World green building trends in 2016: Motivators and obstacles

World green building trends in 2016: Motivators and obstacles

Heather Benjamin

| Thursday, March 24, 2016

Last month, USGBC announced the results of research by Dodge Data and Analytics, with which USGBC has partnered, in the World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report. In a brief series, USGBC will highlight specific aspects of the report. 

Motivators for green building

New data reveals that client demand is the top trigger for green building activity, having grown from 35 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2015. This shows that building owners recognize the benefits of green, and this recognition is a major driver of green market growth globally. In addition, environmental regulations also grew in importance from the previous data set, driven by a high response from a few regions, including India, Singapore and the U.K.

It should be noted, however, that priorities for building vary widely by region. In Saudi Arabia, for example, increasing worker productivity is a stronger motivator than encouraging sustainable business practices. Energy conservation is a major environmental reason for building green in most countries, but in a few, such as Brazil, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Australia and China, protecting natural resources is given as a priority by almost as many respondents.

Another interesting finding is that overall, the importance of "doing the right thing" as a motivator for green building has declined over time. The same is true of the similar factors of branding/public relations and internal corporate commitment. This may suggest that as the green building market has matured and become more visible and standard in many locations, market-driven factors have supplanted the early-adopter vision as a trigger for choosing to build green.

Obstacles to green building

As with the top triggers, the obstacles to green building vary by part of the world. Higher perceived initial cost was listed as one of the top three challenges in 11 of the 13 countries featured in the study—and was a particular problem for respondents in the United States and Colombia. 

Top obstacles in developing markets included lack of public awareness and lack of political support, as noted by Brazil, Colombia, India and Poland. 

In more established markets such as Australia and the U.K., proponents also have to fight the perception that green building is for only high-end projects. 

Next week, we will share what respondents worldwide pointed to as the business benefits of building green in their respective areas.