Wasteful Americans, myself included, used to take for granted cheap gasoline prices and a seemingly never-ending supply of water. Not anymore. Recent news events focusing on our natural resources serve as a badly needed wake-up call.

The price of crude oil reached $90 per barrel in late October and is threatening to encroach on the $100 psychological barrier — the point at which a global recession could ensue, say some economic experts. Okay, that doomsday view is a bit over the top. But given the vast array of petroleum-based products on the market, any hike in crude oil prices has a trickle-down effect that ultimately could be a drag on the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, the severe drought in the Southeast is in the national media spotlight and causing a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth locally. Atlanta's total rainfall year-to-date through Oct. 25 measured 26 inches, or about 16 inches below normal. Lake Lanier, the main water source for nearly five million people in metro Atlanta, is in danger of running out of water in less than four months, say local officials, though some experts contend that the situation isn't that dire.

For her part, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is pleading with residents to conserve water. There is even talk of rationing. The outdoor watering bans in place throughout the metro area are pitting neighbors against each other as water scofflaws are ratted out — sometimes in the middle of the night.

What does all this talk of natural resources have to do with real estate, you ask? Well, commercial buildings account for 17% of all energy consumption nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Creating buildings that use less energy reduces the impact of fossil fuels and saves money. Similarly, water conservation reduces the demand on a building's water supply infrastructure and results in cost savings.

To better gauge how building owners, managers and corporate space users are adapting to the green movement, NREI Managing Editor Sibley Fleming oversaw an extensive green building survey this fall. The results published in this issue turned up some surprises from 384 survey participants.

“In short, respondents said that green building has really moved away from being a liability to being an asset. That's a sea change for an industry that equated green building with liberal environmentalism not all that long ago,” says Sibley, who has lived and breathed this project for months. She was also surprised to learn that both corporate users and developers plan to double their green building portfolios over the next five years. “Smart property management is building momentum at a really rapid clip,” adds Sibley.

The bottom line is that green building is here to stay and not just a passing fad. That's clear. As for me, it's time at long last to start recycling my trash.