How higher ed helps shape the future of green building

Ashka Naik: What led you to focus on education, especially higher education, in this SmartMarket Report?

Donna Laquidara-Carr: This report follows up on the 2007 Education Green Building SmartMarket Report. In 2007, education was really on the vanguard of green, with enough green projects allowing us do a sector-specific focus. As this sector has remained a prominent green market player, it was important to reinvestigate its growth.

Higher education's focus on mission is a great differentiator, and a reason why climate is important to this sector. Higher education has a unique potential to guide other sectors by demonstrating its pursuit of the triple-bottom-line metrics for evaluating its green projects. Through the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), higher education also has made a public commitment to climate neutrality, therefore we hope that the inclusion of the ACUPCC data in the report highlights the leadership role this sector can play in bridging the gap between various dimensions of sustainability.

AN: How did ACUPCC data help bridge the gap between green building and climate?

DL: Partnership with Second Nature allowed for a wonderful marriage of our data and the ACUPCC data to provide a complete picture of higher education and how it is driving the marketplace. We recognize that mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is a critical reason why green building is ramping up. However, we often aren't able to reflect that.

Especially in the commercial sector, cost and energy savings become so prominent that connecting the built environment to addressing climate change is less frequently discussed. In comparison, higher education is a crucial player in addressing climate change.

For example, the ACUPCC data demonstrate that higher education is the third largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in the U.S. by purchasing a total of 1.3 million kWh of RECs. This makes RECs more viable as an industry for all sectors. Another compelling data-piece was the climate neutrality dates -- 103 institutions have committed to relatively early climate neutrality dates [from 2012 to 2030].

AN: How does education sector compare with other sectors vis-à-vis its commitment to green building?

DL: In our most recent Dodge Construction Green Outlook report, we looked at four sectors -- education, office, healthcare and retail -- and broke down their share of green construction.

Next page: Other sectors catching up