Monday, March 29, 2010

The Growth of Green Building in Tough Economic Times

While U.S. unemployment figures remained steady at 9.7% for February, the rate for construction workers rose to 27.1%, up from 24.1% a year ago, underscoring the continuing difficulties in this important sector of the economy.

Interestingly, the basket of green building stocks in Canaccord Adam's Green Building Index are up 10.1% for the year, outperforming the 2.1% rise for the S&P 500 Index and 2.5% for the NASDAQ.

Even during such harsh conditions for construction in general, green building companies are able to distinguish themselves from and out pace conventional competitors.

A "Green Jobs Study" released by the US Green Building Council estimates that greenbuilding jobs currently stand at two million, generating over $100 billion dollars in GDP and wages. By 2013, the sector will support nearly eight million jobs.

The study predicts approximately 32% average annual growth in green construction square footage from 2009-2013 - an impressive level given the continued contraction in the overall construction market. Also in that time frame, the study forecasts 75% square footage growth in LEED-certified buildings.

Based on this growth forecast, the environmental benefits should grow dramatically in the coming years as green buildings take an ever larger share of the construction market.

The greatest savings come from reduced energy costs (56% of total savings), lower operations and maintenance costs (36%), less garbage generation (6%) and water usage (2%). From 2009-2013, the report estimates green construction will save $6 billion in energy costs, $3.8 billion in operations and maintenance, $249 million in garbage costs and $645 million in water costs.

Strong growth in LEED-certified buildings will be responsible for 75% of those energy savings from 2009-2013. The newest version of the LEED rating system doubles the points in the energy & atmosphere category to optimize energy performance in newly constructed buildings.

AVID Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of home-buyer preferences, says that Americans are shifting away from the trend for very large homes to smaller homes that have green features. In this time of economic uncertainty, most home buyers are looking for "authenticity" and "cost-effective" architecture, says an article in MarketWatch.

The focus is on useful spaces rather than lots of rooms, and they want it designed green from the outset. "It's all about family togetherness -- casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces," says the article.

"Must Have" features in new homes include: large kitchens; energy efficient appliances, high efficiency insulation and windows and ceiling fans; a home office/study instead of a dining room; a main floor master suite; outdoor living spaces; oversized showers; stone and brick exteriors; and community landscapes. Buyers in large planned developments want hiking and native landscapes instead of golf courses and swimming pools (it's about time)!

(Via Sustainable Building)

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