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My passage to India: Green Building Councils unite in Jaipur

Working for a global organisation such as the World Green Building Council naturally prompts us to consider the diverse challenges that our Member Green Building Councils face in advancing green buildings in their respective countries. However, working from our London HQ every day, it is admittedly easy to feel somewhat encased in a UK-shaped bubble and take for granted the country’s developed infrastructure and the comfortable liveability of many of our buildings.

Attending my first WorldGBC annual Members’ Day (having joined WorldGBC earlier this year) provided the perfect opportunity for me to break free from this somewhat UK-centric view and to deepen my understanding of some of the global challenges for green building – particularly for countries whose extreme climates, dwindling natural resources, growing populations and financial hardships not only hinder the development of green building, but also demonstrate the importance of it to meet local economic, environmental and social challenges. It was also my first opportunity to meet in person many of my colleagues who until now, I have shared only emails or phone calls with.

So, it was in the glittering pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India’s desert state in the north west of the country, that Member GBCs from 28 countries across the world, spanning all five of WorldGBC’s Regional Networks, congregated for a whirlwind week of activities centred around WorldGBC Members’ Day and our Annual General Meeting.

Held once a year in an Established WorldGBC Members’ country, the objective of Members’ Day is for GBCs to forge strong working relationships to enable collaboration and the sharing of best practices, helping galvanise members towards greater impact and a shared vision for green building. Furthermore, the day serves as an opportunity for WorldGBC to collect input from all Member GBCs to inform WorldGBC’s future strategy.

Hosted this year by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), the day was jam-packed with these activities. Our CEO Terri Wills updated GBCs on our strategic plan and the growing importance of our Regional Networks, while WorldGBC Chair Tai Lee Siang outlined what it means to be a WorldGBC Member. The afternoon’s activities involved break-out sessions on the measurement and reporting of green building progress; our Advancing Net Zero project and how to leverage its work to inspire GBCs’ own members to build net zero carbon buildings in their countries; and on generating revenue and engaging members – the lifeblood for any GBC.

These sessions were preceded by a surprise ‘energiser activity’ led by myself and Joelle Chen, our Asia Pacific Regional Manager, and Victoria Burrows, our Advancing Net Zero Project Manager, to help shake off any post-meal lethargy. We took to the stage and taught everyone a choreographed dance routine to a Bollywood-inspired pop song, which was met with much amusement and enjoyment. Who knew WorldGBC Members were such excellently coordinated dancers?!

The day’s activities concluded with some reflections. What was most striking and encouraging in this session – and, indeed, throughout the day – was the openness at which GBCs expressed their ambitions, criticisms and concerns of the challenges of progressing green buildings in their countries, whether policy-related, or through a lack of awareness from investors of the strong business case. However, all GBCs could agree that the sessions had helped to tackle these issues, advising them on the steps to overcome the challenges, and has helped them to forge strong relationships with each other. In fact, a concluding remark from Bruno Sauer, WorldGBC Board Member and CEO of GBC España, was that although GBCs face differences in languages and cultures, we are united in our mission; the power of our movement lies in the ability to turn challenges into shared opportunities for green building – a positive note to end on.

There were plenty more highlights post-Members’ Day. These included Romilly Madew, CEO of GBCA, receiving the WorldGBC Chairman’s Award, with William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the co-creators of Cradle to Cradle, jointly winning the David Gottfried Award, at a glitzy dinner; as well as three days of sessions at IGBC’s annual Green Building Congress 2017 on topics such as health and wellbeing in buildings, which is of increasing importance in India itself and why IGBC itself has launched a rating programme for healthy buildings.

But it wasn’t all conference and meeting rooms throughout the week. Our generous and hospitable hosts IGBC had organised many additional daytime and evening activities to keep us entertained throughout our stay in India. These included a dinner hosted by IGBC’s Jaipur Chapter at the mesmerising Taj Rambagh Palace, where we were entertained by a bewitching Indian dance performance before being treated to an exquisite traditional Rajasthani feast.

And of course, no trip to India would be complete without a visit to the breathtaking Taj Mahal in Agra! A marble delight, boasting unmatchable levels of craftsmanship, which we were fortunate enough to see at sunrise, glowing in all its spellbinding glory in the golden light that early morning offers. A new dawn heralded the day ahead, and I believe our time in India also represents a new dawn – one of hope and optimism that together, our green building movement can solve many of the world’s challenges.

Georgina Eldridge is Marketing and Communications Officer at WorldGBC