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How Green Buildings Are Shaping the Future

Words by Scott Huntington
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Going green is a popular buzzword, as many businesses are trying to make their facilities a little bit better for the environment. But making the leap to being entirely eco-friendly can be daunting. Green buildings, power and equipment don't come cheap, after all.

How are green buildings starting to shape the future? Here are five ways.


  1. More Businesses Want to Go Green

For a long time, going green was something a company did if it wanted to look good or appeal to a different clientele, but more and more businesses are starting to go green as a way to reduce their environmental impact rather than for the good PR that it generates.

In 2010, the number of businesses with green programs increased by 54 percent and that number is still growing. Of the companies polled, more than 90 percent of them saved money because of their environmentally friendly investment.


  1. Building New Instead

Right now, in the United States, less than five percent of buildings in the retail and hospitality industries are certified as green. Part of this is because many are already established in buildings that were built before green construction became a priority. In other cases, it is cheaper to tear down an old building and completely rebuild it than it is to try to make an old building greener.

But that doesn't mean cities are slacking. More than one-third of the office space in Philadelphia is certified as green, and Pittsburgh is catching up with 10 percent of their office space being similarly certified. Green buildings are becoming the thing to do in most industries, no matter where their other priorities lie.


  1. Energy Priorities

Lighting in businesses accounts for nearly a quarter of all business energy expenditures in the country. This is why many companies are opting for greener energy sources such as solar or wind, depending on where the business is located. Many companies are working toward a zero-net energy building, where they don't need to rely on the existing grid for power.

In 2014, a survey was able to identify more than 160 buildings that are currently zero net energy buildings, along with another 50 that were capable of being set up in this way.


  1. Water Is Life

Power isn't the only resource eco-friendly building owners are concerned about. Water — both potable water used indoors and recycled water used outdoors — is a dwindling resource, so buildings that can reduce their water usage can improve their environmental status.

One university hall in Reno, Nevada, was able to reduce its indoor water usage by 40 percent and their outdoor usage by 50 percent. By using things like low flow toilets and showerheads and improving their outdoor landscaping with drought-resistant and native plants, the crew was able to reduce the building’s total water usage by nearly half.


  1. The Future Is Existing

There are hundreds of thousands of buildings in each city that are zoned commercial, and the future of green businesses is in these existing buildings.

While in some cases it might be cheaper to destroy an old building in favor of green construction, many of the structures that aren't classified as green have been built within the last 10 to 15 years and are still in excellent shape. Converting these buildings to more green-friendly alternatives would reduce the cost of going green while still minimizing our environmental impact.

Going green isn't an option anymore — it's a necessity. Converting existing buildings to make them more environmentally friendly is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to make your building a little better for this planet that we call home.

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is a freelance writer based in Burlington, Vermont.

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