|The second half of 2011 will see further acceleration of a fundamental change in priorities by customers. Until recently, residential and commercial consumers simply wanted their property developed and maintained in a way that satisfied them for the lowest cost possible. These two factors remain in place; however, a demand and requirement for change are being driven by environmental mandates at the federal, state and local levels. It is water availability and water quality that are the core issues.
A much greater emphasis on water quality and water availability are driving emerging technologies, principles and practices that better manage stormwater, capture stormwater for use in the landscape (and elsewhere) and seek to reuse water from building cooling systems in the landscape. Greywater and other tertiary water sources are being considered for use in the landscape.
The energy and cost that is required to move water is now finally being understood for what it is. Communities are learning the cost of moving water is not cheap – that we in the United States have benefited from those costs being subsidized for a long time. SMART meters are being installed in many areas to measure electricity. These meters will enable dynamic pricing of energy, and thereby enable utilities to suppress peak load demands through a pricing mechanism. Landscape design for large sites will now have to factor in the energy cost to move water as one of the design criteria.
The technologies that are being developed and will come to market in the second half of 2011 are a two-edge sword for an industry that is slow to change. Site and building systems that are striving for a “net zero water” approach will use systems that are ever more complex to install and manage. Contractors will have to learn new skills and be able to effectively partner with consultants and other professionals to build and manage these complex, resource-efficient landscapes. Different aspects of a landscape will have metrics of one sort or another attached to them in ways that never existed before.
With these changes will come opportunities for the contractor and suppliers that demonstrate they have the expertise and practices to manage and complete projects in a timely way. The opportunities exist in a price-sensitive economic environment that is barely gaining momentum and, as yet, does not inspire a sense of confidence.
Every industry has periods of upheaval and accelerated change. The green industry is in one of those periods now.
The answer going forward is the same answer that always works – greater knowledge of the relevant science and principles that are at work.
A higher level of understanding developed through education and certification will ensure we remain in position to deliver the real “green.” The real “green” is a healthy thriving landscape that provides environmental benefits and enhances property value.