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Building a Green Path Toward Sustainable Cities

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By Sunny Lewis

HONG KONG, China, November 6, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Green building is one of the best ways to combat climate change, since globally, “Buildings account for about a third of CO2 emissions, and these will continue to rise under a business-as-usual scenario,” Bruce Kerswill told delegates to the World Green Building Congress 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East late last month.

In his role as chair of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), Kerswill said the Council is “galvanising the green building movement through a commitment to reduce 84 gigatonnes of C02 from the buildings sector by 2050.”

He explained that this effort is needed to limit global temperature rise to within 2°C above pre-industrial levels. World leaders agreed on this target as a matter of urgency at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

At this year’s UN climate talks in Paris in December, where a universal, legally-binding deal to set emissions limits will be signed, the WorldGBC will hold the first-ever Buildings Day.

There, the WorldGBC will unveil the detailed commitments of Green Building Councils around the world to build green as a means of controlling global warming while creating social and economic benefits.

The Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC), and other green building councils around the world are determining their own targets ahead of the Paris talks, formally known as the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21.

At this year’s climate negotiations, there is a special focus on cities, writes Mark Ginsberg for the U.S. Green Building Council. “Many of us have long realized that cities are a logical place to address global issues. More people are living in cities than ever before in history, and urbanization is relentlessly growing. Cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and create more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. Cities have also been leaders in innovation and problem solving.”

In Hong Kong, to an audience of green building leaders from 30 countries attending the Congress, the HKGBC proudly announced a milestone. Over the past five years, more than 200 million square feet (19 million square metres) of Gross Floor Area has been registered under the environmental accreditation system BEAM Plus New Buildings and Existing Buildings.

BEAM, the Building Environmental Assessment Method, is the Hong Kong rating tool for green buildings. This voluntary private sector initiative conceived in 1996, has developed into an internationally recognized suite of rating tools for green buildings including new buildings, existing buildings and interiors for shops, offices, retail.

BEAM Plus includes the six aspects of a project: site aspects, energy use, indoor environmental quality, materials aspects, water use, and innovations and additions.

Cheung Hau-wai, vice chairman of the HKGBC and a member of the Construction Industry Council, commented, “This is a significant achievement accomplished by the collaboration between private and public sectors in Hong Kong.”

“With the growing awareness of the public about energy efficiency and the benefits that the BEAM Plus system can bring to the users, we expect to see continued support from the private sector and other stakeholders to build more green buildings that meet the BEAM Plus standards said Cheung. “It will enable us to make further contribution in energy saving and CO2 emission reduction.”

Looking ahead, HKGBC has set its Green Building Targets for the next five years to:

  • Certify at least 150 million square feet (14 million square meters) of gross floor area under BEAM Plus
  • Accredit at least 350 new BEAM practitioners a year, and work with BEAM Society Limited to provide at least 12,000 man hours of training per year to existing BEAM practitioners
  • Support the creation of a building energy consumption database through BEAM Plus and other systems

“Asia has enormous potential to contribute to green buildings development as countries like China and India are undergoing rapid urbanization,” said Terri Wills, chief executive of WorldGBC.

China is adding nearly two billion square meters of floor space each year while in India, two-thirds of the buildings which will exist in 2030 haven’t yet been built,” she said. “In both countries, and in the region, we have the opportunity to build better and greener buildings.”

The head of the Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI) told the Hong Kong Congress delegates that 140 registered buildings are about to receive a green building certification.

GBCI Chair Naning Adiwoso said that until July 2015, only 14 Indonesian buildings had been certified as green. The demanding certification process usually takes six to 12 months, depending on the building’s design.

Naning advised building management and property developers to pay attention to environmental issues as buildings account for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

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There are currently eight new green buildings in Indonesia and five developing buildings that have already received a green certification from GBCI. And, 15 more buildings have claimed to be eco-friendly.

One building that has earned the green label is the main building of Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing. This building can save 43 percent of its former electricity usage, and also can save 61 percent of water in the dry season and 81 percent of water in the rainy season.

Kerswill said green building practices are here to stay. “WorldGBC, national Green Building Councils and member companies are deeply committed to mobilizing a global market transformation to advance the fundamental goals of achieving net zero carbon new building and deep refurbishment of existing stock by 2050.”


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: New buildings are often greener buildings in Hong Kong. (Photo by Philip McMaster courtesy McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development in Commerce under creative commons license via Flickr)
Main image: The Natural Resources Defense Council office building at 111 Sutter St. San Francisco, California. LEED Gold Certified, Energy Star Certified, this building is green because it has 14 green activities that achieved outcomes of energy efficient design, water use reduction, sustainable site selection and development and five more. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council)
Image 01: The new Indonesian Ministry of Public Works office building in Jakarta incorporates a gubernatorial regulation on green building. It received a 2014 LaFarge Holcim Award for Sustainable Buildings at the International Awards for Sustainable Construction. (Photo courtesy LaFarge Holcim Foundation)
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One thought on “Building a Green Path Toward Sustainable Cities”

  1. Jack says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t see green building becoming mainstream until we can educate building firms better. They need to see the potential cost savings that can exist due to reduced heating costs for example. It’s sad, but most firms are short sighted!

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