As discussed in last month’s editor’s note, after an energizing Greenbuild experience, I started December already amped for the upcoming year. And now, after a relatively slow end to 2010, I’m even more ready to leap into 2011, which looks to be filled with possibility. How so? Here are a few things I’ll be keeping an eye on this coming year: 1. An increased focus on greening and improving performance of existing buildings.
As one of our judges for the 2010 Evergreen Awards noted during competition discussions, for the next few years, the majority of architectural work may come in repurposing existing buildings. Certainly there is plenty of potential for improvement. We can’t make a dent in the environmental footprint of the built environment without tackling the existing building stock. Luckily, various reports this year found that the green retrofit and renovation market was growing more rapidly than the general green building market. The challenge for architects, builders, contractors, and designers: Find innovative and inventive ways to creatively reuse and regenerate these existing spaces, making exemplary environmental performance a key attribute.

2. The increased call for post-occupancy performance data.
"Show us the data" was an increasing cry over the past 12 months and the industry is slowly responding. Here’s hoping 2011 brings more of a push—and a response. It’s one thing to model out and design a sustainable building—whether your goal is a certain level of LEED certification, X% energy or water use below a specific code or standard, or other elements—but yet another to make sure the building lives up to its expectations one, two, five and 10 years down the road. In each issue of ECO-STRUCTURE, we address this issue in our Flashback column, revisiting older sustainable structures to learn how they’re doing, what’s been modified, and what were the biggest lessons learned. We will continue to do this in 2011, and are looking forward to seeking out this data on all projects, not just the older ones. The question is: Will the industry as a whole—architects, builders, owners, tenants—come together to monitor, collect and, most importantly, share this data?

3. More of a crackdown on greenwashing.
 It’s no secret that going green is big business and, as a result, you’d be hard-pressed to go into the marketplace and find a product that doesn’t have some sort of sustainable spin. What we’d like to see in 2011, however, is more informed evaluation of product claims and attributes. As reported in our March/April issue this past year ("A Matter of Health") and in our special Fall 2010 Product Spec Guide ("Mind & Matter: Multiple Choice"), individual firms are creating their own in-house filters to weed out greenwashing and better evaluate their sustainable building material options. With the continued evolution of systems such as the Pharos Project from the Healthy Building Network, I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry continues to combat and eliminate greenwashing.

4. The continued evolution of green building rating systems.
Speaking of evolution, there’s no doubt that green building rating systems will continue to evolve into 2011. The USGBC recently introduced a slew of new attributes to LEED at Greenbuild (like the LEED Volume Program, LEED Automation, and LEED for Retail) and is at work on the next version of the LEED rating system; the International Green Construction Code has recently released public version 2.0 for review; and the Living Building Challenge continues to evolve after issuing its first official certifications late in 2010. Seeing how much these systems have evolved in the past 12 months has me looking forward to what more can be done to push the limits in 2011. On this note, stay tuned for our January/February issue, in which thePerspective column will feature a Q&A with Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascasdia Greeen Building Council and the author of the Living Building Challenge.

5. Increased discussion concerning green building–related litigation.
As we reported in our September issue ("Ready to Tip?"), LEEDigation, or green building certification–related litigation is growing. And sure enough, shortly after that issue went to press, the industry erupted in chatter as a class-action lawsuit was filed against the USGBC. We’ll continue to watch these developments in 2011 with an eye on the issues they raise related to building performance: Who is responsible if a building fails to meet its original sustainability goals? 

One more thing the entire ECO-STRUCTURE team is excited about in 2011: Our new relationship with the American Institute of Architects. Again, stay tuned to our January/February issue for more information on this new relationship.

Now that you know what we’re watching going into the year, as always, we want your feedback. What are your biggest concerns or focuses in the green building realm as we kick off 2011? Send us your thoughts via e-mail to, post them on our Facebook wall, or send a tweet to @Ecostructure.

Here’s looking forward to what the next 12 months bring.