Green building is going mainstream. But what developments are likely to become popular for eco-minded builders and consumers? The nonprofit Earth Advantage Institute recently made some green building trend predictions for 2011. Here are our top 5 choices from their list.
- Affordable green. Development of new business models, technologies, and the mainstreaming of high-performance materials is bringing green and energy efficient homes within reach of all homeowners. Leading the charge are affordable housing groups like Habitat for Humanity, which is now building LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR-certified homes. In the existing homes market, energy upgrades are now available through new programs and tax incentives.
- “Grid-aware” appliances. Manufacturers are increasingly developing appliances that are “grid-aware.” Endowed with more sophisticated energy management capabilities and timers, these appliances monitor and report their own electricity usage to homeowners. Whatsmore, grid-aware appliances can increase or decrease their usage by timers or even remote commands.
- Accessory dwelling units. With fewer people moving or building due to financial concerns, many have chosen to stay put for the time being. When they need to expand, they’re installing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) – small detached structures which can be used for offices, studios, or in-law space. They are the ideal size for energy savings and sustainable construction.
- Rethinking heating and cooling. Advances in technology have resulted in homes that are so tightly sealed and insulated that furnace-less homes are now a reality, even in Minnesota with its nearly-arctic temperatures. The increasingly popular “Passive Houses” are actually heated by everyday activity of their occupants, from cooking to computer use. Even in ENERGY STAR-certified homes, builders are now encouraged to bring all ductwork inside the insulated envelope of the house to eliminate excess heat or cooling loss, and to use only small but efficient furnaces and air conditioners to avoid wasting power. Geothermal heating and cooling is another option gaining broader acceptance.
- Sharing and comparing home energy use. As social media sites like Facebook and Groupon increase in popularity and people share even more of their information, tracking and sharing home energy consumption data is on its way. Website’s Earth Aid lets people track home energy usage and earn rewards for energy savings from local vendors. A household’s energy use can also be shared on Earth Aid to see who can conserve the most energy.
To read the rest of the list, check out Builder Online’s 10 Green Building Trends for 2011 article.