When the recession hit in 2007, projects across the country were put on hold or abandoned. Colossal cranes hanging over deserted construction sites became ubiquitous in cities from Boston to Las Vegas. While much of the industry came to a halt during the downturn, the green residential market experienced the most growth. And according to McGraw Hill Construction's most recent study, "Green Multifamily and Single-Family Homes: Growth in a Recovering Market," this trend will likely continue, with more builders, developers, and remodelers of both single and multifamily housing experiencing a substantial rise in green activity, from implementing strategies that enhance water and energy efficiency to improving indoor air quality. The greatest increase in green construction will be from those building single-family houses: of the firms surveyed for this study, 62 percent reported that more than 15 percent of their work is green to some degree, and by 2018, an impressive 84 percent expect to be involved with green building practices.
McGraw Hill Construction's SmartMarket report
This steady climb in green construction is driven by myriad factors, such as consumer demand, environmental awareness, and changing building codes. Homeowners are recognizing the cause and effect of green design: energy and water efficiency result in money savings and improved health and comfort. For builders and developers, a mix of government incentives and regulations, advances in green product development and affordability, and energy costs have spurred decisions to adopt green building practices. Those still behind the curve will probably soon realize the advantages of green building. However, predicts Harvey M. Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw Hill Construction, "the broader the availability of green building products and practices, a more educated consumer and an increase in activity at the regulatory level will also encourage this group of builders to learn green practices over time."
In this issue, we feature two case studies that may be physically small but set out to satisfy ambitious energy-saving objectives. These residential projects demonstrate creative yet diverse approaches to green design. David Baker's Zero Cottage creates an airtight, highly insulated house that goes beyond the usual energy-performance standards, implementing a variety of sustainable strategies to achieve Passive House and the Living Future Institute's Net Zero Energy certifications. Architecture firm Leth & Gori went in a different direction for a project in a Denmark suburb, relying on traditional materials proven to be long lasting and thus sustainable.
With residential and commercial buildings accounting for 40 percent of the nation's total energy consumption in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it is becoming increasingly important for the design and construction industry to take action to expand its knowledge of sustainable design and reduce its carbon footprint, one house at a time.