The Hottest New Green Building Trends to Watch in 2017

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that green building is the future of construction. Both client demand and regulations are powerful driving forces behind buildings that are increasingly energy efficient, eco-friendly, and sustainable.

The green building market is experiencing exciting growth. According to a new Green Building Materials Market Report by Allied Market Research, the global green building market is growing at an annual rate of 11.9%.

Exterior products are leading this growth, and bringing in one-third of the total green building materials market revenue. In other words, the green business is booming, growing, and expanding each and every year.

Last year we guided you through the Biggest Green Building Trends for 2016, and many of the materials and products we mentioned will continue to serve you this year, as well. In addition, 2017 will bring you even more materials and products to help you build even greener.

Ready to get started?

Zero-Net and Positive Net Buildings: An Update (and a Surprising Twist)

Last year we spoke about Positive Net Buildings, which produce enough energy to make up for what they consume and have enough excess energy left over to sell back to the grid or to power additional things, as well. Positive Net will continue to be the gold standard for building energy efficiency as we move forward into 2017.

What does a Positive Net home look like? Check out this round-up of eight Positive Net homes over at Inhabit for inspiration and real-world examples.

And while we keep our eyes on the ultimate goal of Positive Net, we are going to do something a bit unexpected here -- and name Zero Net Energy buildings as our #1 green building trend for 2017.

Zero Net Energy Buildings: Produce enough energy to make up for what they consume.

A step-backwards? We think not.

If you are involved in the construction industry in California, you most likely have heard about the latest updates to the building energy code. California is aggressively pursuing a goal of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) for all new residential construction by 2020, and they are reaching this goal by implementing a stricter set of building codes with tighter regulations for energy efficiency this year.

As California charges towards their ZNE goal, the Golden State will be leading the way for other states to follow. Which means that ZNE building will soon be the standard for all construction in the years to come.

In 2017, Zero Net Energy is going to be the buzzword of the year. While you certainly should be prepared for a client with a Positive Net Energy request, the regulations pushing toward Zero Net Energy is the reason we’re putting this trend at the top of your watch list.

Solar Technology is Driving to New Heights

Solar is also a familiar friend, but that won’t slow solar from driving to new heights in 2017. Roofing is the fastest growing segment in green building exterior products, and solar products in particular are projected to experience an annual growth rate around 13.5% between now and 2020.

But that’s not the fun part.

Because Tesla founder Elon Musk is about to do for solar what he did for cars.

In a deal worth $2 billion, Tesla and and SolarCity shareholders voted on a merger in 2016 that has resulted in a new special glass technology group division. In case you missed it, Musk unveiled Tesla’s new solar roof panels and at-home battery, the Powerwall, in October of this past year.

Unlike existing solar solutions, which are often bulky and obtrusive, the Tesla solar panels will be manufactured as glass tiles that seamlessly integrate into the roof. Musk’s vision of beautiful solar roof panels providing enough energy to power your home (and the Tesla auto parked in the garage) symbolizes the future of green building.

Self-Healing Concrete: It’s Alive!

Our 2016 green building predictions included eco-alternatives to concrete made from foam, glass, paper, and recycled materials (shout out to Ashcrete for their concrete alternative made from 97% recyclables).




There’s a reason that eco-friendly concrete is continuing to make our list of green building trends for 2017. Concrete is the most-used building material in the entire world. And while concrete demonstrates incredible strength and durability, it does have its downsides. Cement production creates approximately 9.5% of global carbon emissions. And concrete requires constant (and costly) maintenance and repair for stress cracks and gaps.

Researchers and scientists have been attempting to produce self-healing concrete for years, but this year Dutch and Belgian scientists have broken new ground with a surprising additive:

Living bacteria.

This method uses a strain of living bacterial organisms which can tolerate the high ph levels of concrete. The bacteria lie dormant until a crack in the concrete exposes them to moisture in the air, which causes the spores to germinate and feed on the calcium lactate found in the cement. The bacteria then produces limestone, which fills the cracks and allows the concrete to "self-heal" within a matter of weeks.


This promising technology should be brought to market soon, so you may very well be using a self-healing concrete on your projects in 2017.

Tankless Water Heaters

While nothing new in terms of technology, tankless water heaters are about to shine a little brighter this year than they have in the past. Not only are tankless water heaters more energy efficient compared to a standard tanked unit, they also bring some additional benefits to the party, including:

  • Continuous hot water - no more running out of hot water halfway through your shower because you happened to do a load of laundry minutes before.
  • Smaller footprints - smaller units take up less space in the home, meaning more square footage can go towards liveable space.
  • Cleaner water - with tankless heaters, the water isn’t sitting around in a 50 gallon tank waiting to be used.

One to Watch: An Award Winning Tankless Heater from Bosch

Raise your hand if you love all things techy! Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. was recently honored with a Consumer Technology Association Award for the Bosch Greentherm 9900i SER, the premium model in a new line of tankless condensing water heaters: The Bosch Greentherm 9000 Series.

Tankless water heaters will be mandatory on residential buildings in California in 2017, so don’t wait until inspection time to get in-the-know about these energy efficient units.

The Green Building Trends that Will Continue Strong into 2017

The materials and products that we highlighted as top trends for 2016 continue to remain relevant today. In case you missed it, here’s a reminder of the materials, products, and green building innovations that your next client may request:

  • Cooling roofs and green roofs
  • Recycled steel
  • Cement alternatives
  • Natural insulation from wool, hemp, and foam
  • Greywater plumbing systems
  • Smart windows: thermally broken, triple-glazed, or dynamically changing tints
  • Eco-friendly flooring from bamboo and recycled materials
  • Air purifying and zero-VOC paints
  • Countertops and cabinets from recycled, salvaged, and sustainable materials
  • Efficient lights with fixtures made from recycled materials
  • Low-flow faucets and showerheads and compostable toilets
  • ENERGY-STAR approved smart appliances
  • Whole-home energy monitoring systems and mobile apps
  • Xeriscaping - landscaping with low water plants

Embracing green building materials and trends can only benefit your construction business. Not only will you meet an increasing client demand for eco-friendly, sustainable, and energy efficient solutions, you will also be able to stay on top of ever-stricter building energy codes, as well. When it comes to construction, the greener grass is right under our feet. Cheers to a green 2017!

Smiling Female Contractor

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