This is the first in a series of articles about upcoming challenges and advancements in green city architecture, master planning and technology.
Green building has a bright future. More people every day are becoming aware of the benefits of green building. What will also develop in the future, along with this increasing interest, is the growing need for up-to-date knowledge about how to best provide green homes and buildings, so that builders can benefit directly from the coming, greener environment.
The green building industry is not alone in facing future challenges. This year, I am involved in events, classes and articles related to the futures of architecture, green building, master planned communities, smart cities and technology transfer to the building industry. I am drawing from my work in all of these areas to derive what matters most and can benefit green builders.
Here are the top five issues to consider in green building, from my perspective:
Human Health in Green Buildings and Related Requirements
Human health will become one of the main reasons that people will want green buildings in the near future. The health of their families and/or employees is of great importance to your clients. The reason that builders, homeowners and building owners will address this in new projects will include an increase in local and national codes that require it.
For your clients and building permit agencies, you will need to be able to show that you are aware of this and can provide a healthy home that is a green building. This includes air quality (indoor, outdoor, humidity), water quality, and how you will provide this with the design and construction of a green building.
Also included is how the products you use will meet these standards (safety, no outgassing, etc.), and how the mechanical equipment and plumbing products will meet coming newly required product and performance standards. These requirements will come from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DoE) and other government agencies.
Another reason that this will be important is that these requirements may also become mandatory to sell a house or building in the future, in some locations. For example, some U.S. jurisdictions already require that new houses must be wired for charging units in the garage for electric cars, to pass final inspection and receive an occupancy permit or to sell the house. Anticipate that more local and national requirements will be developed.
Evolving Technology and the IoT of Green Buildings
This category pertains to the Internet of Things (IoT), including connected appliances, smart thermostats, smart phones, voice control, video cameras, entertainment centers, various sensors and other security devices such as smart locks, that are increasing in popularity. It is expanding to include smart appliances, HVAC equipment, and other devices such as solar and geothermal equipment.
How to select and integrate these devices is no simple task. In many cases, the responsibility will fall to contractors. Specialty consulting businesses are already developing in this area. These specialists can be a good addition to your subcontractor team, when you have a client with high IoT interests.
Products and Materials
Matching homeowner desires with product manufacturers’ information can be challenging. Your clients’ need for assistance in selecting products and materials with the availability of appropriate current products can vary from project to project. Just as builders are updating their practices, product manufacturers are updating how they keep the outlets for their products—direct sales, showroom sales, and increasing online sales—supplied with current trends, innovations and brand sentiment, from sources such as Green Builder’s COGNITION Smart Data.
They are also trying to market and sell their newer products, and transition from more-familiar products that they plan to retire and will be no longer be available. Coordinating products’ features, available finishes and styles of products can be a complex and somewhat confusing world for new clients. Much of this information is available digitally and your own ability to manage this data efficiently will increasingly become part of your competitive advantage.
The old days of the “installation instructions with critical clearance dimensions being in the box when the product is delivered” are hopefully over. But the responsibilities of the general contractor to coordinate this information with subcontractors remain. In cases where products are “owner selected/purchased and contractor installed,” the need and ability to effectively include the homeowner in this process is important.
Project Management: From Bids to Job Site
The amount of data to be managed in a green building project is complex and extensive. Connecting to and easily exchanging data with your clients, consultants, subcontractors, product manufacturers, review agencies and building inspectors is critical. Project management software for teams will play an even greater role in everyone’s work to successfully participate and compete in the business of green buildings. Builders who master project management software successfully, and who become more efficient and effective in their projects will be more successful in the financial and economic aspects of green building as well.
Terry Beaubois is CEO of Building Knowledge Systems (BKS) LLC in Palo Alto, Calif. For 40 years, he has been involved in research projects, articles, speaking engagements and guest lecturing in university classes related to the building industry, with a specialty in advancing technologies.