From Norway to the world | U.S. Green Building Council
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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.