Construction Best Practices

Going Green in Commercial Construction


In this day and age, being green isn’t just a matter of recycling your trash and requesting paper bags instead of plastic. The pursuit of tackling climate change and conserving our planet’s finite resources affects nearly every person, country, and industry in the world today. There’s no better example of an industry embracing these new green practices than commercial construction.

Consider this: Buildings are responsible for more than 40 percent of energy usage across the entire planet, and they cause a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s hard to fathom a single office building causing all that, but it’s true when you factor in the electricity, lighting, cooling, and heating each one uses — usually around the clock. Now, imagine how much of an impact every other constructed development has on the planet.

A green light on green practices

Green building practices will soon become the norm across the entire commercial construction industry, with many city and state commissioners, and even governments, passing legislation that will require new structures to be designed and constructed using eco-friendly materials and techniques. Installing these green materials — such as rooftop solar farms, composting toilets, recycled organic insulation, energy recovery ventilators, and rainwater irrigation systems — during the design and building processes is the least expensive, most cost-effective way to do it too.

It’s reported that, by next year, the global number of green-certified buildings will double. There are two global leaders helping usher in eco-minded and sustainable development with their strict certification methods. The first is the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Council (LEED), which currently has more than 82,000 commercial projects stretched across 162 countries participating in its certification program. There’s also the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), which has certified more than 556,400 developments since first launching in 1990.

As part of our own commitment to sustainability and the protection of the environment, Viewpoint Construction Software is also a proud member and participant of the LEED certification program. Our 90,000-square-foot headquarters on the beautiful Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, is LEED Gold-certified and brimming with sustainable features like a solar wall that stores and shares heat, a shared storm-water treatment facility, energy-saving fixtures, the use of reclaimed concrete, reflective roofing, natural lighting, sustainably harvested bamboo paneling, and more.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) also announced a new tech-focused organization during the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference. Arc is the name of their novel platform that will pair with organizations like LEED to enable buildings to immediately start measuring performance, as well as make improvements using the newest green technology.

The color of money

According to a study released by the USGBC, green building outpaced overall construction growth across the United States in 2015, creating more than two million jobs, with an impact of $134 billion to laborers in the construction sector.

Green construction will directly contribute 1.1 million jobs and $75.6 billion in wages to the U.S. by 2018. LEED-certified construction projects are estimated to bring in 386,000 jobs and $26.2 billion in wages by 2018. Going green is becoming as beneficial to the economy as it is the environment.

A global green thumb

Cities, states, and even entire countries are taking steps to invest in green infrastructure, develop sustainable building practices, and create climate action plans that are unique to their location’s personality.

Chicago has a climate action plan that calls for 500 new green roofs to be built every year, 83,333 trees to be planted annually, and a 2020 goal of retrofitting 50 percent of the city’s existing buildings with energy-reducing features.

San Francisco has made renewable energy a requirement for a majority of new construction projects, with a mandate for adding solar panels to all new buildings under 10 stories tall.

Vancouver, British Columbia, just adopted a new policy requiring zero greenhouse gas emissions on all buildings by 2030. All new city-owned and affordable-housing development projects will have to be heated, cooled, and powered without any net emissions.

The European Union’s Energy Efficiency Plan requires 3 percent of all public buildings to be renovated every year until 2020. Then, all new buildings being constructed must be virtually carbon-free. The EU calculates it will see a reduction of 740 million tons of greenhouse gases each year by doing this.

Even China, the world’s largest construction market and one of its biggest polluters, is embracing green building practices. A mandate passed in 2014 requires all public structures, as well as any building over 20,000 square meters, to meet strict environmental building standards. One year after that mandate was implemented, China had achieved a total of 320 million square meters of certified green building space.

Greener pastures ahead

That’s just a sampling of the changes happening around the world, but locations and languages don’t matter as much as the shared benefits of moving to green building practices — both for the planet and the price tag. Investing in eco-minded building principles actually makes properties more valuable, with an average expected increase in value of 4 percent. All those LEED-certified buildings we mentioned earlier are estimated to see $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings, and $54.2 million in waste savings — and that’s only factoring in the period from 2015 to 2018.

Yes, the world is going green, and the construction industry is embracing this evolution wholeheartedly. Not only is it the morally correct choice to save our planet, it’s also a very lucrative choice. The number of green-certified buildings is expected to double by 2018, so this year should be very busy for eco-focused architects, contractors, and construction firms.

Find out more about Viewpoint’s construction management software and how it helps to usher in a green, paperless world. And explore our own LEED Gold-certified headquarters nestled on the beautiful Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. Or reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook anytime.