Greening Development by Promoting Green Building


With buildings directly attributable to approximately 40% of global carbon emissions, 38% of total global energy consumption, 80% of potable water consumption, and 25% of wood consumption, promoting green building as a strategy for sustainable development offers significant potential benefits in a number of possible areas:

  • Increased efficiency in the use of energy, water, and materials and the avoided opportunity costs associated with less efficient practices
  • Reduced atmospheric pollution through lowered carbon emissions
  • Increased worker productivity and health due to better working and living environments
  • Reduced total waste achieved through the increased use of sustainable and recycled materials
  • Increased asset value of green buildings
  • Increased local value-added production for local building and export markets
  • Increased domestic and foreign direct investment in project development
  • Increased use of skilled labor in building construction, operation, and maintenance
  • More accountable, transparent, and efficient government systems of planning, permitting, and inspection
  • Increased export opportunities for U.S. and other manufacturers and service providers

To put the development potential of promoting green building in purely economic terms, an average net present value of direct savings of between $50 and $65 per square foot is achievable by building to accepted green standards. Egypt’s Smart Village Cairo, for example, has a reported 3.7 million square feet of commercial office space currently available for lease. By building this project to green standards, a direct savings of $185 million net present value could have been realized. The possible knock on effects of local job creation, increased sophistication of inputs production, expanded trade and investment, and others are not included in this calculation.

Every country, no matter how poor, has a construction industry. Every country, no matter how poor, builds buildings. However, except for the wealthiest nations, few have well-developed green building industries. One might assume this is because of the high cost of building green, or because of a lack of advanced technologies needed to construct green buildings. Neither is the case. In fact, a variety of low-tech, low cost green building solutions adapted to local conditions and needs have been in use since ancient times. The major hurdle to building green is simply that it represents a change in the current way of doing things.

CISE is pioneering an approach to help governments, foundations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and others contribute directly to accelerating the widespread adoption and practice of green building in developing countries worldwide. Like any other industry, green building requires the presence and functioning of a value chain. A value chain is an interconnected process that results in a product of service. In the case of green buildings, the value chain is quite complex, and we see this as the principal hurdle to the rapid adoption of green building standards and practices in developing nations.

Our approach to accelerating the development of green building value chains consists of three phases:

  • Phase I: Initial in-country diagnostic assessment and recommendations using CISE’s proprietary green building value chain (GBVC) assessment framework.
  • Phase II: Strategy development and elaboration of a detailed multi-year implementation roadmap.
  • Phase III: Implementation and performance monitoring of a multi-year value chain development initiative.

This approach represents the latest advance in more than a decade of research and development into the analysis of national-level business environments originally developed by CISE Director Mark Belcher and later adapted to sector-specific applications in health, agribusiness, and anti-money laundering/terrorist financing. This multi-dimensional, systems-based analytic approach to understanding highly complex, dynamic systems that affect development outcomes has become a standard of excellence for U.S. Government development agencies and has been used successfully in more than thirty developing countries worldwide.

CISE is currently seeking sponsorship to pilot Phase I of the GBVC diagnostic methodology outlined above. For more information, please contact Mark Belcher.

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