EDC Magazine

Great Expectations

February 1, 2011

The recession and quickly changing marketplace have proved challenging to all of us in the building design, construction and operations industry over the past couple of years. But looking ahead, I am really excited about the possibilities for the upcoming year.
To start things off, the first-in-the-nation, statewide green building code became mandatory as CalGreen   launched in California at the first of the year. While this has been long anticipated and doesn’t necessarily include new concepts, the entire country is watching to see how things go. I don’t believe anyone is expecting failure, but certain aspects of “who does what” have yet to be answered. This couldn’t be more important with regard to raising the floor of best practices. All eyes will be on California in the coming years as other cities and states continue to evaluate the implementation of the new 2012 IECC energy code and ultimately the IGCC green building code

Additionally, two other areas have me thinking about the opportunities for 2011. The first is net-zero design. While the aforementioned codes continue to raise the floor for the design and construction market overall, this concept seeks to raise the performance bar higher as we seek strategies to achieve restorative and ultimately regenerative design goals. To date, there are very few commercial Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB’s) and even fewer buildings that are net zero in the areas of waste, water, etc. But it’s hard to pick up a trade magazine without reading about this rising trend.

Another area I’m encouraged about is the existing building market, which has become a focus like never before. For one, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance is beginning to dominate the other rating systems. This wasn’t too hard to imagine a couple of years ago considering the vast amount of buildings in places across the country and the world, most of which were designed and constructed a generation or two ago. But while the opportunities in that sector are fairly obvious, it is a little more unclear what needs to happen to address the newest buildings continuing to come on line every day.

LEED for Building Design and Construction only addresses the design and construction of a building while setting up the conditions to potentially operate efficiently. The heavy lifting only begins at occupancy, and we have a long way to go before the industry properly addresses performance decay.

In the past decade we have seen monumental change in a traditionally conservative industry. The opportunities and magnitude of what’s to come may be different from a decade ago, but they still exist if we continue to look in the right place.