World Green Building Week is a reminder to put on our green thinking caps
Climate change, today, is not a standalone topic of debate and discussion, but the backdrop against which the operations of all industries are examined and measured. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates that around half the world’s population lives in regions and environments that are highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Global warming, the most worrying aspect of climate change, is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from industrial activities, and the built environment is responsible for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions. At the same time, it accounts for 10% of employment and 50% of all the wealth created in the world. In a call for urgent action to scale up solutions that help in creating net–zero, healthy, equitable, and resilient built environments across the world, the World Green Building Week this year focuses on the theme of #BuildingForEveryone.
The hallmark of a truly sustainable built environment is that it should support strong circular economies that create jobs, reduce energy costs, and protect nature. Furthermore, it should be designed to ensure social equity for everyone who is touched or impacted by it. This includes communities in and around the project site; daily wage workers; producers of construction materials and products; and others. Green buildings can help in meeting as many as 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations. The World Green Building Council’s global network of green building councils and their respective members are leading the industry towards net zero carbon, healthy, equitable, and resilient built environments across the world.
What sustainable structures mean today
The concept of sustainable structures has, over the years, evolved to not only connect the dots between design, construction, and operations, but also to create a healthier living and working environment by tracking a building’s performance in areas like energy, water, and waste management; transportation; indoor air quality; toxin-free environment; and occupant satisfaction. It also promotes socially responsible practices with its Social Equity Pilot Credits. Moreover, “greening” is not just for upcoming projects or modern-era constructions; it is equally relevant for the maintenance and restoration of old buildings and heritage structures. There are greening methods available today that ensure the sustainability of a structure while largely retaining its original components and appearance. It is more environmentally friendly to retrofit old buildings than to tear them down them and build new ones. Unsurprisingly, many heritage buildings around the world have adopted sustainability measures. These include the likes of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York City.
The world leaders in green building certification
Over the past decade or so, an increasing number of buildings have come up around the world that has scored high on green rating systems such as LEED; BREEAM; DGNB; Green Star; WELL; Swiss National Sustainable Construction, and others. These buildings include residential-cum-retail high-rises, shopping malls, commercial buildings, education centers, healthcare facilities, convention centers, and more. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is probably the most widely used green building rating system in the world today. In terms of absolute numbers of LEED-certified buildings, the US leads the world, with China and Canada in second and third places. India comes fourth, followed by the UAE in fifth place. If the metric were to be the number of green buildings in relation to population size, the Cayman Islands would emerge as the surprise leader with 202 green buildings per 100,000 people. It is followed by Guam, the US, Qatar, and Canada, where this ratio is significantly smaller. There is a growing number of not just green buildings but also “green professionals” who are responsible for smart design, construction, and operations practices and decisions They are the engine of the green building movement, driving innovation and better performance across the built environment. World Green Building Week celebrates the contribution of these individuals to creating healthy and sustainable communities.
The time to work towards a green future is now
According to a report by Acumen Research and Consulting, the global green construction market size is expected to reach a value of more than USD 774 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of more than 11.8% over the next eight years. The International Energy Agency estimates that the current global building stock of 223 billion square meters will almost double by 2050, while the World Green Building Council has stated that the building sector must operate at “net zero carbon” by that time if global warming is to be kept below two degrees Celsius. There’s still a long way to go. According to a recent report by the World Green Building Council, there are presently only 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes around the world – which is less than even 1 percent of all buildings worldwide.1 There is a clear and urgent need for the coordinated efforts of businesses, governments, and non-governmental to green the building sector in their respective countries. And that’s precisely what World Green Building Week reminds us about – to act now for a greener, healthier future.
External sources of information