The New Sustainability

Attitudes about sustainability have morphed over the past few years, so where are we now?

by Elaine Aye

Attitudes about sustainability have morphed over the past few years, from being seen as simply “the right thing to do” into a recognition of a path to address global environmental imperatives along with proven cost-savings. These benefits will drive changes over the next few years that will include new regulations and targeted monitoring.

Regulations on the Rise
President Obama’s State of the Union speech in January made it clear that more “carrot and stick” initiatives aimed at energy and carbon reductions are forthcoming. Energy Star Portfolio Manager’s new version rollout later this year will now include water and waste targets. But federal oversight won’t be the only source of mandates, as state governments increasingly examine programs for building energy disclosure, with the potential for water and waste disclosures in the commercial office market sector. A vigorous focus on tracking the carbon impacts of energy, production, material choice and transport will inform these regulations.

In addition, a new construction code called the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) has codified many standards utilized by LEED and other building rating systems. Many municipalities and jurisdictions will adopt this code in whole or in part to raise the bar on building design and operation.

Tech Metrics

A continued emphasis on smart buildings will propel building management systems to progressively show real-time performance and change the level of engagement. For example, dashboards can inspire friendly competition as tenants compare who is using more energy; permit a visitor to see an office’s operations; or provide information about a building’s green features to a phone app.

Metrics will greatly serve the growing number of companies engaging the public with transparency and accountability through their corporate social responsibility efforts. Software tracking solutions like the one at will play a significant role in this future.


Elaine Aye, IIDA, LEED AP O+M, BD+C and ID+C, is a principal at Green Building Services Inc.