Nature and Biodiversity

The cities showcasing sustainable building

David Thorpe
Special Consultant, Sustainable Cities Collective
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Approximately 74% of 67 cities examined in a report published last week are implementing incentives for a greener built environment, 61% have enacted green building policies for municipal buildings and 49% are pursuing sustainable community policies.

All these are intended to reduce energy use, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, Green Building City Briefs, is the result of collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and the World Green Building Council (WGBC), as part of a compendium of briefs that ate intended to display positive examples for othr cities to learn from, about sustainability, building energy use and climate change policy.

The other headline findings are that 67% have made a commitment to green building codes, and 73% have green schools policies in place.

The briefing goes on to document the achievements of the 67 cities across all continents (with the notable exception of northern Asia/the former Soviet countries).

It does not, however, attempt to compare and contrast the differing standards and policies in place with the aim of achieving understanding about which are likely to be the most effective in terms of cost-effectively reducing emissions. There is a further proviso, that the list of 67 cities is, of course, selective.

Boston: Atlantic Wharf, Boston’s first green skyscraper, was certified Platinum under the LEED Core and Shell 2.0 rating system. Photo courtsey of Flickr Creative Commons user KAdam

This aside, the report contains much useful summarized information about the initiatives of the 67 cities.

They include city-wide sustainability initiatives, private sector green building incentives, green codes, sustainable community development, energy benchmarking, green schools, green affordable housing, and sustainable transportation measures.

Chicago’s Engine Company No. 16 achieved Platinum certification under the LEED for New Construction rating system in April 2013. Photo courtsey of Flickr Creative Commons user Chicago Public Building Commission.

Together, these cities have certified nearly 5,000 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects. Examples include:

  • San Francisco: requires its municipal facilities to achieve LEED Gold certification.
  • Basel: has committed to a goal of becoming a carbon-neutral administration by 2040.
  • Melbourne: has a goal of achieving zero-net emissions by 2020 for city operations. The city met its interim target of a 50% reduction below 1996-1997 emission levels in 2010.
  • London: its RE:FIT program targets public building retrofits as a way to cut emissions and decrease energy costs.
  • Beijing: requires all new buildings, both public and private, to achieve a one-star rating under the China Green Building Label.
  • Singapore: its Building Control Act requires all new construction and retrofits of existing buildings to achieve, at minimum, a Certified rating under the Green Mark Scheme; a proprietary rating system developed by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.
  • Boston: requires all large-scale developments to achieve certification under the appropriate LEED rating system.
  • Stockholm: requires new buildings on land designated by the city to have a maximum energy intensity no greater than 55 kWh/m2; 35 kWh/m2 lower than the national standard.
  • Amsterdam: provides property owners installing green roofs with a €50 per square foot subsidy, meant to cover 50% of the total installation costs.
  • Mexico City and New York City: incentivize the installation of green roofs.
  • Shanghai: offers developers a wide range of incentives for incorporating various sustainable features in projects, such as renewable energy and upgrades to a building’s shell.
  • Seattle: offers developers and property owners seeking LEED certification expedited review and permitting to streamline green projects.
  • Nairobi: provides property owners that are interested in increasing the energy efficiency of their property with subsidized energy audits.
  • Austin: its inventive S.M.A.R.T. Housing™ program provides fee reductions to developers of lowincome housing that meet program specifications such as green building requirements and access to public transportation.
  • Athens: established the Energy Efficiency in Household Buildings Program, which provides residents with free energy audits and access to low-interest financing to perform energy efficiency improvements.
  • Jakarta: its Green Building Code requires energy intensity reductions in residential structures that can be achieved by simple, cost-effective measures.
  • Lagos: its Power Kids Programm is an interactive, extra-curricular initiative that teaches students about energy and how their behavior impacts the environment.
  • Curitiba: where students learn proper recycling techniques and are in turn rewarded with toys, bus passes, or movie tickets for their recycled goods.
  • Paris: its Climate and Energy Action Plan demands 30% energy savings in primary and pre-schools; secondary school students are to take part in a program on energy efficiency that features building tours, conferences, and debates.
  • Berlin: has instituted a stormwater fee system designed to tax property owners based on the amount of impervious service on their respective land to improve resilience against floods.
  • Johannesburg: has issued a green city bond to develop the necessary capital to implement climate change adaptation strategies.
  • Toronto: has provided funds for the development of an innovative cooling system that that draws water from the cold depths of Lake Ontario to provide cooling to city buildings.

Find the report here.

This article is published in collaboration with Sustainable Collective. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: David Thorpe is Special Consultant of Sustainable Cities Collective.

Image: The TV tower at Alexanderplatz square during sunset in Berlin. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 2

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