Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2011


The Earth Advantage Institute announced its annual selection of top ten green building trends, which range from “affordable green” to lifecycle analysis of materials.

“Despite market conditions, we have seen the market share for high performance homes increase from 18.5% to 23 % in the Portland Metro area alone,” said Sean Penrith, executive director, Earth Advantage Institute. “This is a sure sign that the rate of appeal for these homes is increasing.”

The following are the Portland-based group’s top 10 Green Building Trends for 2011:

1. Affordable green. Many consumers typically associate green and energy-efficient homes and features with higher costs. However, the development of new business models, technologies, and the mainstreaming of high performance materials is bringing high-performance, healthy homes within reach of all homeowners. Leading the charge are affordable housing groups, including Habitat for Humanity and local land trusts, now building and selling LEED Homes- and ENERGY STAR-certified homes across the country at price points as low as $100,000. In the existing homes market, energy upgrades are now available through new programs that include low-cost audits and utility bill-based financing. Through such programs as Clean Energy Works Oregon, and Solar City’s solar lease-to-own business model, no up-front payment is required to take advantage of energy upgrades.

2. Sharing and comparing home energy use. As social and purchasing sites like Facebook and Groupon add millions more members, the sharing of home energy consumption data – for rewards – is not far behind. The website Earth Aid lets you track home energy usage and earn rewards for energy savings from local vendors. You can also elect to share the information with others on Earth Aid to see who can conserve the most energy. When coupled with other developments including home energy displays, a voluntary home energy scoring system announced by the Department of Energy, and programs including Oregon and Washington’s Energy Performance Score, a lot more people will be sharing — and comparing — their home energy consumption.

3. Outcome-based energy codes. Existing buildings are responsible for most energy use and associated carbon emissions, but the prescriptive energy codes used in commercial remodels don’t encourage effective retrofitting. Compliance with energy codes is determined at permit time, using prescriptive or predictive models, and actual post-construction may never even be reviewed. Heating and cooling equipment could be faulty or improperly controlled, with significant energy and financial implications. Under outcome-based energy codes, owners could pursue the retrofit strategy that they decide is most effective for their building and its tenants, but they would be required to achieve a pre-negotiated performance target through mandatory annual reporting. The City of Seattle and the New Building Institute have teamed up with the National Trusts’ Preservation Green Lab to pioneer a framework for just such a code, for both new and existing buildings.

4. Community purchasing power. Neighborhoods interested in renewable energy will increasingly band together to obtain better pricing on materials such as solar panels and on installation costs. The Solarize Portland program was initiated by local neighborhood leaders who wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in Northeast Portland by working together as a community. The program is structured so that the price of solar panel installation decreases for everybody as more neighbors join the effort. Group purchasing creates a 15% to 25% savings below current prices. This group discount, in addition to current available tax credits and cash incentives, gives participants a significant cost savings. In Philadelphia, the Retrofit Philly program leverages contests between residential blocks to get neighborhoods involved in energy upgrades.

5. “Grid-aware” appliances fuel convergence of smart grid and smart homes. While many residential smart meters have been installed, the customer interface that will allow homeowners to track energy use more accurately are not yet in place. In the meantime, manufacturers are increasingly introducing appliances that are “grid-aware.” These appliances are endowed with more sophisticated energy management capabilities and timers, offering homeowners machines that monitor and report their own electricity usage and that increase or decrease that usage by remote command. Many machines have timers and can already be manually programmed to run during off-peak hours. These developments will begin forging the convergence of a smart grid infrastructure and the control applications needed to manage energy savings in our buildings and homes.

6. Accessory dwelling units. Last year we discussed home “right-sizing” as a trend. However, with fewer people moving or building due to financial concerns, many have chosen to stay put in their favorite area and build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These small independent units, which can be used for offices, studios, or in-law space, are the ideal size for energy savings and sustainable construction. As detached or attached rental units, they help cities increase urban density and restrict sprawl, while allowing homeowners to add value to their property. The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California, have waived administrative fees to encourage more ADU construction.

7. Rethinking of residential heating and cooling. Advances in applied building science in the US and abroad have resulted in homes that are so tightly sealed and insulated that furnace-less, ductless homes are now a reality. The increasingly popular “Passive House” standard, for example, calls for insulation in walls and ceiling that is so thick that the home is actually heated by everyday activity of the occupants, from cooking to computer use. Even in ENERGY STAR-certified homes builders are now encouraged to bring all  ductwork inside the insulated envelope of the house to eliminate excess heat or cooling loss, and to use only small but efficient furnaces and air conditioners to avoid wasting power. Geothermal heating and cooling, where piping loops are run through the ground to absorb warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer, are another option gaining broader acceptance.

8. Residential grey water use. With water shortages looming in many areas including the Southwest and Southern California, recycling of grey water – any household wastewater with the exception of toilet water – is gaining traction. Benefits include reduced water use, reduced strain on septic and stormwater systems, and groundwater replenishment. Although many cities have been slow to legislate on grey water use, some communities have increased the amount of allowable grey water use for irrigation. Systems can be as simple as a pipe system draining directly into a mulch field or they can incorporate collection tanks and pumps.

