Tony Arnel

4 October 2011 – Stepping down as chair of the World Green Building Council Tony Arnel said he had seen a fringe green movement become a mainstream industry during  his three year term. He is replaced by Rick Fedrizzi, president and chief executive officer of the US Green Building Council.

Under Mr Fedrizzi’s direction USGBC has undertaken a far-reaching agenda that has more than tripled its membership.

Mr Arnel, who is chair of the Green Building Council of Australia and the Victorian Building and Plumbing Commissioner, was speaking on 3 October at the WGBC congress in Toronto He said governments had begun to wake up to the costs of climate change and to recognise that buildings are truly the low hanging fruit.

“Technologies and practices which were once considered extraordinary are now business-as-usual, “ he said.

In the last decade the global green building movement had “recalibrated our vision for the world’s buildings and reminded us of why we create our buildings in the first place: for people”.

“Together, we’ve established a solid environmental case for green buildings.  Buildings such as Australia’s first carbon neutral office, Pixel, are redefining the way we will build for many years to come.

“Architectural icons like the Empire State Building in New York City are being given green makeovers. It’s doing the same job it has always done, but now it’s LEED gold.

“Even large-scale residential developments, such as Dockside Green in Vancouver, are demonstrating how a combination of high and low-tech green features can result in a community that is carbon neutral or even carbon positive”.

Mr Arnel said buildings from Macquarie Bank’s new Green star-rated headquarters in Sydney to the Vanka Centre in Shenzen, China were living proof that green buildings can enhance office productivity and brand equity, attract and retain the top talent and deliver on corporate social responsibility priorities.

“We’re also demonstrating the social benefits of green buildings.  The LEED-rated Boulder Community Foothills Hospital provides a practical demonstration of why green healthcare facilities are cheaper to operate, improve patient outcomes and decrease staff turnover, all while minimising their environmental footprints.

“We are also showcasing how green schools can deliver improved educational outcomes.  The Vele Secondary school in rural South Africa, for instance, features a rainwater harvesting system and 50 square metres of solar panels which provide electricity for 80 computers.

“The school’s passive and low-energy design supports naturally-lit and ventilated classrooms that are warm in winter and cool in summer.

Rick Fedrizzi

As one student had said: “I used to fall asleep during most of our classes at the old school.  Now the classrooms are cool in summer and I’ll be studying or reading books in the classroom instead of wasting my time idling outside under a tree.”

In the last decade, the global economy, the business environment and the mindset in which we operate had changed dramatically, he said.

For developing nations, constructing adequate housing for 500 million people and providing electricity for some 1.5 billion people brought many challenges and opportunities.

“In these countries, thoughtful consideration of sustainability at the earliest stages of design and construction will deliver the best economic and environmental outcomes, “ he said.

“In developed nations, ensuring the right mix of market leadership and government regulation is essential to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the building sector.

“It is not simply a case of opting for regulation or information or economic measures.  All are needed to bring about the required changes.”