By Michael J Coren
Green building is growing up. As green building industry moves from the fringe to mainstream--40% to 48% of new nonresidential construction will be LEED certified by 2015 says the Green Building Council--the field is moving from the nuts and bolts to bits and bytes.
The next frontier of energy efficiency appears to be tapping into the data of everything from drive-by thermal energy audits to "smart" sensors that control buildings' systems into vast cost and energy savings. Online marketplaces for green building are popping up to do what the Internet has always done well: match disparate demand and supply, and vast volumes of data, to create thriving marketplaces.
One firm called Green Per Square Foot is building what it calls an "efficiency marketplace" consolidating energy audits, LEED certification, and lighting, power and solar auctions under a single digital roof. By collecting data on thousands of buildings, products, services providers, and utility incentives programs, the site is matching builders with service providers and products that cut the confusion and simplify the process. Their mission, they say, is to save businesses money through energy efficiency. "Saving the planet is a bonus," GPSF writes on their website. The company earns money by monetizing data, performing services, and connecting buyers with sellers.
For now, PSF is still pulling together all its services. Only the lighting auction is currently available (solar and electricity suppliers are coming soon), and it has partnered with a firm, GreenPoint Partners, to offer efficiency audits and LEED certification.
But it's not alone. We covered GridBid in June, an auction website for homeowners to sell the rights to install solar panels on their roof (and get cheap electricity). We also wrote about Essess, an energy monitoring startup that is prowling the streets of America snapping images of inefficient windows, wasted heat, and other energy sucks to build an "ecosystem" around saving energy.
This is likely the way of the future. An overabundance of green consultants--175,000 LEED Accredited Professionals--combined with a lack of new building projects, green or otherwise (fewer than 14,000 LEED ones at the moment) means the U.S. has seen fewer explicitly green jobs in building design, construction and operations than expected. But demand is shifting to retrofitting existing buildings and tapping into the potential of new industries, says Yudelson Associates. In response, "many established firms and their employees have broadened the scope of their services to make green building a standard practice," writes Yudelson.
The green building sector's growing pains are just that--pains on the way to much more growth.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.