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From Norway to the world

Published on Written by Posted in Industry
Jane Henley presents at the IFC conference in Washington, DC

I always enjoy my visit to the States. As the CEO of the World Green Building Council, I continue to be amazed at the passion and enthusiasm in the U.S. for greening the built environment.  This energy was very much present during my travels to Washington, D.C. this week.

My personal passion for this movement was seeded years ago when I lived in Norway. For Norwegians, sustainability is a way of life. The word mattered less because it was a part of their genetic code. How they operated. The norm, if you will.

I was in awe.

Today, as countries across the globe race to improve the sustainability of their buildings and infrastructure, it’s important to be mindful that green buildings are more than just “the right thing to do.” They are about market transformation.

The global green building market is being driven—rapidly—by the business case. Sixty-one percent of firms globally will be doing 60 percent or more green projects by 2015, more than doubled from today’s 28 percent. New commercial construction is driving future green growth with 63 percent planning green projects by 2015.

In a report we issued earlier this year that examined the cost and benefits of green buildings, we found that green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to conventional buildings, and investments can be recouped through operational cost savings. With the right design features, they can even create a more productive workplace.

To advance this case and rapidly accelerate the construction of green buildings in emerging markets, we announced this week a new partnership between the WorldGBC and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.

This partnership will expand the availability of financial incentives and decision-making tools for green developers in developing nations. The IFC has recognized the central role that buildings play in mitigating climate change, creating jobs and improving the living conditions of millions of people. This landmark partnership will ensure that existing global green building networks will more effectively deliver efficient, greener buildings including in projects that are being planned today.

Just last year, the IFC invested $15.5 billion in projects -- $6 billion of which went to the world’s poorest nations. The IFC is increasingly looking to fund green building projects, and is using voluntary building rating systems to identify sustainable, low cost opportunities.

My organization, through our global network of 96 green building councils, will act as a delivery partner for IFC’s EDGE Green Buildings Certification System. Through the partnership, the IFC will provide funding both for existing comprehensive green building design approaches and for the new, very cost-effective, entry level EDGE tool to enhance the financial viability of green building projects. 

We know much more work needs to be done. More than half of the WorldGBC’s member countries are developing nations. Many of these markets operate with a “least first cost” development model with very limited government policy to drive the uptake of sustainable building practices. This new WorldGBC and IFC partnership will proactively stimulate these markets to build more sustainability.

The IFC program is aimed at the large section of the market that is not now pursuing better design practices that with this partnership will now be able to make cost-effective design decisions to deliver measurably greener, better buildings. 

The business case for green buildings continues to drive change throughout the world. The WorldGBC and IFC are organizations dedicated to transforming the marketplace so that all buildings are more sustainable and efficient. Together, as leaders in this movement, we have an opportunity to directly affect sustainability on a global scale.

We are confident that, once developers realize that green design and construction is not expensive or complicated, green practice, much as it was—and continues to –be in Norway, will become the new norm. This partnership is an important step on the road to sustainability and our continued goal of market transformation. 

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    Jane Henley made 2 contributions in the last 6 months

Jane Henley

CEO World Green Building Council

3 commentsLeave a comment

I'm a Physicist who worked for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center for many years and during that time I always approached my engineering, design and research and purchases with the principle of sustainability in mind, even though I did not use the word. I would love to speak to someone from the IFC to see if you can support our small company (founded 15 years ago and has projects in development in Haiti, Thailand, Colombia and USA) to build a sustainable community in the Central Florida area where so many Americans and world travelers congregate for vacations. We have the experience, knowledge, the products and the trained workforce to accomplish this. We are also open minded enough to learn from others experience and improve our approach where needed. Use us as a benchmark to move the building industry in the USA. I have been the recipient of many a cold shoulder and blank stares when pitching our affordable High Performance Continuous Insulated Building System. I’m looking forward to developing this idea. Carlos

Our company FortiSteel Technologies, is designing and will build a School in Haiti consisting of all Green LEED ZERO Energy buildings. We will be seeking donations on the non profit organization website and via presentations to focus groups. Reading this article gave me an idea, since there are so many schools needed in Haiti why not get support from the IFC and the GBC. Carlos Project Manager [email protected]

Although the green building movement in the US is growing from strength to strength, a more recent challenge we have is that the words "green" and "sustainability" have been hijacked by some extreme political groups claiming that such terms are associated with UN plots to take over the United States or remove property rights from its citizens. Bizarre and ridiculous as this is, the political reality of this nonsense remains a major inhibitor to forward progress in policy-making and re-shaping zoning and planning regulations in the US.

Also, the level of innovation and adoption of newer - and proven - materials and technologies in construction is far slower than it should be in the US. Most, but certainly not all, builders are content doing what they've been able to do - and get away with - for decades so tend to view innovations and new ways of building with great skepticism. While everything, it seems, is driven by the lowest capital costs so that mortgages and loans can be affordable and approved by bankers, its not at all clear that the dimensions of human well-being are being addressed properly and consistently - as they seem to be in Scandinavia for example.

It strikes me that if design means more than dressing up bad spatial layouts and poorly performing building envelopes, it should be addressing well-being in all of its dimensions as a matter or urgency. When buildings are designed and built deliberately to create the conditions that enable or encourage healthier, more active living, less costly ways of staying cool or warm, a better sense of belonging and connection to neighborhoods and the life taking place in them, and feeling happier and "at home", then its highly likely that those buildings will be greener and a lot more sustainable than the ones designed only to meet a short term financial goal.

While LEED and other systems such as BREEAM and the Living Building Challenge offer great frameworks within which better design can occur, there is still a great deal of research that needs to be done to connect the drivers of well-being to design and its outcomes. The architectural profession has for too long avoided engaging in proper scientific inquiry about the human impacts of their designs. There remains a great need for pre and post occupancy research to determine what worked, what didn't and why. Without this body of evidence, design will entail a good deal of guesswork - possibly costly guesswork - as to which "new" approach will in fact solve the human and cultural problems at hand.

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