A new report from sustainable advocate Environment America details a plan to make the country’s commercial buildings more energy aware and efficient. The environmental group states that compliance with its plan by the year 2030 will save enough energy to power all the country’s existing homes, vehicles and businesses for 1.5 years. 

The plan sounds simple enough. Architectural changes incorporating new-age energy technologies into the design of renovated and new commercial buildings and especially in the implementation of new-age high-efficiency technology building systems would result in new buildings using 50% less energy over the next 10 years. By 2030, these systems would begin to generate as much energy as they consume. 

The report goes further. Acceptance of these architectural changes would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by at least 34% by the year 2050. 

Continuing with traditional design strategies is a dangerous alternative. Currently, commercial design has created an energy nightmare whereby 70% of all U.S. energy is used in the country’s workplaces. The Obama Administration’s stimulus package includes $65 billion in funding and tax credits as incentives to include energy efficiency in new designs.

The emergence of a new design term, building-integrated renewable energy (BIRE), has stimulus-reward repercussions. Architects report that BIRE technology is now available to create “smart buildings” that will reduce energy consumption by as much as 50%. 

Typically, the construction costs related to these technologies are higher than installation costs for traditional, less energy efficient systems. Recent analysis by real estate developers shows that the increased start up costs are recovered in the very short term through the reduced energy operating costs.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the popularity of sustainable design is ringing true for tenants and building owners. Even in the current recession, healthy, efficient workspace accompanied by usable green areas is in demand. Businesses and their employees view sustainable design as happy work areas.

Additionally, the NAR reports that the values of commercial properties featuring sustainable design are appreciating at a faster rate than the value of traditionally designed properties. This puts a win-win scenario in front of today’s sustainable architects. In today’s real estate market, location remains a big factor in establishing value, but energy efficiency and a healthy work environment have come to be appreciable commodities.

In a recent report from the U.S. Green Building Council, there are currently more than 14,000 projects featuring new-age sustainable components in progress around the globe. These projects comprise more than one billion square feet. The sustainable project sites are located in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries.

A major supporter of sustainable development is the McGraw-Hill Corporation, who released the following statement: “The overall green building market (both non-residential and residential) is likely to more than double from today’s $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion in 2013.” 82% of corporate America is expected to be greening at least 16% of their real estate portfolios.” New designs in sustainable architecture will lead the way.     

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