What's Trending in Green Building?

Eliza Clark, Director of Sustainability and Environmental

Eliza Clark, Director of Sustainability and Environmental

Green building trends continually evolve each year. As we approach Greenbuild 2017, we are looking forward to learning from other industry leaders and showcasing how Andersen is helping to lead and advance some key green building trends within our own company footprint and product portfolio.

In 2016, the dominant theme at Greenbuild was the intersection between sustainability and human health and wellness, reflected in the recent alignment of LEED and WELL certifications. Commercial and residential architects and builders alike are designing buildings with a more holistic approach, encouraging building tenants and homeowners to also prioritize occupant health and wellness in imagining their ideal spaces. So, how far have we come in 2017?

Eliza Clark, Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation was eager to share her thoughts on the green building trends of 2017.

What are some of the relevant trends you’ve seen in the green building industry this year?

EC: “We are now at the critical point in green building where we can point to sound scientific proof of the positive effects that sustainable and healthy buildings have on individuals and the environment. There are countless case studies that we can learn from and build upon; LEED has advanced to the point where its guidelines have become the norm for new commercial buildings; and society as a whole is poised to achieve faster progress toward combating climate change when we can leverage what we already know as an industry. We are truly on the cusp of an important paradigm shift, and I’m very optimistic that we will see acceleration in environmental impact reduction.”

A huge trend in 2017 that has carried over from recent years is how we make net-zero buildings the norm.

EC: “Andersen was proud to play a key role in the first 18-home ‘Eco Village’ Habitat for Humanity affordable housing project, in River Falls, Wis. We are also excited to showcase two additional net zero case studies at a Lunch and Learn presentation at Greenbuild this year. Will Ives, associate principal of Hennebery Eddy Architects, Inc., will discuss Yellowstone National Park’s Yellowstone Youth Campus, a Living Building Challenge concept/design slotted for 2018 construction and Marc Sloot, associate of Sala Architects, Inc., will discuss Bella Luce, a 107- year old Minneapolis, MN net zero Victorian residential remodel.

What’s new in material transparency?

EC: “This trend is still rapidly growing. At Andersen, we’ve found that architects are requiring a greater level of understanding around the environmental and health impacts of the products they specify. Andersen recently hired a new product sustainability manager, Jon Smieja, to lead our product transparency efforts, and we’re excited to expand this area after being the first in our industry to publish an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in 2015. However, there are still many outstanding questions surrounding product transparency. How can we simplify the data so consumers understand the labels? How can industries achieve product transparency in ways that are affordable but that also create meaningful differentiation and product innovation? How do we account for trade-offs in health versus environmental impacts?”

Why are these trends important?

EC: “As I mentioned earlier, we are at a moment in time where green building solutions are proven. We do not have to make the business case for these solutions, or assess the ‘prospect’ of future benefits. So I’m most interested in how we as green building and sustainability experts can broaden the tent and invite more people to the conversation and deploy these solutions to more challenging categories, like existing buildings.

Sustainable buildings do not require sacrificing building aesthetics. We must continue to elevate the conversation about how we make green building more affordable and attainable, and continue to communicate why everyone – consumers and green building leaders alike – should be excited about the intersection between sustainable buildings and human health.”

What do you hope to see in terms of new trends at Greenbuild?

EC: “I’d like to see more focus on connected, “smart” technology in the future; it’s exciting to give people tools that make sustainable living easier and more fun.”

As we enter Greenbuild 2017 with the theme, ‘redefining boundaries’, how do you think Andersen is redefining boundaries?

EC: “We take our role as industry leader very seriously. We offer a broad and diverse portfolio to our customers. We work to ensure that we’re demonstrating integrity and sustainability leadership to our customers and communities. We are redefining boundaries regarding net zero affordability, and we quite literally blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living, improving people’s lives and reconnecting them with nature.”