Energy efficient buildings: Smarter structures and industry trends for 2012

June 20, 2012

The increased number of energy efficient buildings in the U.S. has mirrored the global trend of greening structures to cut costs and consumption, and innovation and new technology in the sector could help stimulate further growth in the industry.

Transforming the commercial real estate market has become one of the main goals for the U.S. Department of Energy and its innovation Hub in Philadelphia. The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is looking to initiate a shift in the sector, as greening properties will lead to more jobs, less consumption and lower operating costs for companies.

The EEB Hub is working with regional government agencies, energy development companies, the private sector and the commercial real estate industry to initiate this change in the Greater Philadelphia region, which could serve as a national model.

A new report from Pike Research found that technology innovation and cost-cutting measures have led to an increase in the number of net-zero buildings that exist in the U.S. Efforts like the EEB Hub are helping to transform the sector, and growth is occurring across the industry at a significant pace.

Worldwide revenue from zero energy buildings is set to grow rapidly in the next 20 years, as the forecasted earnings for the sector are pegged at reaching $690 billion by 2020 and almost $1.3 trillion by 2035.

"Zero energy buildings constitute only a small fraction of the overall green building market today," said senior analyst Eric Bloom. "While several dozen buildings of this type have been constructed in the United States, and while the Passivhaus movement in Europe is achieving zero energy in many residential and commercial buildings, the market as a whole remains essentially dormant. That is changing as advances in building technology provide breakthrough solutions to energy efficiency and renewable energy challenges, while driving down costs for existing technologies."

Pike Research also expects a number of trends to emerge in the smart buildings sector, as companies will continue to look for ways to cut costs through lower energy consumption.

Some of the trends that were outlined include the adoption of smart grids to increase awareness about energy use, moving building energy management to the cloud, a rise in the number of partnerships and co-ops in the industry and increased monetization of products and technology within commercial real estate.