Everyone involved in the design and construction business is currently feeling the effects of the economy. Some projects that were started before the downturn occurred are now slowing, and others have been put on hold indefinitely. Owners and developers who have managed to hold on to their financing for projects are finding an abundance of qualified firms willing to slash their fees in order to secure a project. This makes for a very chaotic time in our marketplace. However, the one niche that has seemed to remain somewhat stable is green design and construction.

Owners who are proceeding with their projects are increasingly doing so with sustainability in mind, and there are several reasons for their motivation. As I travel around the country, I often hear owners justifying their decisions to go green, and the rationalizations are usually always along the same lines: “If we are going to build, we want to demonstrate to our shareholders that we are being as responsible as we can when making capital expenditures.”


The media has done such a good job in bringing the topic of environmental awareness to the forefront of the public’s perception that even if an owner is unfamiliar with the details of delivering a green building, the owner will still feel a green building is necessary. The past experience with energy prices has also made efforts in conservation more important than ever. The current administration has highlighted energy efficiency, renewable energy resources and the creation of green jobs as absolutes when spending stimulus money.

Firms that established themselves in the green marketplace before the downturn are finding themselves well-positioned. Owners that are spending money to design and build are doing so in a more sustainable way. More importantly, the firms that can survive in these tough times will be recognized as leaders because of their ability to do more with less. Owners do not want to appear frivolous, and even with the desire to showcase sustainability, the decision to incorporate the big-ticket, iconic green building features must make sense.


Some of the most sustainable items that can be incorporated into green buildings don’t appear to be that “green” at face value and do not necessarily add cost to a project. Windows in a building are a good example. Most buildings today use high-quality low “E” glass. When using this simple building feature to optimize the design, it can be a major contributor to the sustainable strategy. Tinting of the glass can be used as a method to control glare, which may eliminate the need for window treatments and lowers the heat gain transmitted through the glass. Controlling the light coming through the window also allows for lower interior lighting power densities, which in turn cuts electrical usage and saves money by possibly decreasing the amount of fixtures. While reducing the amount of electricity used to light a building, the heat that is generated from those lights is also reduced. As a result, less cooling power is needed, and again, the building benefits by the lowered overall energy consumption.

Incorporating these strategies can give any development an edge, which will prove crucial as more and more people and industries look toward a greener future. W&C