Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Green & Trendy

By Green Experts Team

GreenBuilding e1359658889821 Green & TrendyEarlier this month, Jerry Yudelson, leading green building and sustainability consultant released his annual list of “Top 10 Megatrends” for the green building industry. Based on these trends, it appears green building will continue its rapid expansion in 2013, despite continuing economic challenges.

So what does this mean for brands? IMRE’s Sustainability experts weigh in on top three things brands should be aware of in 2013.

By greeniq

Green Homes inhabitat The Growing Popularity of Green Homes

According to the National Association of Home Builders, green homes comprised 17% of the overall residential construction market in 2011 and are expected to grow to between 29% and 38% of the market by 2016. As green homes continue to grow in popularity, it is important to consider a few things before building.

  1. Location: When considering where you’re going to build, think about what is (or was) there before. A general rule of thumb is to not build in an area that is environmentally sensitive like a forest, floodplains, or wetlands. The ideal venue is brownfield land, or land that has already been built upon with healthy bones.
  2. Building Materials: Be thoughtful about what you’re using to build your home inside and out. Think about flooring, paints and coating, cabinets and countertops, roof paneling, and lighting. There are plenty of resources available online to help in selecting the appropriate environmentally conscious and recycled materials.
  3. Energy Efficiency: There is a plethora of energy efficient product offerings and opportunities when building a green home. While initially expensive to install, the long-term benefits of having your home completely powered by solar energy panels is exponential. Additionally, comprehensive insulation can ensure that you’re not losing heat, allowing for energy efficiency. The windows you install should be double or triple glazed and positioned well in the home. Installing a green roof is another efficient building opportunity. Finally, energy efficient appliances and upcycled furniture create a green indoor environment.
  4. Water usage: Think about installing low-flow toilets, sinks and showers in your home. You can also consider reusing your grey water for your succulents and outdoor gardens.

What other tips would you add when building a green home?

By greeniq

A big problem with renewable energy sources today is that there’s no good way to store power for when you actually need it. It is no secret that there are days that the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, or worse, you have sunless and windless nights. So, how do we effectively tackle the need to collect energy when we can for use when we want? There are endless opinions on the issue and technologies being developed. Too much in fact, to make heads or tails of whether we have a real crisis on our hands, or, if this is an opportunity for businesses developing technologies to become the hero in solving the issue.

peter kelly detwiler 100x100 Energy Storage: Crisis or Opportunity?To help us weed through some of the clutter and narrow in on the heart of the issue, we spoke with Peter Kelly-Detwiler, an expert with over 20 years experience in new energy technologies and sustainable solutions. As former VP of Technology Services for Constellation Energy, Detwiler has helped companies of all shapes and sizes become more energy efficient, and also led the team that developed and patented an industry-leading, real-time energy use and automated load control platform.

Q: Why is renewable energy storage important?

A: Energy storage is important because renewables are intermittent and in many cases unpredictable. Winds blow at different times of the day; solar is generally a good peaking resource, but still in no way represents firm and reliable capacity. Storage can help even out the peaks and valleys, and increase the overall reliability and value of renewables to the power grid.

Q: Why is energy storage so important for the sustainability movement?

A: Since storage can help improve reliability of renewable resources, it will be critical to have sufficient storage to support the rapid growth of renewable power resources on the grid. Too many renewables – in the absence of storage technologies – can cause the grid to be inherently unstable. So at some point, the lack of cost-effective storage is likely to pose a limiting factor.

Q: Why is it important for commercial buildings and manufacturing facilities?

A: Storage is important for certain types of commercial and manufacturing facilities, in particular those, which have a need for high levels of reliability and power quality. This is not an issue directly related to renewables, but it does serve as another market for storage, which helps increase scale and brings prices down. Types of industries relying on such a high power quality are often high tech such as server farms or chip manufacturers.

Q: What are some of the energy storage technologies that exist and what is your take on them?

A: It’s important to think about this issue broadly. Storage is, in essence, any location or facility where energy can be stored or dispatched, often taking pricing differentiation into account. So, for example, water behind a dam can be conceived of as storage, particularly hydro pump storage. Compressed air is another form. Originally it involved compressing air in caverns during off peak periods.  Now it involves a variety of new technologies, with many start-ups working with smaller systems.

One company is working on storing energy through a rail system, whereby they bring mass to altitude during off peak periods, and harvest the energy during pricier hours.  And then of course you have a multitude of emerging and competing battery technologies, with no clear winner yet emerging. My sense though, is that we will eventually see winners. There is a potent combination of money, smart people, a market need, and the computation capability to learn more quickly than ever before. That is likely to yield success.

Q: What do companies need to know about energy storage and how it impacts their business?

A: Companies don’t need to focus too much on the storage issue just yet, unless they live in a very volatile priced market.  But they need to stay aware of developments and understand how they may benefit in the future.

