Green Building: The International Perspective

Posted on: November 19th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments
Downtown Boston from the South Boston waterfront. (Photo: Barbara Campagna)

Downtown Boston from the South Boston waterfront. (Photo: Barbara Campagna)

Ready, set, go... it wasn't hard to miss that Greenbuild is being held in Boston this week. Almost as soon as I got off the plane there were welcome signs - stats from the city of Boston and the Transit authority on what they are doing to be green - as well as invitations to visit booths in the exhibit hall. So it's pretty clear that the city is excited about hosting Greenbuild.

I opted to attend International Day, wondering what everyone else is doing. I have had this belief that everyone is light years ahead of us, since we, the US, are the largest consumers of natural resources, we live by using more - so how can everyone else lead happy and successful lives with using less? I think that instead of taking you through the day, session by session, it is best to sum it up at this point. Building professionals from around the world are here to learn from us! Yes, that's right, the US the largest consumer in the world. Why? Because the USGBC has created the most widely adopted ratings framework world-wide and it works.

Developers and building professionals from British Columbia, Brazil, Abu Dhabi, Germany, and China participated in a series of fireside chats, panels and discussions to share their lessons learned and discuss the futures of their cities and countries given the LEED metrics.

Deutsche Bank has been so impressed with the results of the renovation of their headquarters building in Frankfort that they are going to be applying LEED to all of the buildings in their portfolio, from second tier cities in India to other Euorpean cities. One wonders when they will require LEED metrics to be applied to their clients portfolios as a condition of lending?

The developer of Dockside Green, from British Columbia admittedly is a Type A personality, acknowledged the economic sense of building green - tracking an increase in sales (250%) during the beginning of the downturn October '07-May '08 versus his competitor. What truly amazed me about how he has measured the success of the project is not truly in dollars and cents, but by the involvement of the First Nations Tribes and the ability of this type of development to "unlock human potential" - at best a squishy metric that needs more research in trying to quantify the feelings of contentment and happiness in relation to architecture and design. (For those that are interested check out Alain de Button's book, The Architecture of Happiness.)

Brazil and Abu Dhabi have created developments that are based on traditional archetypes. Brazil's is more of a work in progress - while the project in Abu Dhabi is quickly coming to fruition.

As thrilling as it was to see these massive projects being discussed, it was a bit alarming to see that the entire discussion was about new build - except for the Deutsche bank renovation, but I don't count that because their headquarters was built in the 80s. Brazil and Abu Dhabi have drawn on traditional building types and planning to create their new cities - thank goodness there was some realtionship to the human scale, otherwise eveythiing was new build. Given the demand for urban space - most countries are seeing a major migration to their cities, I understand the need for new build, but isn't there anyone addressing the needs and issues of the exisiting building stock on the same scale?

I have long thought that the rest of the world has been successful in using what they have instead of discarding the past in favor of new and bigger (note not necessaily better). So the next few days will be intersting to see where and when the exsiting building stock is dicsussed and of that how much is considered historic.


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2 Responses

  1. Adrian P

    November 20, 2008

    New buildings like The Visionaire ( can implement some of the newest methods for green building… what do you think is an effective means to retrofit? How do you create momentum behind that?