Ultra-Sustainable Building Technologies Are Hitting the Mainstream

Trondheim, Norway, a city of 180,000 just 200 miles from the Arctic Circle on the coast of the frigid Norwegian Sea, hardly seems an ideal location for harvesting energy from the sun and surrounding environment. But a new 200,000-square-foot office building there is producing nearly half a million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per year—twice as much as the building uses. The extra energy is powering other nearby buildings and charging electric cars, buses and boats throughout the city.

Highly sustainable buildings have been popping up around the U.S. and the world over the past decade. But now a confluence of new technologies and improving economics, as well as climate-change-inspired government regulation, are leading to the next wave in big construction: ultra-sustainable buildings. This new generation of green buildings is hitting environmental goals that would have seemed inconceivable just ten years ago—in some cases not just avoiding all harm to the environment, but actually improving it, leading the communities and cities around these buildings down greener paths.