Q: How far away are we from grid parity for renewable resources?

A: We are moving towards grid parity for solar and wind. In one sense, we are there, in that the kWh may be cheaper than grid power at certain times. But we are not there, in that these resources cannot stand independently. Combined with storage technologies, they have a way to go to be considered on par with generation, if one does not take externalities such as pollution into account. We are getting close here, and it is something companies concerned with sustainability need to keep an eye on.

By Building Experts Team

Similar to people, buildings need to undergo annual check-ups, eat healthy and keep up with personal hygiene. According to Dave Bartlett, VP of Industry Solutions at IBM, the upkeep of buildings isn’t different from that of people at all. Bartlett is leading the charge on this theory he calls ‘the physiology of buildings’ where he treats each building like a living organism.

It’s no secret the demand for commercial building retrofits and renovations is growing. In fact, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced in December 2011 that LEED-certified existing buildings were outpacing LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet. For a variety of reasons, including lower energy costs for the building owner or a lower impact on the environment, upgrading an existing building to make it more green and sustainable is a trend that’s here to stay.

Empire State Building Extreme Makeover: Building Edition

Image sourced from

One of the most notable buildings undergoing a green “makeover” is the Empire State Building. The refurbished building earned LEED-Gold certification in 2011 and will cut energy consumption by more than 38 percent. Though costly ($550 million total and $13 million for the energy-specific measures), its benefits are surely worth it. The upgrades are expected to reduce energy by more than $4.4 million annually and will provide payback in a little more than three years.

There are more than 60 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings in the U.S., and in New York alone, they account for 80 percent of the city’s carbon dioxide emissions. Creating new energy efficient buildings is a great practice and a trend that needs to continue.

The government, building owners and occupants are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of energy-saving upgrades. While new construction has been slightly unstable and flat over the past few years, green retrofits and renovations is a popular, moneymaking alternative, not to mention the abundance of jobs it creates.

Hopefully with such a high-profile building like the Empire State Building getting an extreme, green makeover and reaping the rewards, others will follow suit. The immediate advantages of less operation, maintenance and energy costs should draw others to treat older buildings to the upgrades they need.

Do you work in a green building? Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs of retrofits?

By Building Experts Team

Green Squared Certified by ULE RGB multi square 300x250 Flooring Industry + Sustainability = Green Squared℠Ceramic tile is already known for being a sustainable building product. Its primary ingredients consist of sand, clay, and feldspar and it doesn’t emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). But the demand in the building industry is changing as homeowners and architects are seeking more and more product transparency. Enter Green Squared.

Last week, the Tile Council of North America introduced Green Squared, the flooring industry’s first multi-attribute sustainability standard for tile and tile installation materials. The new standard was developed under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process. The voluntary sustainability standard recognizes manufacturers for their environmental leadership and corporate social responsibility across a broad range of indicators. The certification process includes a general evaluation of the applicant’s organization, evaluation based on a criterion that looks at a product across all five phases of its lifecycle, and an on-site facility visit. The certification is valid for three years.

Green Squared certification applies to porcelain, pressed floor, mosaic and quarry tile. Additionally, powder installation products, paste/liquid installation products, sheet installation products and panel installation products will be standardized.

The certification offers a clear definition of what the industry defines as a “green” product, thereby making it easier for homeowners, architects and designers to identify environmentally-friendly products for their flooring needs. According to the TCNA, this new initiative is the first sustainable building material standard to encompass a full range of products within an industry.

The development of this multi-attribute standard in the flooring segment is laying the groundwork for more comprehensive evaluations of green building products across the board. The industry is moving away from self-declared sustainability for single product features and is moving toward a more in depth approach that looks at multiple aspects of a product using one industry standard.

This is a smart move by the tile industry as it continues to raise the bar, but it begs the question, “who/what is next?” Will other building products follow suit? Will organizations continue to push and promote these sustainability standards? What do you think? We encourage you to enter your thoughts in the comment section below.

By Building Experts Team

For years, sports stadiums and arenas have been multi-million or billion dollar investments that serve as idle energy-guzzlers most days out of the year. Investing in changes that make these facilities more energy efficient and environmentally friendly has a vital impact on the city and community supporting it.

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the latest teams to bring the trend of sustainable stadiums to the forefront. The NFL team recently announced a partnership with NRG Energy to accomplish their goal of making Lincoln Financial Field one of the greenest major sports facilities in the world.

When the addition of solar panels and micro wind-turbines are complete in December 2012, the Eagles hope to join the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, Orlando Magic and many others as teams whose facilities have gone “green.”

