Report: 2021 World Green Building Trends


The U.S. Green Building Council has recently announced the results of the 2021 World Green Building Trends report, revealing an increased commitment to green building and other strategies aimed at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Created in partnership with Dodge Data, the report also shows that while green building continues to remain a global priority, its goals have been further driven by extreme events, despite rising concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The World Green Building Trends report underscores the increasing importance that governments, corporations and institutions are placing on green buildings for our climate, health and economy,” said Peter Templeton, President and CEO of USGBC.

“As USGBC and our partners participate in COP this week, the benefits of LEED green buildings stand out as top-of-mind solutions helping organizations meet commitments and maximize efficiency, resilience, health and sustainability across their buildings.”

More than 1,200 industry professionals— including engineers, architects/designers, contractors, owners, developers, inventors and consultants— around the world were surveyed for the report.

Report Findings

In its fourth edition of the study, USGBC and Dodge report that many of the key findings haven’t changed, even despite the state of upheaval. The commitment to increasing green building efforts continues to remain strong with respondents planning to use more green building products and systems.

While there are many business drivers reported to be pushing green practices, the report also noted on social factors. Interestingly, the report indicates that creating healthier buildings is not just a response to COVID-19, but is part of the ongoing commitment by green practitioners.

According to the report, the level of green building activity (all respondents) in 2021 is as follows:

  • 24% of respondents report that 1-15% of their projects are green;
  • 19% of respondents report that 16-30% of their projects are green;
  • 16% of respondents report that 31-60% of their projects are green;
  • 28% of respondents report that more than 60% of their projects are green; and
  • 13% of respondents report that they are exploring green options, with no current involvement.

Regarding environmental reasons, over three quarters of the respondents (87%) reported that all of the following were important in green building: reduction in energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improved indoor air quality, reduction in water consumption and the protection of natural resources.

Industry professionals also reported on the financial benefits of green building. According to the report, the average reduction in operating costs for the first 12 months in a new green building is 10.5% and five-year cost savings are 16.9%. Green renovations and retrofits have even greater performance globally at 11.5% and 17%, respectively.

Owners also reported that new and retrofit green building projects see an increase in asset value by more than 9%. While the rank of importance varied between owners/investors and architects/engineers/contractors when it involved increasing green building projects, the overall rank of importance for benefiting business was as follows:

  1. Lower operating costs;
  2. Improved user/occupant health and well-being;
  3. Future-proofing assets;
  4. Education of users/occupants about sustainability; and
  5. Documentation/certification providing quality assurance.

To better understand the factors that encouraged respondents to engage with green building in their current practices, the report also asked to rate a series of social reasons for building green. The top five reasons were as follows:

  1. Promotes improved occupant health and well-being;
  2. Encourages sustainable business practices;
  3. Increased worker productivity;
  4. Supports the domestic economy; and
  5. Creates a sense of community.

Other key highlights in the report included:

  • Over half of those doing a majority of green projects plan to incorporate resilience strategies into their projects in the next five years;
  • Most respondents (82%) are at least aware of the concept of embodied carbon– emissions from manufacture, transportation, installation, maintenance and disposal of building materials– with contractors and owners as less familiar with embodied carbon than architects and engineers;
  • The vast majority (79%) of those building green use at least one metric to track green building performance, an increase of five points since 2018; and
  • About half of respondents engage in green renovation/retrofit projects, with most investors engaged in this work.

The report notes that while overall the participants were consistent with studies conducted in 2012, 2015 and 2018, there was one exception: Previously, those doing more than 50% horizontal construction (e.g. roads, bridges, water treatment plants, etc.) were screened out. However, they were included in this study for applicable questions, representing about 8% of the total respondents.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Other USGBC News

In April, the USGBC, along with Green Business Certification Inc., released the results of its 2021 Community Survey. This survey aimed to gather feedback that could be used for USGBC and GBCI program development—it had nearly 1,700 respondents representing 50 countries.

According to the USGBC, the largest opportunity identified through the survey is a higher consumer demand for buildings to promote a healthy environment for occupants (35%). Other substantial reactions include the connection the general public is making about the impact sustainability has on health and wellness (24%) and the importance of increased monitoring of indoor air quality (22%).

However, while those opportunities were heralded in by the COVID-19 pandemic, so too were the concerns. Atop the list were operations costs, budgets, reduced occupancies, health and safety protocols and remote workforces.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Health and wellness should continue to be a focus: Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) also believe a vision about health will benefit USGBC members.
  • Healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy: Three-quarters (74%) of respondents say it was the right decision to shift the USGBC strategy amid the pandemic to healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy.
  • Importance in equity programs: More than three-quarters of survey respondents believe it is important for USGBC to create an equity program that addresses systematic disparities in the building community.
  • USGBC and GBCI investments in virtual events and online credentialing were important and should continue: A large majority of survey participants cited that virtual events were the most important actions USGBC took last year (87%).

That same month, the USGBC announced 15 cities and counties that pledged to comment certification with support of the LEED for Cities Local Government Leadership Program.

The program was launched in 2017, backed by USGBC and the Bank of American, and has reportedly contributed more than $1.75 million to support 56 cities and counties in their pursuit of LEED certification. The program aims to help local governments committed to reducing climate change and advancing resilience and social equity by measuring and tracking performance using the LEED for Cities rating system.

The program provides peer-to-peer networking opportunities, technical assistance, access to educational resources and waived membership, registration and certification fees to support the participants working toward LEED certification.

In line with LEED certifications, most recently, last month, global nonprofit organization Green Seal announced the launch of a new certification standard for paints and coatings that fully aligns with the latest version of the LEED green building rating system.

Products certified to Green Seal’s updated GS-11 paint standard are designated by the USGBC as complying with the requirements for the LEED v4 and v4.1 low-emitting materials credit. In addition, Green Seal ensures that certified products use environmentally preferable packaging materials and contain ingredients that are safer for water bodies.

The updated GS-11 Standard for Paints, Coatings, Stains and Sealers is also compliant with WELL v.1 and Fitwell standards. According to Green Seal, the new paint certification is the only mark in the marketplace to qualify products for both LEED v4.1 credit requirements and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly badge.

The company went on to report that the certification will indicate whether a paint or coating product is safer for people and the planet than similar products while providing uncompromising performance. In its certification, VOC chemical content is restricted, and VOC emissions testing is required to ensure healthier indoor air quality.

The standard also restricts carcinogens, reproductive toxins, hazardous air pollutants, preservatives that emit formaldehyde, heavy metals, alkylphenol ethoxylates and a host of other harmful chemicals, ensuring certified products are safer for building occupants while providing uncompromising functional performance.

The full standard can be downloaded here.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building codes; Certifications and standards; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Green building; Latin America; LEED; LEED v4; LEED v4; North America; Projects - Commercial; U.S. Green Building Council; United States Green Building Council (USGBC); World Green Building Council; Z-Continents

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