Extreme Makeover: Commercial Construction Industry, GREEN Edition

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Posted by:
Dermot Roe
National Construction Lead 


Many wondered if the U.S. commercial construction industry would ever recover from the darkest days of the recession, particularly in late 2009 and early 2010. Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) 2013 Construction Outlook finds that “Extreme Makeover” couldn’t be more appropriate for the commercial construction industry comparing 2009 to present. Just a few years after the recession brought the U.S. commercial construction sector to a standstill, the annual report paints a picture of a recovering, more diversified industry with less risk and revived funding.

“Cautious optimism” is the pervading sentiment among construction industry leaders. In August, the Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks projects in planning stages, surged 11.1 percent from the second quarter of 2013. Likewise, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture Billings Index – based on inquiries for new projects and construction spending – reached 52.7 and regained momentum lost during the first quarter of 2013. The Construction Backlog Index (CBI) also demonstrated steady improvement, rising to 8.2 months of contractor backlog.

According to JLL’s Construction Outlook, sustainability is one of four key factors affecting the recovering construction industry. Before the recession, green building features were incorporated upon request, but were generally viewed as expensive and “nice to have” luxuries. In today’s environmentally-conscious economy, sustainable features are viewed as table stakes by owners and developers, and attention to green building materials is considered a core competency.

LEED v4 formally launched this month and introduced new changes to enhance green building standards. Major new provisions in LEED v4 include expanding property type-specific designations, weighing points more heavily on optimizing energy performance, and a new “cradle to cradle” component. The cradle to cradle provision seeks to ensure that the products and resources used during construction are safe and designed for recycling or composting, and that the manufacturing process for construction materials manages its carbon footprint.

We anticipate that most projects will strive to be certified under LEED 2009 until 2015, when it will be phased out. Others may seek IgCC certification – and it will be interesting to see these two standards collaborate and compete in the future.

Check out the full 2013 Construction Outlook for more details on how sustainability is driving commercial construction.

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