Building green has become a key part of the strategy for sustainable growth as buildings consume approximately 40 percent of the world's energy. Green building technologies can help companies vastly improve their economic and environmental performance, important in a world where the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) has assumed prominence. These benefits include reduced operating costs, improved employee productivity, low energy consumption, reduced waste, and a lighter environmental footprint.
A recent report by McGraw-Hill Construction said the value of green construction projects in the United States rose to $78 billion in 2011, from just $10 billion in 2005. The report estimates this to rise to $85 billion by the end of this year, and jump to $248 billion by 2016, when more than half of all commercial and institutional construction will fall under the green umbrella. Green office construction projects are expected to account for 54 percent of the total office construction market this year, with nearly a third of senior executives officers committed to greening at least two-thirds of their companies' buildings.
The rise of the smart grid, building automation, and demand-response technologies has added momentum to green building construction. These enable buildings to sense, measure and communicate various parameters such as temperature, occupancy, and energy use through sensors and control systems, thereby lowering energy usage during peak hours. The convergence of green construction technologies with information technology and smart grids is also enabling green buildings to realize more energy efficiencies.
For instance, day-to-day energy efficiency gains can come from analyzing data from building management and control systems. Plug-in electric vehicles can be used to charge green buildings during peak hours, reducing energy costs. According to Pike Research, investment in vehicle-to-building infrastructure by battery makers, building owners, automakers, and energy technology providers will grow steadily through the remainder of the decade. Similarly, a system to power LED lights over the Ethernet is currently undergoing tests.
The rise in green construction has, predictably, created a shortage of skilled talent. The average electrical technician is not equipped to take care of the operation and maintenance of a smart building; it requires qualified smart building operators with sophisticated skills. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that by 2016 almost every electrical and electronics technician will need to be "green trained."
With governments in countries such as the United Kingdom and France requiring all new buildings to meet zero carbon standards by the turn of the century, this sector is bound to see more investments and opportunities. Green buildings will attract more clients, increase the value of real estate, and more importantly, reduce the carbon footprint to serve as an important step toward building a sustainable planet.