Are we moving as quickly as we should?

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Simone Skopek
Energy & Sustainability Services

Everyone has heard of the annual mammoth GreenBuild Conference, but few people in North America are aware of the World Sustainable Building Conference, which, since 1998, has been gathering together the world’s leading green building professionals and academics to share a global view of how the building industry is addressing the environmental threats to the planet.

Often compared to an international “Green Buildings Olympics,” the World Sustainable Building Conference attracts teams representing countries from all over the world, who present papers, studies and leading edge projects. This year’s 3-day conference, held in Barcelona, offered no fewer than 144 sessions, where more than 2,000 experts debated on the challenges of the building sector and the solutions needed avoid global catastrophe from climate change.

The theme of this year’s conference held a distinct note of urgency – “Are we acting as quickly as we should?”  –  highlighting the sobering fact that  at the current rate, the increased CO2 emissions from the building sector alone would bring the planet to the threshold limit of 2ºC increase, marking an irreversible global warming beyond humanity’s ability to control.

One interesting tranche of the forum was a review of existing buildings’ actual performance in use compared to the performance that was predicted at the design stage. It highlighted, among other conclusions, the many challenges of energy and GHG emissions benchmarking, as well as the need to convey information “from the boiler-room to the boardroom” in language that is meaningful to decision-makers.

Another notable point that was raised repeatedly in informal discussions was the recognition that the choices made in the design of China’s cities will largely determine the future of the world. This point resonated with some of the Chinese presentations that highlighted intensive and accelerated efforts to create eco-cities.

The World Sustainable Building Conference has evolved from a small core of organizers and participants in Canada in 1998, to what has become a distinguished forum of the world’s leading professionals and academics. The conference has grown in amplitude, and now attracts participation from the World Green Building Council.

Teams from different countries gather regionally every two years to meet their regional counterparts in Europe, Asia and America, in order to prepare for the world conference, which takes place every three years in such far flung parts of the world as Helsinki, Melbourne, Tokyo and Lisbon.

The next world conference to be held in 2017 and hosted by Hong Kong, promises to be a stellar affair, judging from their large representation, thoughtful participation and the elegance of their pavilion at this year’s conference.

In light of this year’s theme, “Are we moving as quickly as we should?” it is hopeful that the 2017 conference, with its stated theme of “urban scale sustainability,”  may provide some solutions.


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