How is the ‘Green Building’ Movement Really Gaining Momentum? | WorldGBC | Jane Henley

Jane Henley - Chief Executive Officer, World Green Building Council - lowres

As the current global environmental issue is urging tangible actions to combat the impending detrimental impacts, ‘green building’ movement appears to be serving as an implementable solution for various stakeholders in different regions. However, each country is not progressing at a homogenous pace and developmental stage, posing a considerable question, ‘how is green building actually gaining its momentum, globally – if at all?’

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has created a platform to enable sustainability leaders to push for the highest common denominator. The organization supports the existing green rating tools of which aim is to stimulate market demand for buildings with improved environmental performance, and they have also established a common language for green building and promoted an integrated, holistic approach to building design. Find out more about how the green building movement actually shapes up in the global setting, including the Asia region in particular, as Jane Henley, the Chief Executive Officer of the WorldGBC shares her elaborate insight in the exclusive interview with AsiaGreenBuildings below.

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Some of the developed Western nations seem to be ahead of others, including Asia region when it comes to a green built environment. What is WorldGBC doing to bridge these gaps?

The WorldGBC now has 98 member green building councils around the world, and while the global green building movement gathers momentum, it’s true that each region and the countries within each region are progressing at a different pace.  These regions are far from homogenous when it comes to green building – with varying levels of development and priorities.

The WorldGBC has created a platform to enable sustainability leaders to push for the highest common denominator.  One of our greatest strengths is our ability to share knowledge and best practice around the world.  We do this through a variety of channels – from conferences and committees to reports and award programs.  Recently we released A New Era in Building Partnerships, a report which aims to inspire our global community to make partnership their new mantra. This report contains a series of case studies on collaborative green building policy-making from around the world, focusing on their success factors and highlighting lessons learned during the process. The information contained within this report will help emerging GBCs to establish partnerships that can help drive the transformation they need in their markets.

While numerous studies have shown that green building construction costs are gradually coming down, how is this possible to actually happen in Asia while the perception gap is still obviously existent?

In March, the WorldGBC released The Business Case for Green Building: A Review of the Costs and Benefits for Developers, Investors and Occupants, which found a significant gap between perceptions of cost premiums and reality.  Industry professionals operate under the assumption that building green increases design and construction cost by 10 to 20 per cent – with some estimates as high as 29 per cent.  In actual fact, our research reveals that the actual green building premium is in the range of minus 0.4 to 12.5 per cent – in other words, some green buildings are cheaper to build than non-green buildings, and even those with a premium cost far less than the perception.

The business case also found a link between green buildings and increased asset values in some markets.  However, we know that the costs of building and opportunity for improved asset value differs greatly from market to market – from countries that have high base level building code requirements to those with less room to improve.

What can be applied across markets and countries is the ability of green building to improve the efficiencies within our building system.  The integrated thinking required to deliver a green building has demonstrated that we can do more with less if we change the way we work.  Our business case report finds that integrated design processes can make a real difference to the cost of a building – whether that’s green or not.  International examples such as successful public-private partnerships reveal that any building – regardless of its green rating – can be delivered at a lower cost when all stakeholders are engaged and a clear vision is articulated from the outset.  It is, however, green building projects that have been quickest to embrace this integrated thinking.

What kind of impact can the general public and households make towards a greener built environment and how is WorldGBC catering to this segment?

Each year in September, the WorldGBC brings together our GBC network, as well as people in 25,000 global organizations, for World Green Building Week.  This year, we aimed to highlight how green buildings are good for the planet and good for people too.  We hosted more than 220 events which showcased green building initiatives around the world, and aim to inspire people at the grass-roots level to get involved.  This may mean being more conscious of how you consume resources in your own home and educating your family on simple ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  It may mean working with your organisation on a sustainability policy or moving into a green-rated office.  It might mean brining your local community together to plant a kitchen garden or it may mean talking with teachers to ensure sustainability education programs are taught at your local school.  We are constantly inspired by the people working together on small projects that make a big difference.

Creative campaigns are already helping to raise awareness of energy efficiency and green building across the Asia Pacific region. Vietnam held a song writing campaign in 2012 to spread the word on the efficient use of resources. A TV program in the Philippines showcases the construction of eco-friendly homes, with tips provided by experts.  The Hong Kong Green Building Council has recently launched the “Hong Kong Green School Guide” to provide practical guidelines for principals and school administrators to better understand how to improve building energy efficiency and engage students.  The Singapore GBC has led ‘Project Green Insights’ which involved installing energy meters in schools and educating students on how to read the monitors and modify their behaviour.  The enthusiasm of the students has led the Singaporean Government to invest more in green building.

In a recent WorldGBC Asia Pacific Network (APN) mid-year forum, attendants were collectively in favor of using home-grown green building ratings system. How can the challenge of greater popularity and acceptance of international rating systems such as LEED be overcome?

The WorldGBC supports the use of green building rating tools, as they are one of the most effective methods for driving market transformation.

While the primary objective of building rating systems has been to stimulate market demand for buildings with improved environmental performance, they have also established a common language for green building and promoted an integrated, holistic approach to building design.  By recognizing and rewarding environmental leadership in the building industry, rating tools have raised consumer awareness of green building benefits and stimulated green competition.

The WorldGBC does not ‘pick winners’ when it comes to rating tools.  Some GBCs have chosen to adopt existing rating systems and adapt them to their unique geographic and climatic conditions.  Other GBCs have chosen to create their own rating systems.  Our member GBCs work with the WorldGBC, under the aegis of the Rating Tools Task Force, on a range of projects.  The latest has been the development of a framework to enable complex socio-economic issues to be integrated into any green building rating system in the world.  The framework will be launched in South Africa on 16 October.

How does WorldGBC attempt to improve the built environment in the rural areas apart from the information dissemination efforts? Do you embrace traditional residential architecture of which construction uses eco-friendly materials?

There are many, many green building projects in rural settings.  GBCs have developed (or are in the process of developing) rating systems that suit their unique climates and social settings, promote traditional architectural designs and techniques, reward projects that incorporate traditional building methods and use local labour.  This is happening around the world – whether it’s a low-cost housing project in Cape Town that uses traditional passive design alongside green technology or a school in Budapest that uses materials within a 100 kilometre radius.  We have hundreds of case studies which prove that green buildings are not confined to the cities.

With regards to the performance of old and historical buildings, how do you think retrofits in this segment stand the chance despite the authenticity preservation commonly pursued by the local government?

The current evidence finds that energy savings for green building retrofits are not as high as those for new builds, but are nevertheless substantial. For example, a study of buildings in Singapore reveals that the resulting energy savings of a sample of buildings is 17 per cent post-retrofit, compared with 25 to 50 per cent for new builds.  As energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and the business case for deep energy retrofits – whether they are heritage buildings or not – will strengthen.

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About the World Green Building Council :

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) is a network of national green building councils in more than ninety countries, making it the world’s largest international organisation influencing the green building marketplace. The WorldGBC’s mission is to strengthen green building councils in member countries by championing their leadership and connecting them to a network of knowledge, inspiration and practical support. The organization fosters and supports new and emerging Green Building Councils by providing them with the tools and strategies to establish strong organizations and leadership positions in their countries.

Website: www.worldgbc.org

This exclusive interview was carried out as part of the media partnership pursued with the International Green Building Conference.

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