It may not be easy being green, but, nonetheless, this year it’s going to be popular. Vibrant, flamboyant Greenery has been named the Pantone Color of the Year, a 180-degree turn from last year’s soothing pastels.
2017 green building trends look a lot like those in 2016, but they, like the Pantone Color, are newly energized. We discussed the slowdown in LEED certifications in Part I. Now we’ll discuss what’s revving up.
Energy efficiency is still leading this horse race. The reasons are clear: 1) it’s the single largest and hardest to control cost in office building expenses; 2) there is much greater monitoring of usage mandated by law; 3) opportunities to reduce energy usage are increasing through new technologies; and 4) building owners are committed to reducing costs.
In 2017, look for more renovations and retrofits of existing building stock that will prioritize energy efficiency; additional incentives and innovations from energy providers; and increased use of solar whose technologies are rapidly transforming its feasibility for office buildings.
While green certification may be waning, the new hot topic is the Passive House Standard. According to a Building Energy Exchange Briefing, “Passive House is a rigorous and voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. It depends on a well- insulated building envelope, air-tight components, and continuous ventilation that can save more than 70% of heating and cooling costs compared to a typical code compliant building.”
Though highly effective and supported by the mayor’s “One City: Built to Last” Plan, there are numerous, significant stumbling blocks to achieving Passive House certifications as well as net zero balance in a city as densely populated as New York with so many old buildings.
About half of the buildings in Midtown, Midtown South and Downtown are closing in on 60 years old. The Chrysler Building is 87; the Rockefeller Center complex is 78; the Con Ed Building is 89; Black Rock and the MetLife Buildings are relatively spry at 52 and 44, as just a few examples. Certainly, new conservation technologies can be introduced into older buildings, but it is a much more complex undertaking than incorporating them into new builds.
Other hot topics for energy savings are (1) cloud computing (first cited by us two years ago) that allows companies to monitor and manage assets 24/7 remotely; and, (2) water conservation including sub-metering, changing landscapes to indigenous plants, touch-free faucets, gray water reuse and more efficient runoff control.
Lastly, let’s look at health. Gluten free. GMO. Juicing. Seaweed. Golden lattes made with turmeric. And did you know sorghum is the new quinoa? The population has become more health conscious with regard to what they eat, how much they exercise, where they live, so why not incorporate health benefits where they work?
Well, we’ve all heard of sick buildings but only now is evidence coming to light about the benefits of greener, healthier buildings. Day lighting, green plants, ergonomic desks, task lighting, relaxation areas and higher quality green and recycled products all play a part in creating a healthier environment of reduced stress and absences and greater productivity.
We’ll be exploring more of these trends in depth as the year goes on. For now…wishing you a healthier, greener 2017!
By Steven J. Schleider, MAI, FRICS, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services