If buildings could speak, what would they tell us? Would they say that they use 40% of all energy in the world? Would they forecast their count will rise dramatically in the coming years with the massive migration to cities around the world?
Of course we know buildings can’t speak – but experts in the green building field can speak for them. I was recently in Beijing at China’s largest annual green building conference where global experts have convened for the past 13 years to talk about sustainability in the built environment.
Movement Gone Global
The green building movement began in the United States in 1993 with the founding of the U.S. Green Building Council. In fact, my company, United Technologies, was the first to join the organization and provided resources to get it off the ground.
Green buildings are those which are independently certified by different organizations using a variety of standards on the use of sustainable building materials, saving energy and water and promoting improved indoor air quality that research shows can boost productivity.
The green building movement has really changed the way the industry designs, builds and operates those buildings – and that’s so important because buildings use more energy than anything else on our planet. So the future of sustainability and the future of buildings go hand in hand.
What started as a U.S. concept has now fully evolved into a global movement. Today, there are nearly 100 national green building councils across the globe, organized by the World Green Building Council.
China Building Scale
Progress in China has been fascinating as the world’s largest construction market. Two billion people live in China – and already half live in cities. Urban skylines in China are constantly expanding, because by 2030, cities will experience the migration of 300 million more people - that’s equivalent to the entire U.S. population.
The green building movement is so important in China given the sheer scale of construction and the enormous opportunity to build more sustainably. I’ve been watching and encouraging the green building movement in China from the beginning.
In 2006, I helped my company – United Technologies – convene the first green building workshop for the Chinese government. We brought together green building council experts from the U.S., Australia, Canada and other places to share best practices and green building models with the Chinese government. This eventually led to the formation of the China Green Building Council in 2008.
As the host of the Race to 9 Billion sustainability podcast, I just released a new episode called “International Voices on Green Buildings.” (hyperlink) My two guests are experts in these fields: Tai Lee Siang, chair of the World Green Building Council and renowned architect from Singapore, and Nellie Cheng, director of market development for the U.S. Green Building Council, with a special focus on China.
Their perspectives, critiques and hopes for the global green building movement provide important context as the world urbanizes and races to a population of 9 billion people in just a few decades.