February 9-10, 2012, Oslo, Norway
To be honest I had ulterior motives to attend the conference; the chance to interview a couple of people for the next SAA Simply book. The conference was a secondary bonus.
However the Scandinavian event was a pleasant surprise, which showed Nordic collaboration at its best through the now established Green Building Councils. The focus was very much on getting the decision makers in the entire chain, from end-users to investors, to see the benefits of certifying buildings through a certification system and hence encourage sustainable work methods.
What were my personal highlights from the conference? Well, Jeff Risom gave a wonderful tour of how an urban environment can be made more sustainable for people to actually live there. The most striking was the transformation of the Time Square area of New York City. The changes in the city landscape were made by considering behaviour, habits and then measuring the movement of people. Jeff reminded us that the sustainable city is not just made up of sustainable buildings.
A presentation on why investors are interested in green issues may not tally with our experience, but Frank Hovorka from the French Deposits and Consignments Fund (Caisse des Depots) put forward the view of his investors as to why sustainability makes sense. The main point was risk management. Buildings which will require renovation sooner will have a lower value, simply because money needs to be spent on them. Today the tools exist to make this point, but they are often used in isolation. The total investment needs to be seen, preferably in an Excel sheet. An interesting comment was that one of the first building labelling systems which joined performance to investment was the Japanese CASSBEE scheme (Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency).
Brian Edwards, professor Emeritus of Sustainable Architecture, gave an overview of the evidence he has collected through his research into the business case for green buildings and their wider impact on energy and productivity, his presentation is well worth looking at.
The second part of the conference was focused on three of the most prevalent sustainable building schemes in the Nordic regions. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) seems to have found acceptance in the Nordic region, mainly in my opinion because of its ability and willingness to be tailored to the needs of each individual country. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) by contrast is open to ideas but wishes to keep the scheme as a single concept for the entire globe. It was unfortunate that no one from LEED was available to present at the conference, but decided to submit their presentation via homemade video. DGNB, (German Sustainable Building Council), the tool suffers not only from a lackluster name, but it is starting some years behind the other schemes. Although it seems to be a well thought through concept, what makes it stand out and worth investing in is difficult to say. It is the scheme of choice for the Danish GBC (Green Building Council) mainly because the Danish and Germany building industries have a lot in common.
All the presentations can be found via the following link: http://estatekonferanse.no/images/stories/conferncedocs/conf_down_Nordic%20Green%20Building%20Council%20Conference.html
Photo: Oslo Opera by John Woollett