Green Building Trends for 2013

Green building will continue its rapid expansion around the world in 2013, even in the face of continuing economic difficulties in the US and Europe, says consultant Jerry Yudelson.

By the latest count, there are 50,000 LEED projects underway.

Here’s what Yudelson sees as the most important trends this year in green building: 

Green Renovations lead in North America.  The fastest growth will be in green retrofits at universities at non-profits.

In fact, the focus of the green building industry is changing from new buildings to greening existing buildings. LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) has been seeing the most certifications in the past three years, and now exceeds new construction certifications by cumulative floor area.

Green Buildings will increasingly be managed in the "Cloud." Over the past two years, many products have emerged in  building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management.

Greater Focus on Water.  Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the US, will increase, moving building designers, owners and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption. Fixtures that conserve water, rainwater capture and innovative new onsite water technologies will become standard practice.

Green building will accelerate outside the US. Some 90 countries on all continents now have nascent or established green building organizations and are beginning to create significant incentives.  

As of the end of 2012, 40% of all LEED-registered projects are  outside the US, being pursued in more than 130 countries.

Net-Zero Energy buildings will become much more commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications are now too common to confer competitive advantage among building owners. 

Disclosing Green Building Performance will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new carbon reduction requirements in California (AB 32), the City of Seattle and many other jurisdictions. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and in some places, to the public at large.

It will be increasingly important to avoid "Red List" chemicals. LEEDv4, scheduled for release in June, gives points for avoiding those chemicals.  

Environmental and Health Product Declarations will begin to appear in large numbers in the next 2-3 years, as building product manufacturers increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemical ingredients.

There will be more green building mandates at the local and state government levels, for both public and private-owned buildings. 

Mostly in "Blue" states, at least 20 cities of significant size will codify mandates.

Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, given the move toward net-zero energy buildings and the drive for states that have Renewable Portfolio Standards to reach targets by 2020. Third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems as well as on homes.


Jerry Yudelson is one of the nation’s leading green building consultants and sustainability experts and is the author of 13 books on the subject. He has chaired the largest annual green building conference, Greenbuild, for six years. 

He documents the growing trend of green retrofits in Greening Existing Buildings and Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, shows the trends in water in green buildings across developed nations.

Learn more about Yudelson’s consulting practice:

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Comments on “Green Building Trends for 2013”

  1. Charlotte Wolter

    Very interesting and thought-provoking. No extreme predictions, but highlighting the trends most likely to happen. The idea that water will become more important is interesting, because water conservation still seems to be off the radar.

  2. Don

    I think we need a push for common sense we push titles and trophys and forget what it cost to build. We should look at each building on its own dont put solar on a lousy envelope and then throw in an ill designed HVAC system.We seem to be in a race as to who can make it more expensive so the average person can never afford it.Lets build super efficient buildings and let the tenants tell the world while they can afford to occupy them


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