Emell D. Adolphus
September 21, 2021
The array of green building certifications—such as the LEED rating system, Living Building Challenge, WELL, Envision and Parksmart—provide construction projects with a detailed roadmap to reach sustainability goals. But ENR Top 100 Green Design Firms and Contractors say building to sustainable standards can sometimes be counterintuitive to the traditional process.
Despite a dip last year in green market revenue reported by ranked firms, data collected from the 2021 list participants indicates that sustainability remains a growing priority in construction among owners.
“Water and energy systems, materials science and even landscaping all require technical solutions that our industry possesses,” explains Chris Hellstern, Living Building Challenge services director at Miller Hull Partnership. “Shifting our process to design them in support of natural solutions is the challenge.” He terms it a challenge that project stakeholders must be committed to resolve.
“Often we are not prevented by limits of technology but rather human will,” Hellstern says. “In general, the AEC community knows how to design regenerative buildings but we do not always do it.” He adds that while “people are struck by the difficulty of creating projects that meet the Living Building Challenge … the most important thing we need for these projects to be successful is to have a client who is committed and willing. When we have that, we can design anything for them.”
Setting sustainability goals early helps put project stakeholders on the same page, but Top 100 design firms and contractors point out that some project aspects are often more difficult to “green” than others.
Firms note five key continuing challenges: