Green Building

USGBC's Platt discusses role of building efficiency in helping developing nations meet Paris goals

With buildings significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, how should developing nations be using green building to help meet their emissions reduction goals? During today's OnPoint, Roger Platt, president of the U.S. Green Building Council, discusses the unique challenges involved with introducing green-building techniques to the developing world. He also explains how he anticipates green building will be addressed at the Paris climate talks.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Roger Platt, president of the U.S. Green Building Council. Roger, thank you for joining me today.

Roger Platt: It's my pleasure, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: Roger, with buildings playing a large role in overall greenhouse gas emissions, USGBC sees an opportunity ahead of next month's Paris climate talks to address the role that building efficiency could play in any country's efforts to meet their emissions reduction goals. What's the message that you think needs to be delivered at Paris and beyond on the role that green building can play?

Roger Platt: Well, Monica, the message we have is one in which we believe that green building, green construction both provide tremendous economic benefits globally but also addresses the carbon emissions impacts of buildings by making buildings radically more energy-efficient, water-efficient, reducing their impacts on biodiversity degradation, generally creating high environmental performance and high economic performance. So that's our primary message. One of the benefits is that the UN itself has said that buildings are the lowest cost, highest impact way to reduce carbon emissions, that a new generation of buildings will both create economic opportunity but will also have a tremendous impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Monica Trauzzi: So what's the difference, then, about the approach that needs to be taken in developing nations on green building compared to how things were handled here in the U.S.?

Roger Platt: Well, in many developing countries, their attitude is appropriately that unless any environmental initiative addresses their basic needs as human beings, it's irrelevant. It's a luxury. And so basic housing, housing that's healthy, housing that produces an environment that is both safe and nontoxic but also one that's very, very low-cost, that's a priority for them, and we see green buildings as meeting that need very, very, very clearly.

Monica Trauzzi: What are lessons learned from the U.S.'s experience that you think can be applied abroad?

Roger Platt: Well, one of the things that we've learned in the United States is that leaders in both the real estate industry, construction, architecture, engineering, product manufacturers, that they can be a tremendous part of the solution when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and the environmental impacts of buildings. And so an industry-led approach can be a great complement, and sometimes even can be more significant than the role of the government in addressing climate change. So that is a message that works in - at least in countries that are excited about the role of business. In countries that are much more government-dominated, we tend to emphasize that the government itself can lead by example, as the U.S. government did. The U.S. government has a policy in most cases of having third party certified green buildings, typically to the LEED rating system, and that's something that other governments are looking at, including recently the government of India and New Delhi.

Monica Trauzzi: Yeah, talk to me about New Delhi. You recently expanded the LEED certification of buildings to the metro. Talk about that agreement.

Roger Platt: Well, what our Chief Operating Officer, Mahesh Ramonajan, and our future CEO, Mahesh, did very recently was he visited New Delhi, and there he met with the metro governmental officials, and the metro in New Delhi, as I understand, serves over 20 million people a day and has a huge amount of associated real estate infrastructure. And the folks that operate that were very compelled with the idea that they could make those buildings much more energy-efficient, water-efficient, make them healthier places for people to be as they wait for the metro, or the people that work there, and so they've committed to working with us to adapt and otherwise work with us to find ways to interpret the LEED rating system so that it really works well for their local needs there, and we're really excited about that level of commitment.

Monica Trauzzi: Back here in the U.S., the Clean Power Plan is a major element of the Obama administration's efforts to reduce emissions. Where are you focusing your efforts on messaging on compliance? What are you telling stakeholders about the role of green buildings?

Roger Platt: Well, we think, and the administration's policies are very consistent with this - we think that the Clean Power Plan initiatives related to energy efficiency can be addressed very valuably through green building incentives and green building, as I was saying, leading by example by the governments. Again, both for housing, those who need low-income housing, but also government buildings and government initiatives with private sector building. So we're seeing in the Obama administration and the local government initiatives in this arena tremendous consistency with our message about green buildings.

Monica Trauzzi: USGBC is viewed globally as sort of the leader in green building. What are the next steps, then, for continuing to lead the way?

Roger Platt: Well, the very first step that I'm very excited about is we're bringing more than 20,000; 25,000 green building leaders from around the world to Washington, D.C., here in just a couple of weeks to green build a giant convening that we do annually here in the United States, and those folks will be encouraged, and many of them are already very active, to make commitments as industry that will complement the commitments that governments are making in Paris and also just to continue their amazing progress in demonstrating that the economic benefits of green building complement the environmental benefits. We just had a study commissioned by Booz Allen Hamilton which identified that green construction in the United States, from an economic standpoint, is outpacing in terms of job creation non-green construction over the next four years. So these big projects are producing a lot of jobs and also a lot of environmental benefit. I think at Green Build, we'll be trying to really, really underscore and get people pumped up moving into Paris to keep that sense that business innovation, business activity can complement governmental activity.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there. Very good discussion. Thank you, Roger.

Roger Platt: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for coming on the show. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Roger Platt: Thanks so much.

Monica Trauzzi: Thank you.

[End of Audio]



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