By Sunny Lewis
BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “When you ask me, ‘what is a green building?’ I don’t have a very good answer,” confesses Josefina Lindblom, European Commission Policy Adviser on resource efficiency in the building sector.
Speaking in the second episode of the “Construction Climate Talks” series released on YouTube March 15, Lindblom says, “The building sector is one of the biggest resource users in our society. It uses about 50 percent of our extracted materials and more than 50 percent of our energy. A third of our water use goes to buildings, and more than a third of our waste is construction and demolition waste.”
“A wider approach to the use of buildings is necessary,” says Lindblom. Not only extraction and production of materials, to construction and use of the building, she says, “but also the end of life phase and what happens then.”
The web video series is a project of the Construction Climate Challenge Initiative, hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment.
“We want to promote sustainability throughout the entire construction industry,“ says Niklas Nillroth, vice president, environment and sustainability at Volvo CE. “We are hopeful that our film series will work as a contributing factor in the matter of making people aware and to enhance cross-sector collaboration throughout the construction industry value chain.”
In November 2015, Construction Climate Talks premiered with the first episode, three minutes featuring Professor Johan Rockström. Executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University.
“If we continue with business as usual,” says Rockström on camera, “even a conservative assessment concludes that we are on an average pathway towards a four degree Celsius warming by the end of this century. We would have sea levels irreversibly moving beyond one meter of height, we would have new kinds of pandemics, heat waves, disruptions such as droughts and floods. Unless we have a good, stable planet, everything else would be unachievable anyway.”
But some still have “an obsolete, erroneous logic” that sustainability could threaten the economy,” he said. “Nothing could be more wrong.”
Even though many people still resist change, Rockström is optimistic that “the grand majority” sees that “sustainability is a vehicle for success, not an impediment to success.”
“We should move with the coalitions of the willing,” says Rockström, “and show by doing that this is actually something that benefits business, gets better profit, gets better reputation and is even more attractive.”
While energy use is only part of the green building equation, it’s an important part.
Across the European Union, energy efficiency regulation for greener commercial buildings is fast approaching, in line with the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement reached by 195 governments at the annual United Nations climate conference in December.
“A decree in France is expected in June for commercial buildings. They will be required to reduce their energy use by 25 percent by 2020. No question that most of European countries will follow in the coming years,” wrote Siham Ghalem-Tani, executive assistant and partnership relations officer with the French Institute for Building Efficiency (IFPEB) on March 14. This business-led coalition is intended to implement “an ambitious and efficient energy and environmental transition” in the European real estate and building sectors.
The European energy competition CUBE 2020, now in its third year, is serving as a catalyst for tenants of commercial buildings to meet the EU’s energy reduction objectives. This year, the 123 candidates, located in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, are on track for an expected outcome of 10 percent energy savings from July 2015 to July 2016.
Julien Cottin, manager of the Energy and Environmental Studies Centre of the Bordeaux metropolitan area, said, “Prior to our registration of four buildings in the CUBE 2020 competition, we had prioritized major works on our buildings, such as thermal renovation operations or improving energy efficiency. Our participation afforded us an opportunity to look at the uses of buildings and to adopt a new mindset.”
Cottin said, “The ‘competition’ aspect to CUBE 2020 provides a real dynamic for working on the behavior of the users of a building. The results are conclusive and motivating!”
Green building standards are becoming increasingly important to investors.
Last week, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey, the first global effort to assess the environmental and social performance of the global property sector, announced the launch of a Health and Well-being Module.
This optional supplement to the GRESB annual survey for institutional investors evaluates and benchmarks actions by property companies and funds to promote the health and well-being of employees, tenants and customers. It features 10 new indicators, including: leadership, needs assessment, implementation and performance monitoring.
“The design, construction and operation of our built environment has a profound impact on individuals and populations,” said Chris Pyke, chief operating officer with GRESB, which has offices in Washington, Amsterdam and Singapore.
The GRESB Health and Well-being Module is now available in pre-release on the GRESB website and will be open for submission starting April 1.
“The GRESB Health and Well-being Module will make real estate companies and funds more transparent and make comparative information more accessible and actionable for investors. This represents an important step toward resolving long-standing market failures and making health an investible attribute of real estate,” says Dr. Matt Trowbridge, associate professor, associate research director, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine.
In the United States, green buildings abound, encouraged by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, co-founded by current CEO Rick Fedrizzi and partners in 1993. Fedrizzi also sits on the GRESB Board.
The U.S. Green Building Council pioneered the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program, now used worldwide.
LEED offers four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These correspond to the number of credits achieved in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.
In addition to its many other activities, the U.S. Green Building Council is a contributing partner to the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.
Released in February, the SmartMarket Report, covers nearly 70 countries. It shows that global green building continues to double every three years.
New commercial construction was the top sector for expected green building projects in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, China and India.
The United States shared the lowest expected levels of green commercial building with Australia.
Still, 46 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they expected to embark on new institutional green projects in the next three years.
Across all regions, many survey respondents forecast that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.
“International demand for green building, due in great part to the LEED green building program’s global popularity, has grown steadily over the years,” said Fedrizzi.
“Countries are looking for tools that support stable and sustainable economic growth. International business leaders and policymakers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges,” he said.
The SmartMarket report shows that increasing consumer demand has pushed the world’s green building market to a trillion-dollar industry, a surge that has led to a parallel increase in the scope and size of the green building materials market, now expected to reach $234 billion by 2019.
It appears that the European Commission’s Lindblom is going to get the “wider approach” to green building she has been seeking.
Featured image: BMW Head Office, Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Designed by Hans Hallen, the building has recently been refurbished and modernized, implementing green principles. Thermal comfort and energy efficiency were addressed with lighting, ventilation, hot water supply and back-up solutions which required the construction of a satellite Energy Centre. The building achieved a 5-star As Built Green Star South Africa rating, December 2015. (Photo by Colt Group) Creative Commons license via Flickr.