Canadian Consulting Engineer

“Green tsunami” hits construction industry says congress

The World Green Building Council held its seventh congress in Toronto, between July 8-10. On the morning of July 9,...

July 16, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The World Green Building Council held its seventh congress in Toronto, between July 8-10. On the morning of July 9, hundreds of delegates from 30 countries filled just one room at the Toronto Westin Hotel on the city’s waterfront to hear the opening sessions. But their sights are clearly set on changing the world.<br>
The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) was launched in 2002 as a union of different national green building councils. Their mission is “to accelerate the transformation of the global property industry towards sustainability.” The world council currently has representation in countries as diverse as Australia, the United Arab emirates, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom besides Canada and the U.S. It is non-profit, “business oriented,” and partners with various other international green programs, including the UN Environment Program, and the Clinton Climate Initiative.<br>
One reason the conference was held in Toronto was the decision to move the council’s secretariat from Australia, where it’s been located for several years. Apparently Montreal had been vying to be the host city, but the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority north of the city was selected as the council’s new home.<br>
Kevin Hydes, P.Eng., a partner in Stantec and the recently appointed chair of the World Green Building Council, said the council has set a “100/100/100” goal. First, they must education the 100 million people involved in the construction industry globally to start thinking differently. Second, 100 green building councils must be established around the world. Third, 100 million dollars will be the amount these programs will take. He reminded the delegates that at heart their goal is to “protect the earth, the air, the water, the land.” <br>
But the big story at the conference was just how much the industry has already changed in the past few years, along with the astonishing rise of environmentalism in the global consciousness. The environment is on everybody’s mind, affecting citizens, corporations and governments globally, said Hydes. Other speakers that morning observed the dramatic effect the new environmental consciousness is having on construction. They talked about the “green tsunami,” about “green as business as usual,” and said “we’re at the tipping point in terms of changing building practices.”<br>
Sandy Wiggins, chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, spoke in almost messianic terms: “Believe!” he began his talk, and spoke about the spontaneous “bubbling up” of factors that were causing the construction industry to begin acting more consciously to protect the planet.<br>
The most startling evidence he gave was the growth in the number of LEED projects that are being registered for certification. The U.S. Green building council launched the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in 2000, he reminded the audience. The rating tool provided a common language about what it meant for a building to be environmentally responsible and accountable, Wiggins said. For the first six to seven years, he said, “not a whole lot was happening.” But the pace has accelerated at an incredible rate. From only 38 LEED certified projects in 2002, there are now — at least a month ago — 13,364 LEED-certified projects, representing more than 1 billion square feet of building of every type. Every month more than a thousand projects apply to the program. There are now 30,000 LEED-accredited professionals, spread across 70 chapters across the United States.<br>
As an example of the epitome of the new environmentally responsive buildings, Wiggins cited the 55-storey Bank of America under construction near Times Square, a tower which “breathes in air” and “cleans its own water.” For the most dramatic impact to show the shift to a green consciousness south of the border though, Wiggins had a slide of an Economist magazine cover entitled, “The Greening of America.” The image was a doctored version of the Statue of Liberty, holding out a compact fluorescent light bulb in place of a torch.<br>
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