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Notes from the Networks – Improving the “hardware” & “software” of buildings across Asia Pacific

As the Asia Pacific Network (APN) Meeting ended in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, there was a palpable sense of camaraderie and renewed energy, with the pioneers of the green building movement in Asia Pacific looking ahead to the next chapter of our development.

There were several firsts for the APN since many of the Green Building Councils in the region started nearly a decade ago. It was the first bi-annual meeting in which our member GBCs were joined by corporate Regional Partners, AGC Group and LG Electronics, which shared how they as corporates are contributing to the movement. And, it was the first meeting attended by our first full-time regional manager (me!) to coordinate projects and provide strategic insight for the network, in a region that is rapidly growing.

We are amid the largest urbanisation growth in human history, and Asia is the protagonist in this blockbuster. By 2030, more than two-thirds of the world will live in towns and cities, and much of this will be in Asia. In fact, the region already has 16 of the world’s 28 mega-cities (cities with 10 million or more inhabitants), and this figure is only set to increase. So how do we impact not only the “hardware” side of buildings and cities – to ensure that the physical structures themselves are green – but also the “software” side – the people-aspect, to ensure those occupying or managing buildings are doing so in a sustainable way? Furthermore, how do we do this across a highly diverse region such as Asia Pacific?

From the “hardware” perspective, Green Building Councils have found that the understanding of the business case for green buildings is uneven across Asia Pacific, with businesses in some markets integrating sustainability into their operations much more so than in others. In this respect, GBCs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam are engaging their developer and investor communities more actively to build a stronger business case in their local context, linking the benefits of green buildings, such as energy and water savings, to financial benefits. A major part of this is also making sure that there is a common language between the different actors in the building value chain, whether they are from the financing and development side, or the operation and management front.

In addition, GBCs in India and Australia are charting the way forward for the region on net zero buildings, by demonstrating a pathway towards net zero certification through our global Advancing Net Zero project. This will help to ensure that by 2050 all buildings in India and Australia, the wider Asia Pacific region, and the world, will be net zero carbon.

From the “software” angle, our Green Building Councils are engaging end-users, occupiers and facilities management companies and strengthening the business case for green buildings from the occupiers’ perspective. This is being done through WorldGBC’s Better Places for People project, which is encouraging participation from local communities, where people are spurring each other on to be more sustainable.

Of course, truly sustainable buildings are those where both hardware and software considerations are aligned; and with more and more data available on both building performance and on those who use buildings, the opportunity to interact, optimise and make better decisions for people and planet has never been greater. The insights drawn at the buildings-level can, and will, impact cities. So green buildings also need to be contextualised in city-level conversations, something that is often neglected.

While much has been done, there is still much left to do. Many of our Green Building Councils are celebrating their 10th anniversaries this year, and are well-positioned to achieve even greater impact in the region to help us to collectively meet our global climate goals. As part of this, the APN is forming a Regional Leadership Consortium – where Established member GBCs of the APN and corporate Regional Partners will chart a future strategy for the green building movement in Asia Pacific – and we encourage all sustainability leaders in the region to take part. We hope you’ll join us on this next chapter for green building in the region.

Joelle Chen is Regional Manager of the Asia Pacific Network.

This blog is part of the ‘Notes from the Networks’ series, which focuses on how WorldGBC’s five Regional Networks around the world are delivering change on the ground.