Energy + Environment

U.S. Architects Report Increased Adoption of Green Building

Autodesk, Inc. and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) have announced the results of the 2008 Autodesk/AIA Green Index, an annual survey that measures how AIA members are practicing sustainable design, as well as their opinions about the green building movement.

Green Business

This year’s index shows an increase in the implementation of sustainable design practices from architects and building owners. In addition, it shows that architects’ clients have experienced a doubling in the market demand for green buildings over the past year as well as positive shifts in architects’ attitudes toward their ability to impact climate change.

A major finding of the 2008 Green Index was that 42% of architects report clients asking for green building elements on a majority of their projects, with 47% of clients actually implementing green building elements on their projects, an increase of 15% from 2007. Client demand remains the leading driver for green building, with 66% of surveyed architects citing client demand as the primary influence on their practice of green building. Architects believe that the primary reasons their clients are asking for green buildings are reduced operating costs (60%), marketing (52%) and market demand (21%, up from 10% in the 2007 survey).

In response to the rising client demand for green buildings, architects are increasing their use of certain sustainable design practices. According to the survey, 34% of architects are now implementing green or vegetated roof coverings on more than half of their new projects, compared with 7% of architects in 2007. Also, 39% are using renewable, on-site energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact hydro, biomass or bio-gas on over half of new building designs, compared with just 6% last year. Architects indicated a significant increase in their use of design software over the past year to help predict and evaluate HVAC operating costs (39%, up from 31% in 2007), conduct energy modeling and baseline analysis (33%, up from 29% in 2007) and evaluate and explore alternative building materials (35%, up from 20 percent in 2007).

Positive Attitudes about Sustainable Practice

The 2008 Autodesk/AIA Green Index found that 89% of architects believe sustainable design should be practiced whenever possible, up three percentage points from 2007. Over seven in 10 architects (71% compared with 67% in 2007) agree that when thinking about architecture and the environment, they feel the profession is headed in the right direction. Fifty-seven percent of respondents indicated that their organization is starting to implement standard operating procedures to inform clients about green building, up from 49 percent in 2007.

U.S. Architects Aligned with European and Asian Peers in Green Design

Over the past year, Autodesk also conducted similar green index surveys of architects in Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom, in partnership with organizations including the Japan Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects. When asked why their clients were interested in green building, architects in all countries agreed that it was due to the desire for reduced operating costs. AIA members lead their global counterparts in the belief that architects should practice sustainable design whenever possible, with 89% of architects in the United States agreeing, followed by 88% in the United Kingdom, 73% in Italy and 59% in Japan. However, the reasons architects are building green vary across countries. In the United States green building designs are driven by client demand (66%), whereas in the United Kingdom and Japan the primary factors are regulatory requirements (75% and 64% respectively) and in Italy, rising energy costs (70%).

Our Take at LightNOW

Sustainable building practices have taken root and are slowly entering the mainstream of construction. Part of the reason is that greener, better-performing buildings often present only a modest premium on the total cost of construction, while adding to building value and posing lower life-cycle costs. Green is simply good business here.

What will be particularly interesting is the 2009 survey results, which we should see at the end of the year. Will green practices continue to grow in a down construction market in which nonresidential construction is expected to take a major loss of more than 10%? The answer will be highly revealing. If green construction practices hold their ground in a downward market, it will confirm that sustainable design is not a passing fad.

Click here to see the full Autodesk/AIA Green Index report, available at the Autodesk website.

author avatar
Craig DiLouie


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