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Focus - Green Building - Creating a greener state

image Jonathan Kraus, Executive Director, USGBC North Texas, Dallas, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - How would you describe the state of the construction industry and have you experienced an increase or slowdown in business? For the most part I have seen a strong carry over from 2016 across the state. Parts of Texas are experiencing slowdowns in some sectors. The office market in Houston as an example, but overall it looks to be strong. Our Chapter members cross many disciplines – design, engineering, construction, real estate, and building operation – and each peaks at a different part of the project cycle with many in the design and engineering areas continuing to bring on staff to handle increasing workloads.

What are driving factors for these increases and slowdowns?
    This too seems to be regional, and there is direct correlation to other economic factors.  Parts of the state are experiencing a slowdown in the office market, which is directly tied to oil and gas prices.  Other areas are booming in the same building sector due to corporate relocations and expansions in the tech sectors.

Have these increases and slowdowns affected your association and how you conduct business? 
    As a Mission-based nonprofit, we maintain our primary objective to transform the way buildings are designed, built, and operated across the state.  The last down turn did show a need for the USGBC Chapters in Texas to reorganize, and in 2015-16 we consolidated from four collaborating entities to a single more effective organization.

What are the “hot button” issues in the green building industry?

    Some of our primary concerns are industry education, perception of extreme cost increases, and “Green Fatigue”.  We are also placing more emphasis on improving existing buildings, and adding evaluation for a buildings true performance.

What are the major changes in the green building industry in recent years?

    One of the biggest changes is the implementation of the 2015 EICC, which codifies many of the energy efficiency best practices that have been recommended for years.

What is the most significant challenge the green building industry faces?

    Educating all sectors of the building industry on the options, costs, and benefits of green building practices and certification.  Perception of excessive cost is also common -- studies have documented 3-5% increases, as opposed to 10-15% claimed by some.

What are the cost increases relating to the green building industry?
    Costs associated with sustainable building vary as much as they do with any building type: you can build a very expensive non-green building, you can build a cost effective sustainable building.  Following a fully integrated building process should provide a more cohesive project team and agreed-upon goals from the beginning of the project – reducing/eliminating costly change orders.

How is your association dealing with these challenges?
    We have done a good job of educating design professionals around sustainable principles, and only a fair job for construction and the related trades.  We are developing ways to address these gaps in knowledge.  Additionally, we are working with owners and developers to demonstrate the short-term and long-term advantages of sustainable building.

What is on the horizon for the green building industry?   

    I see more performance-based certification methodologies and evaluation of a building’s full life cycle.  We are beginning to see an increase of information from product manufacturers and more robust reporting of operational data from buildings.

 The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is a private 501(c)3, membership-based non-profit organization that promotes sustainability in building design, construction, and operation.  -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net