During 2006 and 2007 venture capitalists finally discovered green building, investing in a wave of product innovations and renewable energy, which attracted considerable money in 2005 and 2006 when oil price hikes reached record levels. In this $1.1 trillion building industry (construction value), private-equity companies are investing in products and systems that reduce the use of toxic materials in construction; make the construction process more efficient; encourage green housing technologies; provide for environmentally friendly methods for salvaging timber; increase energy efficiency in building systems; provide more ways to insulate homes and buildings with concrete, for example, by using insulated concrete forms (ICFs); and use energy-efficient structural insulated panels (SIPs).141 There is also growing interest in using nanotechnology in such areas as photovoltaic cells, indoor thermal-insulation coatings, self-cleaning glazing and stronger steel for rebar in concrete construction.142
We're seeing the world's largest companies make major commitments to energy technology and a wave of other innovations that will affect building design. A good example of this is the $1.5 billion investment Eco-Imagination campaign launched by General Electric's (GE) CEO Jeffrey Immelt in 2005, well before the current wave of eco-inspired corporate concern. The campaign includes major investments in solar and wind energy technology as well as in water desalination. In addition GE set a 30% greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity reduction goal by the end of 2008, along with a 1% absolute reduction by the end of 2012. GE has also set an energy-efficiency improvement goal of 30% by the end of 2012. Progress will be measured against a 2004 baseline.143
The growth of exhibit booths at the US Green Building Council's annual Greenbuild trade show and conference also highlights the wave of technological changes sweeping the green building industry. From a modest beginning of 220 exhibit booths in 2002, the 2006 show featured 700 exhibit booths, more than a threefold increase in just four years.144 The November 2007 show, to be held in Chicago, expects to feature 850 exhibit booths and to attract nearly 20,000 attendees.
In the sphere of building design, many new technologies are appearing that allow architects and engineers to specify far more energy-efficient products, for many more uses, and to analyze the impact of these measures on a project's energy efficiency much earlier in the design process. We're also seeing 3-D modeling become a reality, so that new passive design tech-
niques can be examined for their energy impacts before designs are hardened into working drawings. In the area of climate control, just as under-floor air distribution systems came into use in the late 1990s, we're now seeing a variety of other building climate management systems, including "double-envelope" renovations of older buildings in cold-climate regions to benefit from natural ventilation in cold weather. A double-skin façade at a new research center on the University of Toronto's St. George campus is an example of this trend.145
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