Thousands of home-owners and business-owners swarmed the convention center floor at West Coast Green this past weekend, fawning over the energy-efficient windows, lighting, textiles, and home performance specialists that would help them save money through energy efficiency in their homes, offices, and warehouses. The vendors there knew that they were not just delivering a trendy product or service. They were positioning themselves at the forefront of a fundamental market shift that is being created by a wave of green building policies soon to be sweeping the nation.
I sat down with Michelle Moore, Vice President of Policy at the U.S. Green Building Council, to discuss the policies that will create an increasingly large market for green building products and services. In the past few years, substantial legislation has been introduced at the federal, state, and local levels to support green building practices.
The financial markets may be in turmoil, but one market still holds promise for growth. You can learn more about it this weekend at West Coast Green, kicking off tomorrow at the San Jose Convention Center. Over a hundred exhibitors and speakers will be on hand, educating 14,000 attendees from architects to homeowners on green building products and services. If you are an entrepreneur, job-seeker, or investor who is looking for up and coming opportunities, this may be the place to look.
The commercial building market overall was valued at $352 billion in 2006, and the residential construction market was valued at $595 billion. The residential green building market alone is currently worth $12 to $20 billion, and is projected to double over the next five years, according to research published this year by McGraw-Hill Construction. In their most recent report, Global Green Building Trends, over half of survey respondents indicated that they would be building green on more than 60% of their projects over the next five years. This is an immense opportunity for green building product and service providers. Commercial and residential new construction, remodels, and retrofits will all need green lumber, water-efficient fixtures and landscaping, insulation, energy-efficient lighting, to name a few. For those new to the world of green building, Glenn Croston, the author of the book 75 Green Businesses, founder of the organization Starting Up Green, and a speaker at the conference this weekend, can provides tips, strategies, and consulting for green entrepreneurs.
San Francisco’s Climate Action Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25% of 1990 levels by 2012. To accomplish this goal, Mayor Gavin Newsom is now focusing on small scale wind generation and strengthening local building codes. This could be an effective strategy, since according to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States. Over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector, with emissions from commercial buildings projected to grow the fastest. Buildings also consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S., so the installation of local, renewable energy will ease energy demand and lower energy prices, as well as contribute to lowering greenhouse gasses.
Although solar panels may be installed on buildings in San Francisco, wind turbines are not currently allowed under local building codes. In the past, with the noise and space required by most wind turbines, there has been little demand for installing them in an urban setting. But wind power technology is changing, and it is now feasible to use small wind turbines to power your home or business. A few locals are starting to take advantage of that, such as Robin Wilson, who just finished building a green home called “La Casa Verde” in San Francisco’s Mission district. The home is powered with a combination of wind and solar thermal power, and is one of the 12 greenest homes in the world according to an upcoming series on the Discovery Channel.