9. Small commercial certification. 95% of commercial building starts in the U.S. are under 50,000 square feet, but the bulk of current certified commercial buildings tend to be much larger. This is in part because of numerous “soft” costs including commissioning, energy modeling, project registration, and administrative time, all of which can be prohibitively expensive for small building owners and developers. To encourage more small commercial projects to go green, alternative certification programs have sprung up, including Earthcraft Light Commercial and Earth Advantage Commercial, which have found significant appeal through fully subscribed pilot programs.

10. Lifecycle Analysis (LCA). We know quite a bit about the performance of certain materials used in high performance home and commercial building construction, but the industry has just begun to study the effects of these materials over the course of their entire lives, from raw material extraction through disposal and decomposition. Lifecycle analysis examines the impact of materials over their lifetime through the lens of environmental indicators including embodied energy, solid waste, air and water pollution, and global warming potential. LCA for building materials will allow architects to determine what products are more sustainable and what combination of products can produce the most environmentally friendly results. 



Leave a Reply

A.Wonderland says:
May-04-2012 12:47 pm

In my opinion, when we talk
In my opinion, when we talk about green buildings, we do have to look at what type of appliances the building uses and how green they are. I know it is quite easy to find a good and green appliance package deal, the important thing is wether they did it or not.

S.Gibbs says:
Apr-25-2012 08:22 pm

I admire your efforts and
I admire your efforts and your idea that you put into this blog. Thanks for the information. Really lovely and useful for me and will refer my friends to this blog. shabby chic accessories

A.Cavity says:
Mar-26-2012 01:45 am

I wonder if Brandenberry has
I wonder if Brandenberry has green furniture in their selection. I sense that the whole industry is moving towards green standards, so I won’t be surprised if more companies jump on the bandwagon. Alex - Cavalok Cavity Closers

D.Wong says:
Mar-02-2012 04:00 pm

course of their entire lives,
course of their entire lives, from raw material extraction through disposal and decomposition. Lifecycle analysis examines the impact of materials over their lifetime through the lens of envir bag manufacturer

g.ergerh says:
Jan-21-2012 05:28 pm

Im glad to have found this
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p.ajshjahf says:
Dec-20-2011 05:44 am

Really great work,I would
Really great work,I would like to join your blog anyway. Cab Online || Taxi Mumbai

s.Wilson says:
Nov-06-2011 09:02 am

Rethinking of residential
Rethinking of residential heating and cooling. Advances in applied building science in the US and abroad have resulted in homes that are so tightly sealed and insulated that furnace-less, furniture removals//how can I get taller

s.Wilson says:
Aug-26-2011 03:23 pm

Thank you for the great
Thank you for the great information posted. This is really worth of reading as well as very interested. medical aids in south africa

marbi21 says:
Mar-16-2011 04:53 pm

A really well written post,
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kclark says:
Jan-07-2011 12:54 am

I would maybe add: "real
I would maybe add: "real wood." Real wood still doesn't get the credit it deserves for its sustainability, greenability, and ecobility.



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NLBMDA offers facts on energy incentives


The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association issued a fact sheet on the impact of recent tax relief law on incentives for energy-efficient home products.

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act" signed into law on Dec. 17 extended credits for certain residential products for one year at reduced levels from the 2009-2010 credit. The credit covers Energy Star windows, exterior doors and skylights, and certain insulation, HVAC, metal and asphalt roofing products, biomass stoves and water heaters. will have a complete list of qualifying products posted in early 2011.


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New American Home to entertain at IBS


The International Builders’ Show, the home building industry’s largest convention, will convene in Orlando, Fla., next week, Jan. 12 to 15. 

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) event, held in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, will feature cutting-edge designs, technologies, and products for all segments of the industry, according to show organizers. Among those designs is The New American Home, now in its 28th year.

The New American Home (TNAH) is constructed annually in conjunction with the NAHB International Builders’ Show to showcase innovative building technologies and the latest building products.

The 2011 show home is located on an infill building site in an older neighbornood near downtown Orlando. Located on the South side of Lake Davis, the home has panoramic views of the Orlando sky line.

In keeping with increasing demand for energy- and resource-efficiency, TNAH 2011 is being built to attain “Emerald” status of the National Green Building Standard (NGBS, ICC 700). The development of the standard was a collaborative effort of NAHB and the International Code Council (ICC).  The NGBS is approved by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, as an American National Standard.  “Emerald” is the highest of the four levels of achievement in resource efficiency that the Standard recognizes. In addition to state-of-the-art green building technology, it features dynamic aesthetic design, including fountains, pools and solar elements.

TNAH 2011 is a custom residence that is being constructed for specific buyers. It integrates state-of-the-art technology in an American Empire design with Greek Revival elements and combines an inviting layout with elegant style, eccentric interiors and easy classicism.

TNAH 2011 also will showcase the latest in green building and construction technology and will utilize a state-of-the-art energy efficiency package.



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To what extent will your office be impacted by March Madness, which tips off this week?