This dramatic undertaking is something our nation has come to expect. According to a 2011 study, 88 percent of Americans think good corporate responsibility is important, and 80 percent believe it’s important for the sports, media and entertainment industry to support social and environmental causes.

lincoln financial field1 Sustainable Sports Facilities a Win For All

Lincoln Financial Field

If teams are genuine about their commitment to sustainability and convey the importance of giving back to the community in their messaging, the public will be receptive, opening up opportunities for engagement. Fans are beyond passionate about supporting their teams, so encouraging the community to adopt green practices – such as providing public transportation to games or setting up recycling bins throughout the stadium – will give fans a chance to be part of the team or a bigger cause.

In alliance with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the NBA, MLB and NHL released PSAs earlier this month to generate awareness and encourage fans to join them in the green movement. To even further increase awareness, the NBA teamed up with Sprint to kick off NBA Green Week from April 4-11, including the launch of an “Unlimited Acts of Green” Facebook application, promising discounts to fans that perform “green acts” such as donating clothes, fixing leaky faucets and planting a tree.

Other than expanding a relationship with the community, this is a huge pull for garnering lucrative corporate sponsorships with green messaging. The Atlanta Braves amped up their energy-saving initiatives in 2008 and capitalized on a sponsorship with Coca-Cola Recycling. The giant beverage company placed branded recycling containers around the stadium to encourage fans to recycle at tailgates and during games. The team increased awareness of this initiative by making uniform shirts for 2,000 gameday staffers out of the recycled bottles. This program alone kept 10,000 bottles out of landfills while increasing buzz about the team’s green initiatives.

Of course, developing a sustainable system in a million-dollar facility has its financial benefits as well. According to a recent Construction Specifier article outlining sustainable upgrades to the Portland Trail Blazers’ Rose Garden Arena:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, the Rose Garden Arena saved 4 million kWh of electricity, or $424,000 in operational savings
  • Since 2008, the arena has reduced its water consumption by 36.8 million Liters, for a cost saving of $134,000
  • Recycling receptacles throughout the stadium and waste composting efforts resulted in over 800 tons of waste removed from landfills annually, and a three-year savings of $180,000

Going green certainly isn’t a new trend, but if the sports industry continues to adopt sustainable initiatives, others will see the immense benefits for the communities and the organizations themselves. The industry offers a strong promotional platform for brands and should embrace its role as a leader in bringing more exposure around this emerging trend.

What changes do you want to see from your favorite teams? As sports organizations lead the charge, fans should play a part and encourage change. Make an effort to carpool to games and use the recycling bins in the stadiums and tailgate lots. Take a few minutes to write to your local sports teams, urging them to take even a small step toward sustainability. As evidenced by some of the promotions stated above, these initiatives can be fun for the fans while benefiting their communities.

By Green Experts Team

Green jobs have been at the forefront of discussion throughout the recession as a source of hope, and with good reason. California-Based Next 10 released its “Many Shades of Green” report this week and found that the overall state economy lost 7% of its jobs in 2009 where as the green economy (clean and renewable energy, water and energy conservation, etc.) only lost 3%. Additionally, the green economy in California grew 53 % from 1995-2010, while jobs in the wider economy grew by 12 %. Based on these numbers, it makes sense why green jobs are attractive in the wake of a struggling job market. If you’re looking for a new career or an opportunity to grow your own, learning the ins and outs of the green job market just might pay off. And if you’re happy where you are – whether it be manufacturing, logistics, marketing or IT, expect the professionals filling these jobs to show up more and more often in the boardroom and out in the field.

Definition: Green Jobs | Sustainable Jobsprofessional home energy audit 300x193 What’s a “Green Job” Anyway?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, green jobs are either:

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

However, what we’re seeing happen more and more in the market, are traditional jobs, that once were not so green, now include “sustainability” somewhere in their job description – architects are now LEED AP accredited, Marketing Managers are now building sustainability platforms and Supply Chain Managers are now responsible for a circular supply chain as opposed to a linear one (hear the CEO of Waste Management speak on the subject) and, as TIME Magazine puts it, “your garbage man and bus driver” are helping push the green economy.

Median Salary:

According to Next 10, the median annual earnings of green occupations in California range from $27,000 – $200,000. That’s a wide range. But when compared to the average median salary for a 1-person family in the overall California economy, which amounted to $24,544 in 2011, green jobs beat the average by a long shot.

Sustainability Job Titles in the Home & Building Industries:

Sometimes it’s the pros you’d expect to be thinking about the environment, other times its people you’d never dream would have sustainability top of mind:

  • Chief Sustainability Officer
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Building/Property Owners & Managers
  • Marketing Manager
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • Logistics Manager
  • Energy Auditor

IMG 1270small 1024x682 What’s a “Green Job” Anyway?

