Sustainability’s Top Five Trends

Green building practices and sustainability are the hot trend in real estate development. While there are many benefits to green development, there too are a number of trends that can guide developers when creating new projects. According to Brenden McEneaney, director of USGBC Northern California, there are five top trends to keep in mind.

LEEDv4. The LEED rating system has been a significant influence on the built environment and performance for buildings. LEED’s version 4 launches later this year, with much of the trends being familiar, while also ushering in substantial changes, such as materials credits.

Health. Companies are realizing that sustainability goes beyond the external built environment, and continues indoors. According to the USGBG, more companies are incorporating health and wellness into their building designs to create a more positive impact on their employees. Many interior green additions can improve cognitive function for those working in these buildings, such as indoor green space and water, reducing toxics in building materials, and incorporating lighting systems to support circadian rhythms.

Affordability. Many major cities are seeing an influx of people looking to live and work in downtown areas. With so many people looking for places to live in these areas, affordability is reaching crisis levels for residents and businesses alike. At the heart of the issue are such factors as housing supply, construction costs, and affordable housing policy.

Zero Net Energy. A zero-net energy (ZNE) building is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. California has established ambitious goals for ZNE buildings – residential by 2020 and commercial by 2030.

Water. The drought across the nation continues to be a concern as water levels in lakes and reservoirs continue to decline. Smart developers keep water conservation practices as part of their green development initiatives. While there is still a lot of improvement to be made on this front, it is important to incorporate efficient plumbing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscape, and on-site water reuse.

These five trends may be the driving forces in sustainable development, but there are plenty of other factors a developer should consider as well. The future is now, and green development practices are only going to continue to grow and become more prevalent in future projects.