We’re all familiar with the concept of going green. In fact, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when citizens were not concerned with ways to save energy and save the planet. Over 41-years ago, Wally Broeker – the scientist credited with coining the term ‘global warming’ – first published his paper, Climate Change: Are we on the brink of a Pronounced Global Warming? Broeker is without doubt a revolutionary thinker but it has taken governments, corporations and the average citizen decades to catch up and catch on to the resounding message his paper delivered: the urgency of taking steps to save energy in every aspect of our existence. And this extends to our modern construction practices.
Climate change is a Real Thing
That climate change is indeed ‘a thing’ has been overwhelmingly verified by scientists worldwide and its impact on our future existence can go no longer be ignored. We are in a race against time and efforts to counter our carbon emissions and save precious energy are becoming increasingly evident in every aspect of our daily lives, from what we eat to what we drive. It also influences our construction industry.
Time to change how we live
Did you know that the construction and operation of buildings consumes over a third of the world’s energy – far more than even transportation – and 40% of all mined resources? Add to that the fact that carbon emissions from buildings are only expected to increase over the coming 25 years, and the need for a green intervention becomes ever more apparent, particularly in light of a growing global population.
The increasing level of urbanisation we’re experiencing worldwide demands solutions that will allow us to build and live sustainably in the future. If developing countries ever come close to matching the developed world’s rates of energy and resource use on a per capita basis, our chances of halting or reversing climate change will be nigh on impossible.
Our hope rests with the industrialised world’s ability to lead the way and demonstrate to the remaining three-quarters of the world’s population how going green can save energy and help prevent a complete environmental catastrophe. The good news is that construction firms are recognising the value that introducing green building practices brings, including the opportunity for new environmentally responsible products.
Green buildings save energy
According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s latest SmartMarket Report (World Green Building Trends – Business Benefits Driving New and Retrofit Market Opportunities in Over 60 Countries), conducted in partnership with the World Green Building Council (WGBC), construction firms are cottoning on to the benefits of green building practices, with 51% of participants projecting that more than 60% of their future work will be in line with such practices. This is a marked improvement on the 28% that said the same for their work in 2013 and the 13% measured in 2008.
This upswing in global green building trends in an attempt to cut carbon emissions and save energy is not confined to any one country or region. The number of firms anticipating that more than 60% of their future work will be green include construction companies in South Africa, Germany, Norway, Brazil, United States, Singapore, United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
One of the key reasons for this positive shift is that going green is viewed as good for business. Whereas before the trend was driven by the industry itself, it is now the consumer that is demanding that firms employ green building practices. While the long-term benefits for the environment are obvious, the drive – from the consumer’s perspective – is also underlined by financial considerations.
Expected benefits – from the consumer’s perspective – include lower operating costs (76%); increased building values (38%); quality assurance (38%); and future-proofing assets (i.e. protecting against future demands) (36%).
Global construction industry professionals, in turn, also demonstrate high expectations of the operating cost benefits of green buildings with 19% maintaining the operating costs of such buildings will decrease by 15% or more after the first year. 39% believe green buildings will realise savings of 15% or more over a period of five years.
“Green” buildings defined
A green building might be defined as one that is significantly more:
- Energy efficient
- Resource efficient
- Healthy (with fewer chemical emissions)
- Aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.
Striving to make buildings more sustainable will not only save on construction and operating costs but also save valuable energy and resources. The upshot is a healthier environment for all.
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