Great Green Job Boards:

Whether you’re looking for a new career or want to figure out what your new colleague is working on, familiarizing yourself on some of the most common sustainability job descriptions is a good idea:

To find the best job board by industry, check out this round up by Green Gigs Blog.

Still Confused About How to Navigate These Greener Waters?

More and more universities are building sustainability-specific programs, from Masters in Innovation Management to Information Technology to Business Ethics, learning about the latest degrees that are shaping our workforce is a good place to start. More specifically, begin at the Aspen Institution’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes program and go from there.

By Building Experts Team

The beginning of a new year always brings thoughtful reflections on the year that has just passed. The building industry is no different, and our team of industry experts spent some of their time off around the holidays doing the very same thing. To find out what’s to come in 2012, they first had to review the most important news of 2011. Here are 5 articles that guided our thinking. It’s the great list of lists: The top 5 wrap-ups of 2011’s biggest stories.

  1. HousingZone’s top 11 stories for 2011 – HousingZone editors highlight the top housing news and trends for the year, breaking out their most popular stories based on web traffic.
  2. Curbed’s 10 weirdest, strangest houses on the market in 2011 – Curbed editor Rob Bear digs up the most eye-popping homes he saw on in the real estate listings last year. A great read for some inspiration… or maybe just fascination.
  3. BUILDER’s 10 most popular articles of 2011 – Clair Easley reveals the top 10 most popular articles from BuilderOnline’s Reader’s Choice Awards. No less than 6 of our votes made the list. Can you guess which ones?
  4. Top 10 Jetson Green Articles of 2011 – Jetson Green is always at the top of our RSS feed reader. This recap highlights the top 10 stories on sustainable building, eco-building and green technology based on retweets, Facebook shares and Google +1s.
  5.’s 10 biggest green building stories of 2011 – Paula Melton recaps a huge year for the green building industry with the top 10 most-read articles in Environmental Building News.

Help us add to our list. Post a link to a 2011 recap you read in the blogosphere over the last few weeks.

By Kelly Nowlan

Sustainability has gained a lot of notoriety in recent years, with 50% of the public believing that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, it seems everything we touch these days has the potential of bearing or failing to bear the sustainability seal of approval. But how convinced are we that all of those marketing claims about products being sustainable, are, well, sustainable?

We at IMRE wanted to know, so we engaged a formidable group of architects and interior designers to find out. Who better to ask? These opinion leaders are a litmus test to whether countless brands in the Home & Building industry are marketing their sustainable products successfully.

Over 800 architects and interior designers responded to an online survey conducted jointly by IMRE, The American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Interior Designers, which revealed the majority of architects and interior designers, 87% and 86% respectively, are in fact concerned with how products are manufactured with regard to sustainability.

But, brands who market themselves as sustainable should take heed: while most architects and interior designers pay careful attention to manufacturers’ sustainability claims, both are similarly skeptical when asked if they are confident that products referred to as “sustainable” actually are.

  • 40% of architects and 34% of interior designers are “uncertain” if products claiming to be sustainable are actually sustainable.
  • Almost 22% of architects and 11% of interior designers are “somewhat” or “not at all confident” that products are actually sustainable.
  • Only 2% of architects and 3% of interior designers are “completely confident” in manufacturers’ claims that products are actually sustainable.

Furthermore, as popular as the topic of sustainability has become in recent years among the general population, architects and interior designers alike claim their clients could use more education. Both parties agreed that only one quarter of their clients understand what the term sustainability actually means, and 88% of architects and 82% of interior designers said that their clients think sustainable products cost more.

Conversely, regardless of how architects, interior designers and even their clients feel about the viability of sustainable product claims and the cost associated with them, they are actually being used with greater frequency. More than half of architects (54%) and interior designers (55%) expect their number of sustainable projects will increase this year.

Just as many Americans are concerned about global warming, nearly 60% of both architects and interior designers state the primary reason they specify sustainable products is due to their own professional sense of environmental responsibility. In other words, they specify sustainable products because they want to, not because they have to.

The bottom line: Architects and interior designers are doubtful of manufacturer claims about sustainable products, and there is the perception – whether right or wrong – of a higher cost associated with them. But given that sustainable projects are predicted to be on the rise, the winning brands will deliver credible sustainability messaging. The question is, will your brand be a winner?

To receive a full copy of the survey results, please contact Meghann Malone at

IMRE will be offering a free, one-hour webinar on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 from 11am-noon EST with topline results from this survey and recommendations for improving sustainability communications in 2012.  To register, send your name, company name, email and phone number to

By Building Experts Team

While we’d love to spend time (and fill pages) reminiscing about all of the highlights from 2011, it’s time to move forward. A collection of our experts have made some predictions for next year, looking at the trends in the industry, from media consumption habits to shifts in purchasing behavior. Right or wrong, we’ll have our eyes and minds on these topics throughout the year. (more…)

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