- Bill Starkey
The World Green Building Council: Driving a Sustainable Construction Industry
Established in 1993 by David Gottfried, Rick Fedrizzi, and Mike Italiano, the US Green Building Council promotes sustainable practices in the construction and building industry. Around the world, advocates for sustainable building came to recognize the US Green Building Council’s game-changing impact, realizing that they too needed a similar movement in their own respective countries. Here’s what you need to know:
Establishment and Expansion
This first Green Building Council eventually grew to become a global movement, uniting the trade up and down the value chain to promote and advance sustainable building. Recognizing rapidly growing global interest in green building, US Green Building Council CEO David Gottfried oversaw formation of the United Nations of Green Building Councils, launching the organization that went on to become the World Green Building Council.
The World Green Building Council seeks to support development of Green Building Councils around the world and bring them together with a common purpose and voice. The organization’s founding meeting was held in California in 1999. The World Green Building Council was officially established in 2002, bringing together Green Building Councils from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, India, Australia, and Spain.
The World Green Building Council formally established a Secretariat in Toronto, Canada in 2007. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority agreed to deliver key support, and the Province of Ontario pledged $1 million in start-up funding annually for each of the first three years of its operation.
Over time, the World Green Building Council has evolved significantly in terms of its focus and structure. It launched five Regional Networks and three membership levels—Prospective, Emerging, and Established—to facilitate growing global interest and membership. The organization formed a Corporate Advisory Board in 2010. By 2012, the total number of Green Building Councils worldwide had grown from 9 to 71 members.
To qualify as a “green building,” a structure must reduce or eliminate adverse impacts on the natural environment and climate as a result of its design, construction, or operation. Some green buildings even have a beneficial environmental impact. Essentially, green buildings preserve natural resources, while concurrently advancing quality of life for those who use them.
Buildings must meet numerous criteria to be deemed “green,” including:
- Running on solar power or other renewable energy.
- Using resources like energy and water economically.
- Providing excellent interior air quality.
- Reducing waste and pollution—and enabling reuse and recycling.
- Incorporating non-toxic, sustainable, and ethically sourced materials.
- Demonstrating consideration of the environment in the structure’s design, construction, and operation.
- Demonstrating consideration of the occupants’ quality of life in the building’s design, construction, and operation.
- Designing a building that is capable of adjusting to a changing environment.
Any type of structure can be a green building, be it an office, home, hospital, community center, school, or other type of development, provided that it meets the criteria.
Green buildings vary considerably from one region to the next, with different regions prioritizing different factors according to distinctive climate conditions; building ages and types; local cultures and traditions; and economic, social, and environmental priorities. It is therefore important that national Green Building Councils pursue green building goals that are tailored to their own unique markets.
Advantages of Sustainable Building
Sustainable building confers a variety of advantages for home and business owners, local communities, and the environment. Green building is an effective means of achieving global goals, including addressing climate change, driving economic growth, and creating thriving, sustainable communities. Sustainable construction reduces, and can even eliminate, a building’s harmful impact on the environment, decreasing demands on energy, water, and other natural resources. Many green buildings have an advantageous environmental impact by increasing biodiversity or generating their own energy.
In Australia, buildings that have achieved Green Star certification produce 62 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional Australian buildings, on average. In India, developments certified by the Indian Green Building Council achieve water savings of 20 to 30 percent and energy savings of 40 to 50 percent compared with conventional buildings.
From an economic perspective, green buildings also confer tangible benefits over traditional constructions, reducing utility bills for households and businesses, as well as reducing construction costs, and driving up property value. Experts suggest that energy efficiency measures could help us achieve a global energy saving of more than $450 billion. This is almost twice the cost of the electricity consumed by America annually.
Green building also has significant social advantages, promoting the health and wellbeing of people who work in green business premises, or inhabit green homes. One Harvard study suggests that employees who work in well-ventilated offices benefit from a 101 percent increase in cognitive scores.
Global Problem, Global Solution
Recognizing that buildings are a major driver of climate change, the World Green Building Council promotes sustainable building as a cost-effective solution. It reaps considerable social, economic, and environmental rewards in countries all over the world.
Through its global partnerships and projects, Regional Networks, and high-profile events and campaigns, the World Green Building Council seeks to increase awareness of the advantages of green building, make the construction industry more sustainable, and expand the influence of the global green building movement.