Trending in the News: Sustainability Market Grows

ENR (Engineering News-Record) interviewed Dave Walsh, our preconstruction sustainability manager, for its Aug. 10 issue focusing on sustainability issues and trends. Dave was one of many nationally recognized experts noted throughout the article. Here, he elaborates on many of the points made within the article, which you can read online here.

Do you see any near-term change in the sustainable design and construction market?
DW: The degree of change in the sustainable design and construction market is highly dependent on location and jurisdiction … Near term, I see the level of sustainability and energy performance diverging nationally, with some markets realizing both business and environmental advantages with higher performance, and other markets viewing a relaxation of regulation as a business advantage.

Has the drop in energy prices had any impact on clients’ willingness to build sustainable structures?
DW: Again, this is highly location dependent. In Seattle, we have a combination of low electricity prices and an increasingly aggressive energy code — so the code is a major driver for efficiency regardless of cost. The type of owner — a long-term institutional owner versus a short-term hold of a merchant developer — will also impact the decision to invest in sustainability strategies, particularly ones that have a longer payback period or have no direct financial dividend but rather a social or environmental one.

Has the demand for LEED-certified work changed since v4 took effect?
DW: These are still early days for LEED v4, so it will take awhile for a long-term demand (and cost) pattern to emerge. With three v4 projects currently underway at Sellen, the owner’s demand stems mostly from a desire to remain an industry leader and align new projects with organizational commitments to healthier spaces, as well as the need for new buildings to be viewed on par with the existing portfolio. … In preparation for LEED v4, we are in the process of retooling our processes — from a new approach to LEED charrettes to rewriting our procurement subcontracts with our industry partners.

What new technologies or products are helping you to achieve better green building performance?
DW: Better green building performance is coming not just from new technology, but also from new applications and combinations of existing technology. For example, district energy systems are centuries old, but a new take on this is what I call “thermal matchmaking” between two different owners — for example, pairing a server farm facility with an office campus. … Other existing technology applied in a new way is using phase change materials (PCM) to store “free” thermal energy for use later in the day. … Finally, we are seeing opportunities to reduce embodied carbon in concrete by working with concrete manufacturers to customize new concrete mixes using higher ratios of slag to concrete.

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Dave Walsh, Preconstruction Sustainability Manager