What are some of your favorite products for the new year?
--TimberSIL, the sodium-silicate-treated wood that is an alternative to conventional ACQ-, copper-azole-, and CCA-treated wood. The material is becoming available in other products, such as residential siding. As a decking product, it meets California's new requirements for fire resistance.
--Mini-split, air-source heat pumps. With the cost of photovoltaic modules dropping, the ability to create all-electric, net-zero-energy homes is much more feasible. But creating highly efficient building envelopes, it is often possible to power a house (heating, cooling, electric loads) solely with rooftop PV. The dramatic improvements in air-source heat pumps make heating and cooling these homes more feasible--at a lower cost than with ground-source heat pumps. Leading manufacturers include Mitsubishi, Daikin, Panasonic, and Fujitsu.
--The Philips Endura LED replacement for incandescent lamps. The Endura is one of a new generation of LEDs using remote phosphor technology that offers great performance and is helping usher in this new chapter in lighting.
Besides the struggling economy, what other factor will most influence green home building in 2012?
I think the recent natural disasters that have happened around the country--from Hurricane Irene and an October snowstorm in the East to wildfires in the West and drought in Texas--will result in greater focus on "resilient design," and the measures used to achieve resilience are very similar to those that define green building. (For a Case Study of an ultra-hurricane-resistant home, click here.)
What other green building trends do you see becoming more important?
--Water scarcity: Particularly in Texas and adjoining states, but also now in the Southeast there will be growing demand for water-efficient homes and landscapes.
--Resilience: This means creating homes that will maintain livable conditions in the event of extended power outages or interruptions in heating fuel. As I mentioned, this trend is being driven by the more intense storms and extended power outages that have occurred across the country in the past year or two.
--Avoidance of hazardous materials in homes: There is growing awareness of health hazards ranging from brominated flame retardants and phthalate plasticizers, to asthmagens in homes and in building products. There will be continued shifts away from perceived hazards by building product manufacturers.