Sustainability: A look at the top green building trends
By Justin Stoltzfus

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Within the green building industry, innovative companies and home builders are making big advances in the kinds of projects that lead to energy conservation and sustainable living with LEED-approved or other green-certified building projects. Here are some of the top green building trends that are expected to continue through 2013 and beyond:

Net Zero Energy Buildings
Building space that generates as much power as it uses is now a major target for many builders, especially in urban areas. Examples of larger net zero energy buildings are popping up in the media and creating prompting a much more feasible outlook for producing even more of these buildings in the future.

Grey Water and Other Water-Saving Technologies
Another major trend in green building is an emphasis on water conservation. As world planners and national agencies learn of increasing water shortages around the world, green building innovators are looking to add features to buildings that will help to alleviate this problem. These can require retrofitting or changing traditional plumbing in radical ways that promote much less water waste within a building.

There are a wide variety of ways to integrate water-saving designs in buildings. Two of the main ones are the use of recycled water and the water-saving features of advanced modern restroom plumbing.

In some cases, green buildings may also use water to generate small amounts of power, or to cut down on heating and cooling costs with “geothermal” infrastructures. This is in itself a big trend that is being implemented in many larger buildings to drastically reduce a carbon footprints by using natural resources instead of more refrigerant or heating oil. Green builders are also looking at how to reduce wastewater runoff, which has its own impact on the environment.

Sustainable Agriculture
There's another trend in green building that relates to a slightly different practice which is the use of hydroponics. Installing hydroponics or aquaponics infrastructures in a building allows building owners to promote the production of fresh produce or other salable food products using the natural resources built into the residential or commercial space. Some examples include plumbing that leads to a variety of plant net pots in a corner or space, which sests up low cost and low energy crop cycles within the property.

Low-VOC and Low-Chemical Building Designs
In terms of the general health and safety of building occupants, one of the most recent trends in green building is the shift toward the use of non-VOC paints, flooring materials and other kinds of construction items. Yesterday's volatile chemicals are being edited out of manufactured construction products to comply with the growing demand for more organic materials. Organic materials do not release caustic chemical products into the interior of the building.

Technical Specifications for Green Buildings
New federal and state incentives and laws will help increase transparency for green building standards. For example, it's generally expected that the green buildings of the future will include more upfront technical measurements of carbon reduction in their various features and designs.

All of these trends, along with the growing use of solar and other alternative energies, are meant to push the boundaries of what's possible in green building, and help the construction industry contribute to a healthier environment while combating the trend of global warming. Look for all of these kinds of advances to swing into action shortly in the international green building industry as today's most modern and advanced techniques become more common.

Justin Stoltzfus is an independent blogger and business consultant assisting a range of businesses in developing media solutions for new campaigns and ongoing operations. He is a graduate of James Madison University.