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Architects Designing Green to Address Demand for Lower Operating Costs


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Autodesk, Inc. and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently announced the results of the 2007 Autodesk/AIA Green Index, an annual survey that measures how AIA member architects in the United States are practicing sustainable design, as well as their opinions about the green building movement. The index shows that green building has taken a firm hold on the industry and has captured the attention of both architects and their clients.

The 2007 Autodesk/AIA Green Index survey reports 70 percent of architects say client demand is the leading driver of green building and that the primary reason these owners and developers are demanding greener buildings is for reduced operating costs. Architects are responding by significantly increasing their use of sustainable elements such as high-efficiency HVAC systems, recycled building materials and using software to model energy usage.

According to the Autodesk/AIA Green Index, less than half of architects were incorporating sustainable design practices into their projects five years ago. However, this number is quickly rising with 90 percent of architects expecting to incorporate some sustainable elements by 2012. This rapidly growing adoption of sustainable design is in direct response to a strong client demand for green building, with 70 percent of this year’s respondents citing client demand as the main driver pushing architects to go green. When asked to cite a reason behind clients’ push toward green building, 64 percent of respondents cited the reduced operating costs that can be obtained through sustainable design as the cause.

Sense of Urgency Needed

“Buildings are the leading provider of greenhouse emissions, and in 2005 the AIA set a goal to reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 50 percent by 2010 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030,” said AIA EVP/CEO Christine McEntee. “The results of the survey are encouraging, but there needs to be a greater sense of urgency to make sustainable design the norm in the profession. To that end, we will be releasing additional resources in 2008 to better educate both architects and clients on best practices and benefits of green buildings.”

The survey also shows that architects are making significant strides to meet their client demand for green building. Working to develop their sustainable design skills, 88 percent of respondents have received training or continuing education focused on green building. This year’s Green Index also shows a significant increase in the practice of sustainable design since 2002. According to this year’s survey, the industry has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of architects utilizing high-efficiency HVAC systems in their projects over the past five years. Other areas of growth include the use of highly reflective roofing materials, which has jumped 18 percent since 2002, and the adoption of energy modeling and baseline analysis, which has seen a 17 percent increase in that same period.

While almost 75 percent of Green Index respondents believe that the building industry is headed in the right direction regarding climate change, and 54 percent believe architects are responsible for developing and implementing solutions to this issue, the survey also shows that there is still significant opportunity for architects to deliver on green building practices. Although 50 percent of architects reported having clients inquire about green building on the majority of their projects, only 30 percent of architects actually implemented green building elements in their projects. In addition, only 10 percent of architects are currently measuring the carbon footprint of their projects.

Technology Improvements Coming

“We are encouraged that the 2007 Green Index shows a growing number of architects practicing green building,” said Phil Bernstein, FAIA, LEED AP, Autodesk Vice President of AEC Industry Strategy and Relations. “Since only 10 percent of architects are currently measuring the carbon footprint of their projects, Autodesk recognizes a need to make this an easier and more efficient process using new and existing technology solutions. We look forward to continued cooperation with the AIA to help architects use technology to design more environmentally responsible buildings.”

When asked what green building efforts they expect to adopt in the next five years, more than half the respondents said they will be using tools to enable the prediction and evaluation of the environmental impact and lifecycle of the building materials used in their projects, a 36 percent increase from today. Fifty-six percent of respondents also stated that they will be using design software to evaluate and explore alternative building materials to maximize energy performance and minimize their environmental footprint.

Research Methods

The Autodesk/AIA Green Index was conducted online by StrategyOne Research in October 2007 among 347 practicing architects in the United States. The architects were questioned on their use of 14 green design practices: five years ago, over the previous 12 months, and their expected use five years from now. The design practices were based on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

The architects who responded to the survey come from a mix of design practices. Forty-four percent are predominantly involved with commercial projects, 32 percent with institutional, 20 percent with single family homes, and 4 percent with industrial projects. Sixty-two percent of the architects have 15 or more years of experience. Additionally, 88 percent of the architects have received training or continuing education on the subject of green buildings. The full report is available on the Autodesk website at www.autodesk.com/green.