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For cautious consumer or environment friendly, sustainability measures are a must for Mississippi

Commercial construction prices have seen a dip with lower material costs and the market getting more competitive.

On the smaller commercial and residential side, costs have not seen that much of a decline.  Sure, companies have gotten leaner, but the cost savings that the consumer is seeing is in lower material costs — and that’s not amounting to a substantial savings on these smaller projects.

The new cautious consumer understands that money is cheap if they can borrow it, but they want to know that what they’re getting isn’t going to cost them more on the back end. This year we have seen a big boom in medium- or sensible-sized remodels and not much interest in new construction, which is not very surprising with the economic climate we are in. But within this trend of remodels, consumers are led to the door of sustainable construction.

More often than not, when I receive a call from a potential client, having a more energy-efficient house or building is one of their foremost concerns about their project.  To the consumer, sustainability means having a lower utility bill, which is the end result of a good, sustainable design.  While people’s motivations may be different, it doesn’t matter in the end.

This trend has been gaining real steam nationally for the last decade, and in the last few years, Mississippi is starting to see the trend here. While other market sectors of construction have fallen off or reached a plateau in the last couple years, sustainable construction has seen a dramatic uptick.

A lot of this growth has been attributed to the efforts of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which established the LEED rating system for green buildings. The LEED rating system is widely accepted as the premier rating system, which covers almost any building type from healthcare to retail to commercial to residential.

USGBC’s Mississippi Chapter has a large growing interest across the state.  They are seeing that this trend doesn’t just pertain to architects and engineers, but that lawyers, accountants, school officials, and municipalities are all showing interest in green buildings.

Whether you call it catching on with the rest of the nation, trying to lower monthly expenses on utility, capitalizing on tax credits or having a vested interest in helping to cut down on consumption of fossil fuels, it doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing for Mississippi. We all can benefit from the move toward sustainability.

Jeff Seabold, AIA, NCARB is the principal architect with Seabold Architectural Studio in Jackson … Visit his web site at www.seabold-studio.com

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