Drums opened the World Green Building International Congress in Singapore 2010

World Green Building Council International Congress, Singapore – 14 September 2010 – Chair of the World Green Building Council Tony Arnel used his opening speech at the WGBC International Congress in Singapore on Monday to call for the property industry and governments around the world to join forces and pick up where the international community had failed on climate change.

Through the proven ability of industry and government to co-operate on green building developments it was possible to shift the market and create huge momentum for change, and much lower greenhouse gasses, he said.

Speaking at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Mr Arnel pointed to the huge potential for better building outcomes in the fast growing South-East Asian region.

South-east Asia was the world’s fastest growing region and green building was the fastest growing industry, Mr Arnel said.

In Singapore the nation’s government had already shown that it was willing to seize the opportunity to position its country as a hub for the region from which to spread expertise and showcase demonstration projects.

Tony Arnel at the opening ceremony

A key mechanism for the spread of the idea, Mr Arnel said, was the growth of green building councils themselves.

There were now almost 80 GBCs and a tool for the development of green building councils, available through the WGBC website, had shown high downloads, he said.

Another key mechanism was sectoral agreements that would create a framework for green building development between industry and government, with international harmonisation.

The theme dominated the first day of talks in “closed door” sessions between leaders of the world GBCs and pointed to the potential for business drivers and market demand from tenants and investors for more sustainable investment options, to cut through where political leaders have failed.

Green Building Sectoral Agreement

A sectoral agreement plan, now in draft form and distributed to the delegates, would “establish a clear and compelling case for tackling greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector by way of a multilateral agreement that is supported by industry, governments and other stakeholders.”

Mr Arnel said it would open the way for developed nations to use existing mechanisms, such as the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism, to invest in sustainable building in developing countries.

He said that too often, the objectives of emissions reduction and those of developing nations were often seen as being in conflict with each other, yet this was a way in which they could be aligned. (See more detail of Mr Arnel’s comments here xxxx)

What was clearly needed, he said, was “national and international cooperation.”

“As we know only too well, in the current international structures for tackling climate change, buildings have been largely overlooked. ”

The failure of last December’s Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to reach a binding agreement on emissions targets had delivered the built environment the “perfect platform to assume leadership in the low cost abatement arena.”

Updated International Panel on Climate Change data showed that that “aggressive implementation of current technology and practices could reduce building related emissions by between 40 and 70 per cent, which is far more than originally predicted.”

And the United Nations Environment Programme said that no other sector has such a high potential for drastic emission reductions as building.

Promoting the Common Carbon Metric

Essential to the framework would be to achieve a common carbon metric, currently under development by the WGBC, the Sustainable Building Alliance and United Nations Environment Protection Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, or UNEP-SBCI.

This would harmonise the underlying methodology of measuring carbon used by the various rating tools around the world such as LEED from the United States, BREAMM from the United Kingdom and Green Star from Australia.

“The WGBC is working with UNEP-SBCI and SBA to provide methodologies for governments to use building performance data to establish baselines that give them an accurate picture of their building stock,” Mr Arnel said.

“This is critical for governments to be able to make commitments and take action to reduce their overall carbon footprint.”

Singapore is on board with green

On Singapore, Mr Arnel said that the government had already demonstrated it wanted to pursue a greener building agenda.

The government had supported the establishment of the SGBC, and had set a target to green 80 per cent of the building stock by 2030, with an allocation $100 million to assist in the task.

President of the Singapore Green Building Council Lee Chuan Seng, in his  opening remarks to the Congress, also pointed to the strong collaboration between private and public partnership frameworks in his country.

Mr Seng  announced a new product certification scheme to support the industry and said that Singapore would need 18,000 green building trained personnel to deliver on the government ambitions for the sector.

Already, he said, there were about 500 green buildings in the country, about 8 per cent of the building stock, and all new buildings were required to achieved certain levels of sustainability depending on their size.

The Governemnt is wholistic in its approach. Later in the Congress it outlined a target of 35 per cent reduction of energy use in buildings by 2030 based on 2005 levels and incentives for more sustainable buildings that included greater density bonuses.

Through his role as Victorian Building Commissioner Mr Arnel said he had been involved in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Singapore Government (through the Building and Construction Authority) and the Victorian Government on formal collaboration on building regulation.

“The MOU represents practical linkages where both the BCA and the Building Commission have much to offer each other and the region in a general building sense,” Mr Arnel said.

“Ongoing collaboration will see us develop energy efficiency and green building standards that can translate into use throughout Asia Pacific – for the benefit of the region and the world – and share our experience in market transformation to a low-carbon and sustainable built environment.

“It is very much in line with the WGBC model, which works with, connects and strengthens, green building councils around the world as they transform their marketplaces toward green buildings.”

He also said that the WGBC was “delighted to have worked closely with Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority and the Singapore construction industry as they have nurtured the SGBG through its formative stages to its graduation to established green building council status.

“The SGBC conference and the WGBC Congress, and their outcomes, will be integral to defining the role the green building sector plays in delivering meaningful cuts to greenhouse gas emissions – securing the future of the planet no less.

“I can assure you the WGBC is steadfast in its determination that the building sector is the key catalyst for change.”

Mr Arnel promised the councils would be continue to grow collective voice on the world stage, especially leading up to the Cancun Climate Summit in December.

The Fifth Estate was a guest of the Green Building Council of Australia  for WGBC International Congress, Singapore 2010

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au