Jennifer Schwab – Chief Sustainability Officer, Sierra Club Green Home
Americans will continue to be frugal as our country is in a state of crisis with high unemployment, market volatility, and the threat of the euro zone collapsing. This could thrust us back into the worst grips of recession. Unfortunately, this does not fare well for green consumer products. However, I believe the best of America will rise to the occasion to help out their fellow man. Thus in 2012 the social equity piece of sustainability will be more prominent relative to past years. I’m witnessing this abroad right now as restauranteurs, hoteliers, and other service oriented businesses are including local sustainability goals and policies into their models. This includes educating and employing locals to help lift them out of poverty while teaching them a new skill set.
I also believe that as the millenials come of age, they can set an example for the rest of us. For example, experiences are considered more valuable than status driven purchases. Being green isn’t an inconvenience, it’s a way of life. Car ownership is so 2005, renting transportation on an as-needed basis is the present. These trends will continue on an upward trajectory in 2012.
Building and Construction
As credit markets ease, we will see more commercial buildings constructed and the energy integrity of these structures will be a priority. Projects such as hospitals, hotels, corporate headquarters, schools, and federal buildings will have more green attributes than ever and LEED certification will continue to be the bellweather in green building certifications.
In 2011, Sierra Club Green Home (www.sierraclubgreenhome.com) witnessed a number of green home improvement professionals close their doors. This is particularly true of energy auditors. The physical inspection, energy audit model may be eclipsed by technology such as Eye-R systems (www.eyersystems.com) which utilizes infrared imaging, predictive analysis, and artificial intelligence to identify and model energy leaks in the built environment. Data deduced from these “drive by,” infrared energy audits will reduce the amount of time required to perform an audit by 70%. This drastically improves the viability of the energy audit business model. We will see more technology-driven, energy solutions deployed at scale in 2012.
In 2012, the solar industry will continue to consolidate — due to the panel supply glut, dissipating incentives, excessive loans coming due from the boom years, unfavorable balance sheets, and the accompanying negative P.R. On the upside, solar panel prices have dropped significantly which has permitted more accessibility than ever to the residential consumer. With favorable leasing terms and electricity prices rising, we will continue to see more rooftop adoption in 2012. Sierra Club Green Home (www.sierraclubgreenhome.com) even foresees some markets approaching grid parity in 2012.