Five LEED and Green Construction Trends to Watch in 2020

This is an exciting time to be a green construction professional. The industry is only going to continue moving forward to make the built environment a safer and healthier place.
By Tommy Linstroth
January 3, 2020

To succeed in any field, you can never stop learning—especially in the green construction industry where standards and technology are always growing and changing.

Here are a few of the exciting trends in LEED certification and green construction learned about during this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which is the largest annual event for green building professionals in the world.

1. More Transparency About Products

In 2020, the product sustainability information provided by manufacturers will continue becoming more transparent and accessible. Manufacturers are coming to the table and presenting more useful information on environmental and health impacts, conducting life cycle analyses and making the information available for the design and construction marketplace.

Although this means even more information for construction and design teams to take into account when planning green construction projects, it’s a definite positive. We’re starting to see the actual environmental performance getting taken into account in product specification.

2. Regenerative Building Thresholds

In 2020 and beyond, the industry will continue seeing progression in green building efforts. At this year’s Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced an effort call LEED Positive, which goes well beyond the sustainability measures of the current rating system. The initiative is meant to push the LEED standards toward the thresholds in the Living Building Challenge building certification program.

The USGBC initiative envisions ways to make new and existing buildings go beyond reducing energy/climate impact to actually becoming a regenerative force and net positive for occupants and their communities. While implementation of the effort is years down the road, it’s a high-level vision for where the built environment needs to go.

3. Continued Growth in Green Construction

Green construction will continue to grow in 2020. LEED will remain the go-to standard, and the adoption of v4.1 will help teams overcome the practical implementation barriers that were created under v4. Other rating systems, such as WELL and FitWell, will continue to see growth as owners and teams work to create healthier buildings. Finally, teams will accelerate their adoption of technologies to design, construct, and deliver green buildings easier, faster and more cheaply than in the past.

4. Embodied Carbon Analysis

Another trend is an increasing mindfulness of the entire carbon footprint of the construction industry. Embodied carbon analysis, an emerging environmental impact assessment technique, will have a profound effect on green construction.

Embodied carbon analysis broadens the view of where the environmental cost of the built environment takes place. Traditionally, calculating the carbon footprint of a structure is based on the energy used by the building after it is occupied, but that ignores the enormous amount of carbon dioxide generated during the manufacture of building products and materials. What is called “embodied carbon” also encompasses what is emitted during the construction and full lifecycle of a building.

Forward-thinking design and construction teams are now starting to look at using building products and materials with the lowest amount of embodied carbon. This pushes sustainability and accountability further down the supply chain, encouraging the reduction of carbon emissions at the source.

5. Better Tools

There are continuing innovations in tools meant to make the green building process easier and more environmentally friendly. At Greenbuild, the Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator was released, which is a great tool to help teams analyze the various carbon impacts of products. The Carbon Leadership Forum and C Change Labs developed the tool with significant leadership from Skanska, the multinational construction and development firm.

Meanwhile, USGBC is trying to make it easier to find green products with the newly announced Better Materials search function, which helps search across multiple databases, by recommending products that have been reviewed and approved by the Green Building Certification Institute. It should definitely help simplify the LEED documentation process.

Exciting Times Ahead

It’s impossible to encapsulate the full Greenbuild experience in just a few words. The trends featured are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s an exciting time to be a green construction professional as the industry continues moving forward to make the built environment a safer and healthier place.

by Tommy Linstroth
Tommy Linstroth is founder and CEO of Green Badger, a leading SaaS provider simplifying sustainability and ESG in the built industry.

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