As the public grows more concerned about sustainability and energy efficiency, more contractors are opting to build greener, or incorporate more greener building practices.

According to the World Green Building Trends 2018 report released by Dodge Data & Analytics in November, 47 percent of the construction professionals surveyed around the world anticipate that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2021. Thirty-two percent of American professionals said that green projects already make up more than 60 percent of their work, and 45 percent said they expect that to be the case in 2021.

A new favorite color

“With more people demanding and expecting healthier places to live and work, more and more leaders around the globe are committing to green building, which is now a trillion-dollar industry,” Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), said in a press release about the report.

“For the last 25 years, LEED has helped transform building practices,” Ramanujam said. “It continues to push the top performers, but we know that we can’t leave the other 80-90 percent of buildings behind. We need to get all buildings on a path to sustainability in order to raise the standard of living for all people around the world, regardless of their circumstances. The results of this study show we are on the right path.”

Commercial construction is the top industry for green building, followed by institutional, retrofitting of existing buildings, and new high-rise residential construction.

Green is the new “good”

Contractors are shifting to greener projects for a number of reasons, according to the report. Meeting client demands, complying with environmental regulations, and social reasons—including producing healthier buildings—were the top reasons for the shift.

Promoting the health and well-being of a building’s occupants was one of the main social reasons expressed, along with encouraging sustainable business practices, increasing worker productivity, and creating a sense of community.

Even though most construction professionals expect green building to increase, many are choosing to not get a certification by a program such as LEED. But among contractors who do certify their buildings, 66 percent think that the outcome is a better-performing building.

Can you go green and stay in the black?

While more contractors are embracing green building, the process can be complex and comes with several obstacles. The World Green Buildings Trend report identified some barriers to greener building, with 49 percent of those surveyed listing costs (both actual and perceived) as the top challenge.

Lack of political support or incentives, affordability, lack of public awareness, and lack of market demand were other issues of concern.

The USGBC recently introduced LEED Zero, a new program aimed at addressing net zero operations and resources in buildings. Projects can meet the LEED Zero certification by demonstrating that buildings have net zero carbon emissions, net zero energy use, net zero water use, or net zero waste.

“These new certification programs will encourage a holistic approach for buildings and places to contribute to a regenerative future and enhance the health and well-being for not only building occupants, but all of humanity,” Melissa Baker, senior vice president of technical core at USGBC, said in a statement.

In November, the USGBC also announced that the STAR Community Rating System, a certification for sustainable communities run by STAR Communities, will be integrated into the USGBC’s LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities programs. The integration will help promote healthy, green, and economically strong communities and cities.

The LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities programs offer third-party verification of the performance of built-out cities and communities.

The integration “will bring us closer to our goal of advancing sustainable cities and communities around the world,” Ramanujam said. “We are helping cities develop responsible, sustainable, and specific plans for energy, water, waste, transportation, and many other factors that contribute to raising the standard of living for all people around the world.”