There may be few occupations that have more opportunity to incorporate sustainable choices into their products, services, and day-to-day operations than architecture. The market for green building has cooled down along with everything else, but it seems inevitable that it will replace its traditional counterpart faster than most other sustainable industries. Organic foods, for example, grew 20% year after year for almost a decade before slowing to a 6% growth in overall sales last year, but no one believes that organic will completely replace traditional agriculture anytime soon. Green building, however, may be lined up to become mainstream.
It just makes sense. Rising energy prices coupled with decreasing costs of many green building products and widespread acceptance of the many benefits of green building have produced a perfect storm that could realistically propel green building forward to mainstream acceptance. The other major influence is the economic downturn, which is bringing liquid clarity to the costs of maintaining a traditional home, and the corresponding benefits to planning for energy efficiency.
Warren Lloyd, of Lloyd Architecture, says, “Things will be very different [when residential construction starts to heat up again after the downturn]. Green Building will just be how we do things.” Lloyd, whose firm balances historical with green, recently completed renovation on two buildings in Salt Lake City, one with a ground source heat pump system that heats and cools 85 units of housing, and the other a boarded house that was converted to an anticipated LEED Silver rating and still meets the historic preservation tax credit criteria.
Architects are at the center of the green building revolution. Says Lloyd, “Architects can leverage their decisions and work across many trades that impact energy efficiency, thermal comfort, waste stream diversion, and almost every aspect of sustainability.” Since most homeowners and developers trust their architects to design and implement the best possible building and/or renovations, architects are freer to pursue green products and services than many other professionals. Given that architects tend to be creative types who like to stay on top of the latest trends, this arrangement bodes well for the green building industry.
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and hopes that someday the green economy will simply be referred to as….the economy.