — as when the savings achieved from changing to energy-efficient lighting is invested in improved HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems.
  • First-Line Quality Control: Everyone on a green building project will increasingly be engaged in quality control at every level, as it contributes to the ultimate success of the project. Relying on commissioning to find mistakes will become a less-popular solution. There will be tighter controls on site management issues – including soil erosion sediment control, dust control, noise control and site emission limitations.
  • Risk Management: The increased use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) efforts will more fully engage architects and engineers directly with contractors. The benefit of BIMs will be a greater understanding by everyone of how everything works together. This will enable all parties, including the building owner, to have a shared knowledge of complete building systems and controls. It will also raise overall building performance expectations.
  • Indoor Air Quality: This will continue to be a focus as there are many influencers on the quality of our indoor air, including building materials, indoor furnishings and the materials we use to clean and maintain our buildings.
  • Building Materials and Products: Standards are emerging for Building Materials Disclosure: Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of a limited set of environmental attributes are increasingly used to create Environmental Product Disclosures (EPD). There is a growing interest in the chemistry of materials. European Union REACH and RoHS regulations will raise the bar on products that our local businesses produce for export, and this typically leads to increased U.S. product standards. Watch for the expansion of product take-back programs, which started with the electronics industry.
  • Reporting of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions: Pressure will grow to create GHG accounting systems, produce public reports and reduce emissions.
  • Community Development: Urban revitalization will continue as the growth of cities worldwide is expected to rise. Watch for increased urban density, the growth of smart transit, urban agriculture and farm markets, and a greater emphasis on local economies.

Thanks to Keith Winn, green building consultant and owner, Catalyst Partners; Mary McGraw-Bigelow, LEED for homes expert; Dennis Bekken, architect with C2AE; David Rinard, director of global environmental performance, Steelcase; James Moyer, assistant VP for facilities planning, Grand Valley State University; Scott Veine, project manager and director of sustainability, Pioneer Construction; Lynda Boomer, energy and environmental engineer, Michigan State University; and Renae Hesselink, VP of Sustainability, Nichols.

USBCThe U.S. Green Building Council is a coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The West Michigan Chapter provides and develops leadership through affiliations and education at all levels. Please send comments and column proposals to [email protected]


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