Numerous newly released studies and reports point to green building as one of the growing bright spots for the U.S. economy, even as pessimistic financial news continues to dominate headlines, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

“As research comes in from diverse sources examining the interest in green buildings among a wide range of Americans, the numbers keep painting the same picture: The future of our built environment clearly centers on energy efficiency, water reduction, systems that encourage cleaner indoor air, the use of recycled and more sustainably developed materials, and communities that coexist with their environments,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

According to Turner Construction Company’s “Green Building Barometer,” 75 percent of commercial real estate executives — including developers, rental building owners, brokers, architects, engineers and others — say the credit crunch will not discourage them from building green. Eighty-three percent reported they would be “extremely” or “very” likely to seek LEED certification for buildings they are planning to build within the next three years.

Other key findings from this and other studies conducted over the past year include:

- More than 80 percent of commercial building owners have allocated funds to green initiatives this year, according to “2008 Green Survey: Existing Buildings,” a survey jointly funded by Incisive Media’s Real Estate Forum and, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International and USGBC. Some 45 percent plan to increase sustainability investments in 2009.
- That same study showed that 60 percent of commercial building owners offer education programs to assist tenants in implementing green programs in their space, up 49.4 percent from last year, illustrating a growing understanding of the importance of environmental awareness among employees and customers.
- That same study also found that almost 70 percent of commercial building owners have already implemented some kind of energy monitoring system. Energy conservation is the most widely implemented green program in commercial buildings, the survey found, followed by recycling and water conservation. Nearly 65 percent of building owners who have implemented green buildings say their investments have already resulted in a positive return on investment.
- LEED-certified projects are directly tied to more than $10 billion of green materials, according to a Greener World Media study on green building. That could reach more than $100 billion by 2020, contributing to a vibrant industry that could drive an economic recovery, according to USGBC.
- The Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in a September 2008 study, found that a national green economic recovery program investing $100 billion over 10 years in six infrastructure areas could create 2 million new jobs. The investments would include retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency and investing in wind power, solar power and next-generation biofuels.
- The same study also found that a $100 billion green infrastructure investment over 10 years, with a focus on green building retrofits and investment in alternative energy sources, could be paid for with proceeds from carbon permit auctions under a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.
- Eighty-four percent of respondents to Turner’s “Green Building Barometer” said their green buildings have resulted in lower energy costs, with 68 percent reporting lower overall operating costs.
- By 2013, the overall green building market (both residential and non-residential) is likely to more than double from today’s $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2009 report “Trends Driving Change.” Green building is estimated to be 10-12 percent of the current commercial and institutional building market; McGraw-Hill predicts it will represent 20-25 percent of new commercial and institutional construction starts by 2013.