The first weeks of the year always drive building pros to predict which green products and technologies will emerge and which existing trends will gain greater acceptance, and 2010 has been no exception.
Green building experts point to the drop in price of photovoltaics, a widespread introduction of super-efficient water heaters and windows, finalized WaterSense specifications and, of course, the struggling economy as major developments leading to this year’s biggest trends.
Here are seven hot topics that will impact the way green pros do business.
1. WATER CONSERVATION
One of the most talked-about concerns for the upcoming decade is water conservation, especially for builders and homeowners in hot and dry southwestern states. Though the drought has officially ended, the memory of water shortages—and the continued population shift South-ward—has driven many Americans to acknowledge the benefits of being frugal. With the EPA’s release of the final WaterSense single-family guidelines on Dec. 31, the issue is sure to gain even more attention this year. The first national water-efficiency specification for new homes is designed to reduce water use by about 20% compared to a conventional new home with standard low-flow plumbing products. This means that toilets must use 1.28 gpf or less and faucet flow rates must be 1.5 gpm or less to qualify for the voluntary program.
“It will be interesting to see how that plays out,” says Preston Koerner, LEED AP and founder of green building Web site Jetson Green, which covers sustainable products, trends, and residential projects.
California’s recently enacted green building code, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2011, includes strict requirements for water use, including faucets that use 1.5 gpm or less, WaterSense-certified toilets, and weather- or moisture-sensing irrigation controllers.
Of all the water-conserving products that he’s come across, Koerner says he is intrigued most by the water savings possible with the easy-to-install Brondell Simple Flush, which quickly turns a standard toilet into a dual-flush unit, saving 30% to 50% on water use, and with Rainwater Hog modular storage tanks for roof runoff. For homeowners looking to upgrade their faucets and fixtures, saving water does not have to mean sacrificing quality; meeting WaterSense standards requires manufacturers to meet performance metrics as well as flow rates. Plus, water-conscious consumers now have dozens of fixture styles to choose from, because most major manufacturers--including American Standard, Delta, and Kohler--now offer only 1.5-gpm products, lower than the 2.2-gpm required by law.
“There will be interest in swapping out older products for [low-flow] showerheads and faucets,” predicts Alex Wilson, founder and executive editor of Building Green LLC, publisher of Environmental Building News and the GreenSpec directory. Wilson is impressed by Delta’s H2Okinetic products, which use larger water droplets that retain heat better and create a warmer, more luxurious spray. “And the performance from a user standpoint is virtually the same; with today’s good faucet aerators, you can’t tell the difference.”