Want your new building to stand out? Make it green. Green architecture has gone from a niche interest to a major design industry. Massive skyscrapers like the new Bank of America headquarters in midtown Manhattan advertise their energy efficiency, particularly their score on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) scale. What MPG is for cars, LEED is for buildings. Sustainability has even become a point of competition among mega-mansion owners, with multi-millionaires in California jostling to build the greenest house in America.
Much of green architecture comes from design — making use of natural light and other features to cut down on energy waste; but smarter building materials can make a difference as well. Companies like Serious Materials produce highly efficient windows, insulation and other building features that reduce the amount of heat lost to the outside. Built right, "passive houses" can even be so energy efficient that they require no outside heat at all, bringing energy bills close to zero.