The Top 10 Inventive Green Building Trends for 2017

From the financial standpoint, a green building is superior to a conventional one in all aspects. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, a leading provider of business intelligence for the US commercial construction industry, a green building is 14 percent less expensive to operate than a traditional one, and its asset value is higher by 7 percent. They have also found that the amount of green buildings in the world tends to double every three years.

This article will provide an overview of the top 10 trends in green buildings for 2017.


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1) Net Zero Energy Buildings

As implied by its name, a net-zero energy building is one that produces the same amount of energy it consumes. This is achieved with various complementary strategies:

  • Deploying energy efficiency upgrades and building management systems to reduce consumption
  • Once consumption is as low as possible, renewable energy sources are used on-site. Solar and wind power are among the most common options, but biomass and geothermal energy can also be viable depending on site conditions.

It is important to note that a net-zero energy building normally remains connected to the power grid, and may even consume energy if renewable generation is not available at a specific time. However, the energy it exports to grid is greater than or equal to its consumption. When a building supplies more energy than what it consumes, it is called a net-positive energy building.

2) Energy Management Services

The Software as a Service (SaaS) business model has been successful in the IT industry, where clients can now pay a monthly fee for the use of software, rather than purchasing an expensive on-premises license each time a new version is released. This also makes software solutions more affordable for smaller companies, who may not have the capital availability for expensive licenses.

The mechanical and electrical installations in buildings are becoming increasingly connected, making it possible for a control system to monitor indoor conditions in real time and to manage operation so that the lowest possible energy cost is achieved. The SaaS business model is now being applied to energy efficiency, where the client pays a monthly fee for specialized service provider to remotely manage their energy consumption, instead of dedicating large amounts of time and capital to the development of an in-house solution.

3)LED Lighting Retrofits

According to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, LED lighting had a market share of 28% by the year 2015, up from only 1% in 2010. Growth is expected to continue at exponential rates, with a projected market share of over 95% by 2025

With each year that passes, LED lighting becomes an even better investment thanks to decreasing costs and an increasing luminous efficacy. The initial investment of LED lighting remains higher than that of most other lighting technologies, but when the low energy consumption and long service life are considered, it is the lighting technology with the lowest cost of ownership

4) Smart Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries offer an excellent round-trip efficiency and a much longer service life than their lead-acid counterparts, but have been held back by their high upfront cost. However, the technology has reached a point where it is cost-effective in power grid applications: utilities in California are already commissioning megawatt-scale battery arrays to meet peaks in demand, especially those that occur during the summer. This trend is expected to continue in the residential and commercial sectors, where batteries can provide two main benefits:

  • Backup power during electric service interruptions.
  • Clients subject to hourly electricity rates can fully charge their batteries when rates are at their lowest point, and then consume the energy to avoid the highest rates. This also applies if a client has surplus generation from a renewable energy system.

As battery systems achieve widespread adoption among residential and commercial clients, there will be opportunities to collaborate with utility companies. For example, distributed energy storage can help absorb peaks in output from solar or wind farms, or also to help meet peaks in demand.

5)Passive Building Design

Lighting and HVAC are among the largest energy expenses in commercial buildings, but it is possible to greatly reduce them through smart design choices. The main goal of passive design is to maximize the use of daylight, while also making sure there is minimal heat gain during the summer, and minimal heat loss during the winter. Also, natural ventilation is used whenever possible.

The Pertamina Energy Tower is a 523-meter construction in Qatar, whose entire design is based on the path of the sun in the sky, in to minimize HVAC and lighting consumption. The building uses geothermal energy for its electricity, heating and cooling needs.

6)Visible Light Communication

LED lighting not only offers energy efficiency; it is also possible to use light pulses to transmit data, through a concept called visible light communication. This technology is orders of magnitude faster than Wi-Fi, and could eventually displace it. There are two main ways in which VLC can contribute to green construction:

  • Lighting and IT installations can be consolidated into a single system, reducing material requirements during construction, as well as energy expenses
  • VLC networks can serve as the platform to build energy management systems. It is only a matter of giving VLC capabilities to key building installations

7)Solar Power

Solar power is already a booming industry, with over one million photovoltaic arrays in operation throughout the USA. However, the technology still has plenty of room to evolve, and there are promising concepts being developed. For example, printable solar cells promise to be much lighter and cheaper than current photovoltaic modules. They can also be printed on any surface, regardless of shape and orientation.

Another factor that will contribute to sustained growth in the solar power industry is the federal tax credit, which allows home and business owners to deduct 30% of any solar power investment from their tax burden. The benefit was set to expire in 2016, but was recently refreshed until 2020, so plenty of activity can be expected in the solar power industry.

8) Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC Systems

Although variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems are very common in Japan and Europe, their adoption in the USA market is relatively new. These systems offer a broad range of advantages compared with traditional HVAC installations:

9) Mobile Applications

Energy efficiency and renewable energy measures provide significant savings for building owners, but these may not be evident until the next power bill arrives. There are now many technology providers bundling mobile applications with their products. These can be used for various purposes, including:

  • Monitoring the energy output of a solar photovoltaic system
  • Tracking the kilowatt-hour savings of energy efficiency measures
  • Self-diagnostics: detecting performance issues in real time and notifying the building owner and the service provider

10) Green Building Materials and Products

Building owners that are striving for LEED certifications use green materials as part of their effort to accumulate points. Construction products can be considered green either because they have a low environmental impact during production, or because they help the building reduce its energy footprint. Some examples of these products are:

  • Recycled concrete
  • Permeable pavement
  • ENERGY STAR compliant HVAC systems
  • Energy-efficient windows
  • Green roofing materials

Concluding Remarks

Green buildings show promise at the global scale, and they can complement renewable energy sources to reduce the energy footprint of commercial activities. Renewable technologies help reduce the environmental on the production side, while green buildings are used to mitigate demand.

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