Toward the end of 2009, I was invited to speak at a small one-day conference running in conjunction with Ecobuild America, a conference held annually in Washington, DC. It’s not unusual to receive this type of year-end request as it seems people are often curious what trends editors are anticipating for the year ahead. In a season dominated by best-of-the-year lists, it’s an interesting challenge to take a moment and think about not what has passed, but rather, what may be coming.
It’s no secret that green business is increasingly translating into big business, especially in the realm of building design and construction. A recent AIA survey entitled “Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment” reported that 138 cities in the U.S. currently have green building programs, a 50 percent increase since 2007. Our last email newsletter of 2009 highlighted a study from the USGBC and Booz Allen Hamilton that predicted that green building or, more specifically, the money spent on green building construction, will support nearly 8 million jobs by 2013. That’s a significant increase from the estimated 2 million jobs it currently supports. The same study found that green building’s contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product is expected to rise from $173 billion from 2000-2008 to $554 billion from 2009 to 2013. Another study reported that the green building market constituted only 2% of non-residential construction starts in 2005, but by 2013, it is predicted to account for 20-25% of these starts, and yet another report came across my desk predicting that the global market for green building materials will grow from more than $455 billion last year to $571 billion in 2013.
While it seems 2013 will certainly be a good year, the question I found myself facing as 2009 drew to a close was what these statistics would translate to in 2010. As I started to pool my thoughts, I found some notes I’d jotted down a couple of years ago while attending a lecture by Li Edelkoort, who runs a trends forecasting company in both the Netherlands and the U.S. At the time, she was speculating about the future of sustainable materials and proclaimed that we were finally that the point where we had to rethink how we produce products. She spoke about the use of plastics versus bioplastics, the emergence of LEDs, OLEDs and electroluminescent polymers, and techniques in pigmentation that would use light interference in an object’s surface to produce color rather than relying on chemical pigmentation. She spoke of an approaching unification of science and design that I’ve since seen emerge in an array of materials and products.
As I mulled over my notes once again, it dawned on me: Given the developments in just the two years since I heard Edelkoort speak and the rapid pace of evolution in the sustainable realm as a whole, it would be foolish to try and create a concrete list of what products, technologies or environmental building techniques will hit the market place or revolutionize the way we do business in the next twelve months. Certainly there are exciting things to come, especially in sustainable design and construction, which produce benefits both economically and environmentally.
What I can predict, however, is that Eco-structure will continue to report on the products, projects and people that are propelling the green building movement forward. In the spirit of promoting innovation and evolution, we will keep exploring ways to deliver the content and information to our readers in the platforms that serve them best: in person, or online, through both traditional websites and social media applications. What’s more, I look forward to maintaining and growing a continuous dialogue on all things sustainable. Rather than offering my personal predictions for the months ahead, I’d rather have on-going discussions about what we all see coming, a conversation that should include not just the editor, but also the architect, builder, manufacturer, client and end user.
When I arrived at that event in December, I was delighted to find a crowd perfectly sized for an open group discussion rather than an impersonal speech. Going into 2010, I look forward to your feedback about how to build a brand that can better serve you. And on this note, I can’t help but plant a seed of anticipation for our January/February 2010 issue, which will debut a refined design for Eco-structure. Our editorial team, especially our art director Aubrey Altmann and senior graphic designer Marcy Ryan, have been hard at work and are greatly looking forward to unveiling the results. Stay tuned!