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The US Market for Sustainable Building

In recent years, the United States has experienced a continual shift from traditional building methods towards green building. While the concept of green building revolves around the energy efficiency of buildings, this evolving approach also encompasses water efficiency, the use of sustainable materials, and the access to public transportation grids. Green building initiatives by the US government, namely the EPA’s Energy Star for commercial buildings and the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate, have increasingly moved to the forefront of urban planning and now cover a total of 40% (number went from 38.6% in 2014 up to 40.2% in 2015 – 2016 CBRE Index) of the entire square-foot area of buildings in the US.

According to a study released by the USGBC, Illinois is one of the leading states when it comes to the implementation of LEED-certified projects, with 151 projects accounting for 36.19 million sq. ft. in 2016 (top 10 states LEED).

In 2013, Chicago introduced its Sustainable Action Plan along with the Energy Benchmarking regulation, which aims at enhancing energy efficiency through increased transparency. Buildings that are larger than 50,000 ft2 (≈4,650 m2) are required to submit their energy efficiency data to the city annually and every three years these data sets are analyzed. According to local market experts, this will raise the demand for energy efficiency technology within the commercial building sector.

Important Market Data, Trends and Developments

  • Green Building’s contribution to the US economy is projected to grow from $934 million in 2015 to $1.3 billion by 2018.
  • According to the US Green Building Council, green construction will directly contribute to 1.1 million jobs and $75.6 billion in wages in the United States by 2018.
  • According to the EIA, energy use in US buildings (residential and commercial buildings) accounts for 41% of total energy consumption and causes approximately 40% of all CO2-emissions in the US. On the metropolitan level, this number is even higher; in Chicago, for instance, buildings account for approximately 70% of overall greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Between 2015 and 2018, LEED-certified buildings in the United States are estimated to have $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings and $54.2 million in waste savings according to the USGBC.
  • Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing, argues that sustainable technology can cut a typical office building's annual expenses by 3% to 30%, depending on what US city it’s in.
  • Nearly 5.8 billion ft2 of commercial building spaces are LEED-certified (as of April 2017) and a further 3.8 billion ft2 of building spaces are covered under the Energy Star (end-of-year 2015).
  • The energy consumption of US buildings is at its lowest level since 1975. This is especially due to lower energy consumption in new constructions, as well as increased energy efficiency in appliances, heating, ventilation, and air conditioners.

Market Opportunities for German Companies

The demand for green building materials in the US is forecast to increase 11% annually to $86.6 billion in 2017. Market opportunities present themselves in the product areas of recycled concrete, permeable pavement, EnergyStar compliant HVAC Systems, energy-efficient windows and green roofing materials. The so-called Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC Systems, although very common in Japan and Europe, are relatively new to the US market. Additionally, the demand for thermal insulation materials is also growing. Eco-friendly certified products that were manufactured in environmentally friendly ways and originate from sustainably managed silviculture sites are also gaining in importance in the US market.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards smart building technology that automatically controls the building’s operations (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and other systems). The benefits range from energy savings to productivity gains to sustainability. Particularly, German companies that focus on IoT-, data-capturing- and monitoring-technology stand to benefit from market opportunities.

Organizations & Links


Svenja Schroeder
Manager, Market Entry Programs, Delegations & Events
Tel.: +1 (312) 561-9791
E-Mail: schroeder(at)gaccmidwest.org

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