Greenbuild reflects strength of the green building sector

Greenbuild reflects strength of the green building sector

Despite uncertainty in the construction industry, the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo attracted nearly 30,000 visitors from more than 120 countries during its run Nov. 17-19 in Chicago.

Conducted by the U.S. Green Building Council, Greenbuild is the largest event of its kind in the world, according to Ashley Katz, communications manager for USGBC.

The expansion of the event throughout the past several years reflects the interest in green building techniques for environmentally responsible residential and commercial construction. “The growth shows that Greenbuild is the answer to a lot of different markets that are looking for information about green building,” Katz said.

That’s evident in the commercial building sector, where building owners seek green credentials for their projects because green building has become profitable, not just an environmental good deed. Owners of green buildings report a 5 percent increase in property value, a 4 percent return on investment, a 1 percent rise in rental revenue, and an 8 percent reduction in operating costs compared with conventional designs, according to a study that McGraw-Hill Construction, property management firm C.B. Richard Ellis and the University of San Diego unveiled at Greenbuild.

This year’s Greenbuild keynote speaker was former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell. He spoke about a LEED-Platinum affordable housing building in his childhood neighborhood that bears his name. The General Colin L. Powell Apartments in the South Bronx, N.Y., is a cutting-edge, 50-unit multifamily project resulting from a partnership between Habitat for Humanity-New York City and Blue Sea Development.

Henry Cisneros, who was appointed secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1993, was the kick-off speaker for the Residential Summit. He spoke about the role of cities in combating climate change.

Cisneros left the audience with three messages:

“The first is that cities matter in the efforts to combat global climate change,” he said. “Secondly, to express the relationship between sustainability and livability. Thirdly, I want to talk about equitability, how to make it reach all the people who live in our cities and those who are coming up from marginalized states.”

Cisneros outlined the role of cities, both in the culture and in environmental impact. “Cities serve a purpose: they are the epicenters of working, playing, creating, governing, and most importantly, living,” he said. However, Cisneros noted that 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions emanate from the world’s cities.

"It is up to us to make these vital centers of human existence as green as possible, in order to combat climate change and create healthy communities for people in cities everywhere,” he said. “You can change the course of world history – literally - by limiting climate change. And you can give substance to the very words ‘urban livability’ in a way that touches lives.”

The exhibition hall was filled with 1,800 exhibitors, introducing products and services to the green building market for both commercial and residential use. Everything from solar panels to eco-friendly wood products to high-efficiency toilets were on display.

For those in the residential construction industry, green building remains a driving force. Some of the more popular sessions were focused on the LEED certification program, administered by the USGBC.

“As of Sept. 7, there are more than 7,300 units certified under the LEED for Homes program, nearly 30,000 more in the pipeline, and nearly 9,000 units registered just this year, which represent approximately 1 percent of new home starts,” wrote Nate Kredich, vice president, residential market development, U.S. Green Building Council.

Kredich noted the interest in residential green building remains strong. “Despite a relentless housing slump, we continue to see growth in the green home sector — driven largely by builders, developers, local governments, and especially by homeowners and homebuyers. A recent McGraw-Hill Construction report found that 70 percent of homebuyers are more interested in purchasing a green home than a conventional one.

“All the data clearly shows that the green homebuilding movement is gaining momentum,” Kredich wrote.  “But even with the success of the LEED for Homes program and 1 million green homes in the Energy Star program, much work remains to be done in the residential building industry. There are 120 million homes in the U.S. that are not certified under any green banner and another half million new homes coming to market in the next year.”

For 2011, Greenbuild is scheduled for Oct 5-7 in Toronto, the first time the show has been held outside the United States.

Topics: Trends / Statistics

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council

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