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Report on the 2007 WorldGBC International Congress in Toronto

By: Sonja Persram, BSc. MBA, LEED AP - Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Source: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting, Inc.

Bravo the 2007 WorldGBC International Congress held July 8-11 in Toronto, which was noted by WorldGBC Chair Kevin Hydes as "an unbelievable execution of a world class event with less than two months to prepare."

Summaries of two of many important presentations follow (see the August issue of IGB for more).

Kevin Hydes
WorldGBC Chair Kevin Hydes has an ambitious vision for the organization, to:

  • Build 100-member Green Building Councils … in 3 years
  • 100 million jobs (at $4.6 trillion US, the construction industry contributed 10 percent of global GDP)
  • $100 million raised to support this global initiative

And the 100 delegates demonstrated impressive, inspiring, international collaboration toward achieving these goals. 

GoToMeeting - Online Meetings Made Easy
The vision is bold, attainable, and essential.  Kevin Hydes quoted in his presentation from the opening remarks of Ira Magaziner, Director of Clinton Climate Initiative at GreenBuild 2006:

"We have roughly 3,650 days to do something very drastic about this climate change problem or else hundreds of thousands, millions of people, our children, our grandchildren are going to die or be displaced in catastrophes that will occur because of climate change."

Global Green
The strategy for the WorldGBC is to build breadth and depth into global green building development via expanding the number and the work of the GBCs. The key issues are scale, capacity and speed, and will include analysing agendas driving building industry sectors and making available an array of tools.

Partnerships are being developed among industry, academia and government; and with: the
International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE), the Clinton Climate Initiative, the UNEP, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, ICLEI, ASHRAE, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority (host to the WorldGBC Secretariat), the Vancouver Valuation Accord, & A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (A.W.I.S.H.).

Kevin Hydes' post-event message recognized the participants’ humanity and commitment – inspiration for us all:
"I understand that when attending these types of events, sacrifices must be made in the work you are doing at home; in your marketplaces and communities.  The reality is, we all must make such investments if we believe in the vision of the global GBC movement to effect rapid change in local markets, leading us towards a sustainable future…

"All of (the attending) diverse groups collectively, by your passion, your imagination, your knowledge and your belief, led to our most successful Congress ever…

"These are unusual times as our earth suffers the stress of a century of abuse. Our organization needs to find unique solutions to meet our destiny and create the real impact on carbon reduction that the planet needs for its survival."

Bravo the WorldGBC, or to paraphrase your Chair: "You are our sunshine."

Rob Bennett of the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) articulated the urgency of taking action against climate change and the mitigation potential of buildings. For instance:
"To meet the US's Kyoto target (7 percent below 1990 levels) with improvements in buildings alone would require a 50 percent reduction in building CO2 by 2010, assuming other emissions stayed at current levels.  This number is so big because we've already seen such an increase in emissions--about 16 percent-- since 1990.  If we could go back to 1990 and focus on the building sector, a 20 percent improvement in buildings alone would have met the Kyoto target--IF we could have kept other emissions constant."

He cites Socolow & Pacala who used wedges in portraying climate mitigation possibilities: if the U.S. engaged in energy efficiency measures, these alone would serve to lower U.S. emissions to levels of the 1970s. The measures:

  • Electricity reduction
  • Improved building design
  • Vehicle efficiency
  • Better designed transport systems
  • Renewable energy
  • Capture and storage

The CCI Green Buildings Strategy involves ramping up global best practices to achieve substantially enhanced building performance.  There are four elements to the program:

  • Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program
  • Green Codes
  • Affordable Housing: partnership with Enterprise’s Green Communities program
  • Housing Strategy: to be determined

Additionally a Purchasing Consortium is being developed, which will include components for Lighting, Building Envelopes, Building Systems, and Water and Waste Systems.

Innovative municipal/corporate partnerships are encouraged e.g. to provide a decentralized energy supply, energy savings via existing building retrofits and emissions reductions via a composting measure. The broad range of CCI technical partners includes the World Green Building Council.

CCI is working to take the pulse of local green building policies, identify barriers to market penetration, and map out a community green building strategy, which includes:

  • Leadership: Keeps the city at the forefront of the global warming/ee/green building movement.
  • Market transformation: Smart policies stimulate local market transformation.
  • Policy gaps: Identifies and fills gaps such as standards for the City’s portfolio of existing buildings, facilitated permitting, and other measures.
  • Job creation: Important economic development strategy for the City.  Municipal leaders are experiencing a significant growth in green building goods and services providers.
  • Environmental protection: Local watershed health, air quality, and natural resources continue to be threatened.  Energy efficient best practices minimize "upstream" environmental and human health impacts.

Key areas for strategic focus, which follow a market penetration curve:

  1. Demand and value creation (Marketing & Awareness)
  2. Capacity of the design & build teams (Training & Skill Development)
  3. Uncertainty over incremental first costs (Incentives)
  4. Regulatory consistency & hurdles (Performance-based Regulations)

Many thanks to the Clinton Climate Initiative’s business-focused strategy to address climate change for avoidance of 'business-as-usual' impacts.

Green Syndicated Columnist Sonja Persram is author of: Green Buildings: A Strategic Analysis of North American Markets for Frost & Sullivan (published Aug 06) addressing Energy, Water and Facilities Management; and the U.S. portion of International Sustainable Building Policy Initiatives, a study for Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation whose project lead was Nils Larsson, iiSBE Executive Director. She was a member of the City of Toronto’s Green Development Standards Working Group. Contact: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc:

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