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Notes from the Network: How Buildings Connect People to the Planet

Earlier this month, Canada’s thriving capital city Toronto received over 30 representatives from Green Building Councils across the world. You could feel it in the air: the power of a cross-cultural movement that believes in the power of change. A movement that is ready to pursue ambitious goals and prove to the world that we can all transform the places we live, work, play and learn.

Two events during the first week of June – CaGBC’s Building Lasting Change 2018 and the annual WorldGBC Congress – influenced the green building industry in the Americas towards pushing the efforts of Net Zero Carbon buildings, and the commitments to meet the defiant international carbon emissions targets.

Green Building Councils from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific shared advances in our joint mission to transform the built environment globally. The international stream of the event had excellent presentations and panels about significant trends in urban planning with inspiration from the world’s cutting-edge cities, as well as ground-breaking insights into the link between green building and health, wellbeing and productivity, supported by case studies from around the world.

To finalise a week of shared knowledge and best practices, the Americas Regional Network grouped for the first meeting of 2018. Ten Green Building Councils and two Regional Partners from the network participated in a highly critical discussion as the group started to define a new strategic plan and purpose for the coming years.

A staggering 94% of people living in the Americas can be impacted by the 16 Green Building Councils that work across the region. That number represents the most significant challenge and opportunity for the Americas Regional Network. In 2018, seven Certification tools, over 900 employees and more than 14,000 member companies integrate the Americas Regional Network (ARN). Therefore, the importance of working as a network comes as a top priority, and the first question to determine the new phase of the collaborative work across countries started with ‘why’?

First, the network agreed on a common ground to understand the relevance of green buildings and how it stands within three pillars. The importance of having people at the centre; a sense of survival and urgency to make a real difference in the fight against climate change; and a genuine commitment and belief that the buildings are the link between the people and the planet.

Construction is one of the most relevant sectors in the global economy and at the same time, buildings are the largest consumer of resources, responsible for 39% of global energy-related emissions. With people spending 90% of their time indoors and as the most urbanized region on the planet with almost 80% of the population living in urban areas, we have a unique opportunity to motivate and inspire real change and business transformation. The opportunity is now.

The Green Building Councils agreed that the purpose of the network is to build a platform of collaborative work, integrated skills, and capacities that can be known as the ideal delivery partner to achieve the ambitious SDG for 2030-2050 across the industry, reaching potential partners, companies, and organizations.

Starting with the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) as the flagship program to engage cities and the public and private sector towards best practices, programs, and policies for energy efficiency. At the same time, turning the global expertise into action, building the reputation, skills, and capacity of the GBCs from the local to the regional arena of the green building industry.

In the Americas, the Colombia GBC (CCCS) is successfully leading the work for the BEA with 20 local partners from the private and public sector. They have delivered a technical study, advisory, and development of a new policy on energy efficiency to be applied for the city of Bogota. Also, for the AMVA, further studies for enhancing the energy efficiency of existing buildings are in progress. This project has served as a reference for other countries, particularly in Central America, like GBC Costa Rica that has engaged the municipality of Moravia to join the BEA program with the expression of interest of its mayor at the CICS 2018 event.

ESGBC, Panama GBC, SUMe and Guatemala GBC have also expressed interest to actively work with city governments to commit to the BEA program, which will lead to the next steps and development of the region towards energy efficiency.

As a region, the GBCs are leading the transformation of the industry, and now it is time for local governments to join their efforts and play a vital role in the transition to a low-carbon future.

Juanita Alvarez is Regional Head of WorldGBC’s Americas Regional Network.