Sustainability discussions all around in preparation for COP21 | U.S. Green Building Council
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Posted in Industry

Paris is hosting the next U.N. Conference of Parties (COP) climate talks in December, and the government, companies, NGOs and universities are all preparing with great enthusiasm. The Mayor of Paris has committed to welcoming some 40,000 guests and helping to assure good outcomes, and everyone has stressed practical outcomes and solutions that all participants can agree upon. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has also been very active in the process.

I was honored to be invited to participate in this preparation as a speaker at the 13th Global Forum on Sustainable Development. Each year, the Forum brings together international experts to address serious issues of the day. Panels include policy and technical officials from France, Brazil, Mexico, China and the US. Passages-ADAPes publications and the French-Americas society focused this year’s Forum on practical climate actions, particularly those being taken by the US and China. I was invited to participate because of my experience in both countries. 

The Embassy very kindly arranged several other meetings for me. I met with the City of Paris Department of Urban Ecology, Science Po University, and had a chance to tour the remarkable Tour Carpe Diem building, which has achieved LEED Platinum. The Embassy also arranged a visit to Strasbourg, which has been designated as the French Cluster focused on buildings. 

  • City of Paris Department of Climate and Urban Ecology. With a Mayor committed to climate change and the upcoming COP talks in December, this office has a great challenge and opportunity. Yann Francoise, head of climate and energy strategies of Paris, and Marie Gantois, project leader for adaptation to climate change, arranged a briefing to describe their goals, activities and challenges. I offered LEED and the new green city indicators that Dr. Vatsal Bhatt and I are working on at USGBC. We discussed the City’s data collection and Yann expressed interest in possible collaboration with us. We will explore other possible areas to work together. 
  • Science Po University – Model COP. The Political Science University is over 125 years old and has about 40% international students among its 10,000 undergrads and graduate student body. A group of environment and development policy students have gotten together to participate in a “Model COP” project. A bit like the Model UN that some of us have participated in in the US, students are assigned countries and topics to work on to see if they can produce a “model” climate agreement. The Embassy is supporting this effort. I joked with the students who gathered with me that if we had a Model COP when I was a kid, we probably wouldn’t be in this climate mess today. Those students would have learned the issues and developed the skills to address the problem. At my session, there were students from France, Germany, China and India. They hadn’t yet been given their assignments, so they discussion was broad and far-reaching. I laid out my experience as a DOE official and the collaboration between the US and China (with some discussion of India). And I discussed public private partnership and my USGBC work with green cities. They were keenly interested in the practical policies and potential application of technology. They were conversant with COP debates on “big country, little country,” investment costs, intellectual property, etc. It will be interesting to see what they produce. Maybe students can offer what politicians cannot.
  • Tour Carpe Diem LEED Platinum Building, La Defense. I had first heard about this project at a Greenbuild Plenary session in Philadelphia from the Atelier Ten team. They worked with Stern Architects, RAMSA, and Hines Properties to design and build a remarkable building. Located in a new high rise town northwest of Paris, the building stands out as a high performer. The building owner, AVIVA, had worked with the surrounding developers to require not only LEED but BBC (Bâtiment Basse Consommation), and HQE (Haute Qualité Environnementale) standard of France, for all the buildings. With the work of Penicaud Green Building, only Carpe Diem has achieved LEED Platinum.  With it’s strikingly beautiful exterior, it has many high efficiency and renewable features. It has solar water heating, Trane ground source heat pumps and ice thermal storage. Its Johnson Controls building energy management system oversees a wide variety of advanced lighting, glazing and heating and cooling systems. You slip effortlessly to your pre-selected floor on your Otis elevator. It has, in addition, some terrific customer amenities (concierge service, massage, make-up, exercise, and a quiet garden). The building contains a rooftop and courtyard garden, all with micro irrigation (that we call drip irrigation) and VIP meeting and dining facilities on the 35th Floor. They deserve a Dynamic Plaque to display their success!
  • Strasbourg. Strasbourg is a historic city on the French border with Germany. It is one of the homes of the European Commission, with a district devoted to the European Institutions. The US has a Consulate in Strasbourg looking after our interests. The Consulate arranged a meeting with Jean-Luc Sadorge, General Director of the Alsace Energy Cluster for Positive Energy Buildings. Mr. Sadarge described, among other things, a fundamental goal of the cluster is to achieve near zero energy in existing buildings. I love the ambition! They are charged with research, practical applications and outreach to achieve this goal.  I would like to assist them and find willing partners to collaborate with them. In addition, a public meeting was arranged at the Engineering-Architecture division of INSA Strasbourg (Institut des Sciences Appliiquees) with students, faculty and professional to discuss the green economy and buildings. I introduced many of them to USGBC and LEED (including LEED AP training and LEED Lab) and had an outstanding response. They are eager for internship opportunities, so anyone who wants bright, motivated students as interns, please feel free to contact Dr. Sarah Sands-Meyer (sarah.sands-meyer@insa-strasbourg.fr) or me. Finally, I had the chance to visit Eco-ilot Augia, a small near zero housing project with a delightful architect, Gwen Verrier, principal in Positivarchi. Her colleague, Bertrand Fritsch, has designed a group of attractive apartment-homes with great energy efficiency and enough renewables to get close to zero. Gwen kindly championed the idea that the project should be LEED rated for its marketing value!     

Special thanks to the US Embassy in Paris, particularly Sara Butler and her colleagues Julian Hadas and Sabrina Azaiez; and to Tiina Bieber at the US Consulate in Strasbourg.

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