It's the Environment, Stupid.

Monday, February 27, 2006

International efforts towards green building

The AFP reports that UNEP is teaming up with construction companies to get the international community thinking about building green (as posted on WBCSD). The new Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative’s (SBCI) aim is to create “baselines for sustainable building and construction practices” with the hope that local governments will then create their own policies to fit regional conditions. The SBCI will first focus on energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions. (Here’s a link to the UNEP press release.)

I think the SBCI can be important in getting green building implemented on a wider, global scale, and can also help the green building materials sector by increasing demand and prompting further innovations in this area. I also think they’ll have success on getting construction companies, financiers and others in the building industry on board. However, I’m a bit skeptical on how the SBCI plans to involve governments – especially in this mission of creating local building policy/standards (not to mention addressing land-use and development issues). Part of the problem within sustainable development policy making in general is a lack of administrative capacity and government willingness to do so – I don’t know that green building will be seen as a very high priority for many governments.

Perhaps with the partnerships SBCI is developing between financiers and building industry leaders they can create incentives or governmental agency partnerships. If SBCI’s new think tank can provide further evidence that certain green building criteria (such as requiring the use of local materials and local labor) can boost local economies, governments might be more open to the notion of building green. The initial push for energy efficiency could also be played as a cost benefit – energy efficient buildings save money. The SBCI also needs to develop an existing building standard for making current buildings more energy efficient (as is alluded to in their informational note - see link below).

I’d like to see this initiative succeed. Who knows - if the SBCI is able to get governments on board with green building, and they begin realizing positive spillovers in job and industry growth, perhaps other sustainable development measures can come next.

Here's a link to the 12 pg 'informational note' put out by UNEP on the SBCI.

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