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Fit for the job – What it means to be a member of WorldGBC

A blog by Dominika Czerwinska, Director of Membership and Regional Networks at WorldGBC.

In my role as Director of Membership, I’m often asked “what does it take to be a member of the World Green Building Council?”, “who’s in the club?” and “what is the key thing that differentiates member GBCs from other organisations?”.

Those questions are hardly surprising given the number of organisations whose work touches upon sustainability in the building sector within a given country, the variety of names used for them – from green building council to sustainable building consortium – and the multiple languages in which they’re communicated… we are, after all, found in over 70 countries around the world.

But what makes this question difficult to answer is the fact that there are several key things that together make a member Green Building Council (GBC) distinctly unique from other organisations in their country. After all, it would be hard to imagine that an organisation that differentiates itself in only one way is really equipped to address an issue as complex as climate change.

Member GBCs are unique in that they take the uncompromising view that green building offers a viable solution to climate change and demonstrate this through business led action. But in addition to this, member GBCs:

  • are highly influential – recognised as the ”go-to” organisations in their country on any matters related to green building
  • work effectively across different sectors – from those who design or build green buildings to those who lease or use them
  • drive change at the national scale to ensure that all buildings and communities in their country are sustainable
  • commit to long-term action, with strong strategic plans to help their countries meet climate change targets, and not just advance one-off projects
  • practice transparent and democratic governance and sound financial management, and report their impact back to WorldGBC

These factors combined are what make our member GBCs such a powerful force for change in the world.

However, just as children aren’t born running, GBCs go through growth phases too – from the beginning of their journey as what we call Prospective members, to fully operational Emerging members, and finally to demonstrating strong leadership as Established members, delivering major change on the ground in their own countries.

And change they do deliver!

Take for example the US Green Building Council. Established in 1993, it has created a certification tool (LEED) to help the market effectively deliver green buildings. Today, there are more than 170,000 gross square meters being certified per day, which are responsible for diverting more than 80 million tonnes of waste from landfills, and by 2030 that number is expected to grow to 540 million tonnes. LEED buildings are also estimated to contribute 386,000 jobs and $26.2 billion in wages by 2018. In South Africa, the 100 projects certified with Green Star (their rating tool) are annually saving the equivalent amount of energy that it takes to power over 9,000 households for a year as well as saving the equivalent amount of carbon as taking more than 44,000 cars off the roads. And in Britain, the UK Green Building Council has worked with government to introduce tougher building codes and pioneered the topic of health and wellbeing in green buildings.

Even in countries which currently have smaller green building markets, GBCs are delivering change. The Philippines GBC worked closely with Mandaue City in order to adopt a green building ordinance resulting in Mandaue city being recognised as a low carbon model town by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Our global community

If you think what GBCs do at the national level is powerful, their combined collaborative efforts at the regional and global level are changing the world even faster.

Our Europe Regional Network of over 25 Green Building Councils is delivering change across the EU region through projects such as BUILD UPON – the worlds largest collaborative project on building renovation. GBC South Africa led a global rating tools taskforce in developing a socio-economic framework (a set of credits) that can be built into existing rating tools in countries across the continent (and beyond) that face underlying social and economic challenges, so that green buildings can help relieve poverty, create equitable employment, and improve public health.

Last year, with strong support on the ground from France GBC, WorldGBC worked closely with UNEP, the French Government and other organisations at the international level to deliver the first ever Buildings Day at COP21, opening doors for new funding steams and support for the green building sector. A number of GBCs were involved in COP21, making ambitious commitments for their own organisations and attending or speaking at the day itself.

WorldGBC and its members have also embarked on “Advancing Net Zero” – a revolutionary project to ensure all buildings are net zero by 2050 – which brings together Green Building Councils from countries as diverse as India, Canada, South Africa and Australia to work collaboratively on rolling out a more ambitious Net Zero certification for green buildings. And our Better Places for People Campaign, which again is supported by a number of GBCs, is pushing the envelope on the global mission to ensure that buildings are not only designed to be sustainable, but to enhance people’s health and wellbeing.

Yet to get a real sense of what it means to be a member of WorldGBC, we asked some of our Green Building Councils directly, and here’s what they had to say:

Abdullah Bdeir, Chairman of Jordan Green Building Council, says that being a member is:

to be part of a community of passionate enthusiasts willing to share ideas focused on the common cause of making the green built environment a wide spread reality all over the world, one space at a time!

For Belem Salomon, Executive Director of Guatemala Green Building Council, it’s

being part of something bigger – a shared vision of the built environment that will transform and impact the world positively. This global movement gathers amazing people, great companies and organisations to work together for a sustainable future.”

At the Kenya Green Building Society, Elizabeth Wangeci Chege says being a member:

“differentiates KGBS from other groups locally as a legitimate membership movement on green buildings”, adding that “WorldGBC provides a global platform and resource centre that keeps KGBS evolving and providing more information to our stakeholders in Kenya.”

And in Germany, DGNB’s CEO Christine Lemaitre says:

WorldGBC membership has the big value of connecting like-minded people and organisations on an international level, which enables us to learn from each other and to support each other. Only as a strong network we can make our built environment sustainable for all.”

I hope that I’ve been able to share a strong sense of how our member Green Building Councils are unique and why they, and our collective movement, have been so successful in bringing about change within the building industry so that one day we can live in a world where all buildings and communities are sustainable.

You can find out whether your country has a Green Building Council that is an official member of WorldGBC via the member directory on our website.

For more information about WorldGBC membership, contact Dominika Czerwinska