MEP CA AB 1103

2016 Engineering and Sustainability Trends

MEP Energy Star CertificationrInterest in and demand for sustainability is at an all-time high and does not show any signs of changing soon. The ramifications of this drive are being felt across industries; from retail to real estate to construction more and more businesses are realizing that sustainability is becoming an essential focus in order to keep up with competition. While many advances and breakthroughs have been made in the field in past decades it is important to keep tabs on nascent technologies and trends so we can help foster their growth and implementation as well as predict the trajectory of the market. As 2015 comes to a close business owners must look forward to 2016 and the fluxing landscape of their field.

Shifting Mindset The sustainability movement may have once been perceived as a leftist political and social trend, but it has spilled over partisan walls to a point where it is closer to the norm than the exception. Sustainability was once a voluntary practice that set one apart from competition with a optional image boost, but according to recent studies the motivations for 'going green' have changed in the past decade. In McGraw-Hill Construction's 2008 report 'World Green Building Trends' the majority of those surveyed cited their motivation for choosing sustainable design as "doing the right thing". However, in McGraw-Hill Construction's 2012 report the perspective seems to have pivoted with most citing their choice of green building as having been motivated by client and market demand. What was once an elective ethical bonus is becoming a key factor that tenants and buyers look for in potential properties for to live in or for investment.

In the past, many critics have dismissed sustainability as a trite buzzword. This is partially due to the fact that there is not one overarching definition for the word. Sustainability is an abstract idea and there are many competing takes on what it actually entails. This coupled with the fact that some companies like to pin the word onto things that are objectively not sustainable to boost sales have given the term a bad rap. In green building it becomes a bit more clearly defined which helps us circumvent these confusions (at least for our purposes). A green building is a structure constructed with a focus on minimizing environmental impact, functioning conservatively in terms of resources used, and designed in a way that maximizes its utilization of surroundings as well as its tenant's health and satisfaction.

Growing Industry Green building has been well established as desirable among consumers, but there is ever increasing incentive for property owners as well. As the industry ages expertise increases, the cost of environmentally beneficial measures and technologies fall, and their availability and efficacy skyrockets. Even ideologically green building and design seems to be the new standard. Keeping in mind energy consumption, ideal materials, and resource consumption is practical and when your building is designed with a focus on these it becomes easy. Lower operating cost and tenant satisfaction reportedly higher in green buildings (as discussed in MEP's previous Green Building article) mean there does not seem to be many drawbacks beyond the initial investment. And even the potential drawback of perceived higher initial investment costs is slowly diminishing as green building and design becomes more affordable in addition to the municipal and federal benefits that are extended to high performing buildings. You won't be alone if you decide on green building and design. According to the McGraw-Hill report's survey 51% of respondents stated more than 60% of their work will be green by 2015. This is a 23% jump from those with the same response in 2013 and a 38% increase from the 2008 poll.

New Trends and Technology There are many new technologies and practices accelerating the growth of the green building industry, but here are a few of the big ones to keep an eye on in 2016. Construction Material With the release of LEED v4 contractor focus is shifting toward the material they use to build. Keeping in mind both the actual health and environmental attributes is important, but the materials selected for construction are now scrutinized even further. Green Builders take into consideration both manufacturing and transportation, opting for low pollution materials that have environmentally friendly fabrication processes and are locally made so as to minimize pollution incurred during transit.

Renewable Energy and Resource Conservation Another area Green Builders are making great strides in is their buildings energy footprint. As we explore the possibilities of alternative energy sources many breakthroughs have been made that may eventually become common place. From photovoltaic window panes to energy management systems, building operators and designers are finding more and more ways to cut their properties energy footprints. This has brought us to a point where what was once science fiction is now reality: Zero-Energy Buildings. Using green building design in addition to renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind energy there are now many examples of buildings that operate at a net zero energy level, producing as much or more energy than they consume. These buildings wholly rely on their own energy sources to operate and often end up selling back their excess energy to utility companies or storing it for later use. Most Green Building projects take steps to diminish their disruption of natural systems as well as their consumption of resources. One major resource that is often take into consideration is water. Green builders use many tricks and technologies to help keep their water use down. Storm water reclamation to water reuse technologies are two of the biggest tools green builders use to curb our loss of this precious resource.

Design Planning and design are the most important portions of a Green Building project (as highlighted in last month's MEP blog article). Using innovative techniques engineers and architects can utilize natural systems to minimize the use of mechanical ones. Things like orientation, window placement, roofing material and cross ventilation allow designers to reduce the cost and amount of HVAC equipment in a building.
Renovation One area of major importance that can often go overlooked is renovation. With everyone rushing to build the greenest new building the old ones can sometimes get left behind in the dust. This is a major oversight though given that 60% of the buildings that will exist 30 years from now have already been built. This means that keeping the focus only on designing new green buildings leaves us with the capability to affect only 40% of our infrastructure. Retrofit projects can significantly reduce your building's operating cost, resource consumption, and even improve occupant satisfaction. Many government buildings are set for green retrofits in the coming years and green retrofit projects are on pace to surpass new green building projects.

Impact Buildings have a profound impact on our surroundings, their occupants, and natural resources. Buildings use 13.6% of the world's potable water. In terms of energy buildings account for 40% of the United State's total energy footprint. As for their occupants, Americans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors highlighting the importance of a healthy environment within our buildings. This makes green building and design all the more important. In terms of resources used the statistics speak for themselves. A recent study conducted by the GSA found that federal green buildings us 26% less energy, 3% less domestic water, and emit 33% less carbon than their traditional counterparts.

Where to Begin Contact MEP today for assistance with your ENERGY STAR, LEED, Energy Audit, and M-E-P Energy Conservation and Engineering Design needs at 310-782-1410.

  • Measure, track, and benchmark energy performance
  • Develop and implement a plan to improve energy performance, adopting the ENERGY STAR strategy
  • Educate your staff and the public about your partnership and achievements with ENERGY STAR
All of these criteria are made simple with ENERGY STAR's portfolio manager and additional resources that can be found on the ENERGY STAR website. The application process is easy to complete and comprehensively laid out on the ENERGY STAR website. By filling out a brief PDF you can become an ENERGY STAR partner and begin a mutually beneficial relationship with the growing program.
Join ENERGY STAR and its 6000 plus other partners today to begin making your industry a more educated and sustainable place! Contact MEP today for assistance with your ENERGY STAR, LEED, Energy Audit and M-E-P Engineering Design needs at 310-782-1410.