In 2017 the Johnson Controls Asia-Pacific headquarters in Shanghai was the first building to receive the three most important green certifications. We are talking about LEED NC Platinum, the World Bank’s EDGE, and China’s own Green Building Design Label. Therefore, this complex is considered one of the most sustainable buildings in Asia.

More importantly, the Johnson Control buildings are is a great example for the worldwide movement toward green building. The Worlds Green Building Trends 2018 report states that that sustainability is creating a revolution in architecture and that there are three major trends in green-building technology: energy-analysis used frequently in the building process, generative design and the incorporation of predictive data for the building’s lifecycle.

Dodge Data & Analytics, the publisher of the report, took its data from 2000 architects, designers and builders. The most important finding is that 47% of professionals from the industry think that 60% of their projects will be green by 2021. This number is great, considering that it increased significantly from the last years.

NBBJ, one of the architecture firms that took part in the survey, takes the green aspect to the building process to a whole new level. The Spheres, Amazon’s Seattle offices include domes made of steel and glass that preserve over 40,000 plants from the world’s cloud forests.

But the report has a lower standard for green building, than preserving forests’ plants. Projects that efficiently use resources, waste and reduce pollution, the use of renewable energy, nontoxic and sustainable materials, adaptation to the environment, high quality of air in the building and high quality of life offered to the occupants are the main markers for this report.

There are also advantages for the green builders and architects. Besides the incentives they receive from the governments, these buildings have a higher market value, up to 10% more than traditional ones, the operating costs are smaller and the builders benefit from a shorter payback period. These might be few of the reasons why the respondents to this research are less concerned with the high cost of green building. Only 49% takes this factor into consideration, less than in 2012 when 76% were citing that the cost is an important factor in green buildings development.

But let’s talk a little bit about the three green-building technology trends that the World Green Building Trends 2018 report mentions.

1. Using energy analysis from the beginning to the end and throughout of the building process

One of the most important trends that the survey’s respondents talked about is the necessity to use analysis tools not only in the early stages of construction but also throughout the whole process. These steps are necessary in order to have enough data to analyse the building’s performance.

For example, the energy use during the day can be modified by the natural light the habitat receives. This means, that if you increase the exposure to natural light, you can reduce the energy consumption. But it has its drawbacks. During the summer, it gets hotter, so the energy consumption will increase because of the use of air conditioning systems.

But there are tools which calculate these variations. Architects and engineers can use Building Information Modeling (BIM). Also the Insight tool from Autodesk Revit is a great way to make these calculations.

Programs like Autodesk AutoCAD with BIM, which calculate frequencies in order to find the best solutions, are great tools for professions. Architects can include energy consumption in their design from the start, without having to turn the project to consultants for each step.

Margaret Montgomery, principal and sustainable-design leader at NBBJ, showed her support for using these tools and she talked about the advantages they give architects.

“When our designers start at day one, they probably don’t have the other disciplines sitting there with them as they are initiating their first design doodles, but I want the software to be able to support them [at that stage]. … I want us to have a good feedback loop when we’re doing things that we tend to do quickly and early,” Montgomery said in the report.

Brandon Garrett, associate and architect at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini (D/P/S) is also a strong believer in the help these tools provide to architects when it comes to energy analysis. He thinks that they can “become part of the dialogue throughout the design process.”

These tools also help architects to demonstrate the changes a client requires on the spot. Therefore, the design part of a project takes less time, even when a client demands certain changes.

There is another advantage noted by Aaron Ketner, energy specialist at D/P/S. Clients tend to be impressed with the speed the changes are taken into consideration, now that analysis tools are used. Before this technology experts were needed for each requirement, which meant that the design stage was much tedious and long.

2. Using generative design

BIM 2.0 includes generative design. This means that designers and architects can input certain objectives as new parameters, such as using certain materials, manufacturing methods and also limit the cost. This removes a lot of variables professionals had to figure out in order to create the most efficient design. BIM 2.0 generates the best layouts, designs and materials for a energy-performance setting.

Garrett predicts in the 2018 report that this software will evolve and automate more of the designer’s work. “A dashboard sitting there as you work, and as you are designing and making decisions, performance moves up or down. So it is no longer a second thought process to run the analysis, but, rather, you get live feedback as you design.”

The acoustic reflective ceiling for the University of Iowa School of Music Voxman Music Building was created by using generative-design scripts by the LMN Architects. They also used generative-design scripts in order to create an acoustic reflector for a wonderful music hall at the same university.

Generative-design software is an amazing tool for creating building parts and machines. But as Ellen Mitchell Kozack, principal and director of sustainability at HKS indicates, software can’t create the more sensible parts such as embellishments and elegance.

“There are inherent things in terms of beauty and delight that a computer is not going to be as effective at stimulating,” she said, “but [the technical tasks of understanding how a structure performs] can be solved by a computer very easily,” Kozack says in the report.

3. Incorporating predictive data for the building’s lifecycle

The World Green Building Trends 2018 report shows that the new smart buildings are an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT). The data collected from sensors is often incorporated in building-automation software, thus creating a building-management system (BMS).

This trend is, of course, new, as in the past building managers seldom shared BMS data with architects. But this new trend gives professionals a better understanding how their design works. Therefore, they can estimate the performance during all the stages of the construction development.

BMS gives a lot of perspective to designers and architects. For example, BMS can count how many people are in the building at each hour and what their movement pattern is. This way, architects can create a ventilation system that changes the airflow each hour, depending on how many people are usually in the building at a certain point and they can create a plan that helps people move more freely and easily from one point to another.

BMS is also predictive. For example, it can use climate control data, such as the weather forecast in order preheat or precool a building when the weather changes.

Kozack thinks that the IoT changes how architects and designers create houses.  “As we move toward IoT, people will rely more and more on data to inform decisions,” she said. “I think once that comes, there’s no going back.”

Schneider Electric in Grenoble, France is already enrolling in this trend as is supplying IoT data for two corporate buildings that are expected to exceed the LEED Platinum standard. In order to decrease the energy consumption by 8% for the second building, designers are using energy analytics and BMS data from the first completed building.

These three trends can result in more sustainable buildings. Right now, buildings generate 28% of the global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. But, this is not the only advantage to using technological data analysis during the design stage of the projects. By embracing automated processes for certain steps of the construction, the professionals can be more creative.

World Green Building Trends 2018 report was created with the help of United Technologies, Autodesk, the USGBC, the World Green Building Council, and the American Institute of Architects.