It’s all about the climate, baby.
We asked 30 green building leaders an updated version of a question posed to a smaller group one year earlier: What notable trends do you see emerging in commercial green building in 2019?
The answers clustered around one larger issue: Climate change. There’s a growing sense that responses to our existential dilemma will take center stage among architects, engineers and builders. There’s also a spreading conviction that professionals who recognize this reality will be better prepared for the future.
As Jim Nicolow, director of sustainability for the architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent put it: “It’s no longer something scary that might happen in the future. It’s something scary happening now.”
The industry leaders we contacted over the last couple of months did mention other trends. Recurring themes included:
Equity — It’s the oft forgotten leg on the sustainability stool (the two others being economy and environment). Architect Jason Jewhurst of Bruner/Cott in Boston says rising concerns about equity is a hot topic “on all fronts in our profession — work place, projects, programming, design process.“
Certification fatigue — This has long been a complaint about the LEED platform in particular. As one respondent put it: “Design teams and owners are weary from filling out a lot of documentation and jumping through hoops to earn a certification.”
Biophilic design — The International Living Future Institute has been heavily focused on the push for buildings that connect occupants to nature.
Biomimicry — Different from biophilic design, biomimicry refers to the design of products and materials that draws solutions from living things. Think of insulation based on cacti or wastewater treatment that works like wetlands. Although biomimicry is being applied in industries, it’s grown particularly popular in products related to the built environment.
But the umbrella trend — the concern on everyone’s mind in 2019 — was climate change, and how responding to it. So without further ado, here are our Five Green Building Trends for 2019:
With EC3, the construction industry finally has a plan of attack on its most formidable remaining front in the war against carbon emissions. Read more here.
Over the last decade, the cost of photovoltaic cells plummeted while their efficiency skyrocketed. That drove an unprecedented boom in solar farms and rooftop installations. Now, it’s batteries’ turn. Read more here.
Mass timber has shown itself to be the go-to structural material for low carbon mid-rises. You’re about to see a lot more buildings that use it. higher. Read more here.
The scientific data that climate change is upon us got stronger in 2018. And plenty of real world evidence — in the form of hurricanes, wildfires, floods and blizzards — backed up the science. Read more here.
A majority of new buildings and renovations today still will be occupied in 2050, by which time scientists warn carbon emissions must be significantly lower. That means high efficiency and clean energy needs to be adopted quickly. There are signs — finally — that this is happening. Read more here.
PHOTO ABOVE: The Gulf State Park Interpretative Center in Alabama is among the first commercial buildings to earn Fortified Commercial certification. Photo courtesy Architecture Works.