Green Building Council Finland

World Green Building Week: Sustainable development advances rapidly in the real estate and construction sector

This week we celebrate the annual World Green Building Week. The topic is of high importance as the built environment is known to account for 40% of energy consumption, 40% of global material resource use and 33% of all emissions. During the theme week we will highlight the significance of environmentally responsible, economically profitable, healthy and comfortable built environment. We like to see our buildings as key part of the solution to our climate challenges!

The global theme of the week is #OurHeroIsZero, which is set to encourage real estate and construction sector to move towards a zero-carbon future. However, in Finland we will talk about green building in a bit broader sense, by discussing the whole range of green sustainability topics such as resource efficient housing, sustainable property management, future energy solutions and “As A Service” models as well as sustainable regional planning.

Sustainable development has in recent years become a widely recognised and a much-talked about phenomenon in the real estate and construction sector. For example, Ramboll’s recently published Green Market Study, a review addressing sustainability in the built environment, gathered answers from almost 400 Nordic real estate and construction professionals on how their organisation addresses sustainability. The results show that in the Nordics sustainable development is already seen as the prerequisite for successful business.

“In all Nordic countries the standpoints of life cycle thinking and life cycle management were seen as the most fundamental trends of the future. These topics are associated with the change in the ways of working, rural depopulation and the flexibility of spaces. In addition, especially in Finland the ageing population sets special challenges for the sector,” says Kari Hiltunen, Head of Department for Green Building and Sustainability Consulting at Ramboll.

Sustainable building offers a variety of solutions to these themes, while at the same time making sure that the environment and the people are being treated respectably, in a way that supports economical profitability.

The rise of sustainability and responsibility can clearly be seen in the recent development of the real estate business. One of the most important international drivers for sector’s responsibility actions has been the reporting framework GRESB. This year the survey was participated by 850 companies from 62 countries. ”Constant and transparent responsibility reporting is becoming even more important and being an essential part of real estate business’ responsibility,” tells Hannamari Koivula, Sustainability Manager for Sponda Plc. The company itself reached the best result in the Nordic countries within its peer group and was chosen as a Sector Leader in the 2017 GRESB assessment. “We received a full five-star assessment and were awarded a Green Star. This is a great acknowledgment for our persistent responsibility work,” Koivula continues. Energy and environmental efficiency will remain as a focus point in future too. Environmental responsibility will stay at the core of Sponda’s new construction and refurbishment design guidelines and they will continue to supply the customers with transformable buildings and eco-efficient working environments.

The next challenge is to make green building mainstream

“Green building rating tools have been successfully used for creating demand for sustainable building. However, we are yet to see significant progress made in the area. Thus, the Level(s) framework, launched by the European Commission this year, has been developed to provide a common sustainability language for the building sector to support life cycle decision making,” says Roy Antink, Senior Vice President, International Policy Coordination, from Stora Enso. “To forward the uptake of Level(s), Stora Enso, as European regional partner of the World Green Building Council (WGBC), together with the WGBC, Green Building Council Finland and the European Commission, was pleased to host a workshop gathering Finnish government as well as national and international building stakeholders to discuss policy developments and their implementation in local conditions” Antink concludes.

So, the real estate and construction sector is carrying out major actions to further cut down its environmental impacts. However, the next definitive transformation will be driven by the building users, by us, the normal people. For example, business premises and office spaces are forced to respond to the changes affecting our society at large, especially in the ways of working and using our buildings.

“The evolution of our working life and sharing economy are changing our industry rapidly. Sustainable development is in a key role, when we develop our premises to comply with the growing demands of shared work spaces and mobile working. Ecoefficiency, adaptability and our clients’ wellbeing is at the heart of the design and maintenance of our new premises” says Johanna Kivelä, Sustainability Manager at Technopolis. “As client interest for responsible choises and wellbeing rises, it is instantly reflected on the workplace solutions,” Kivelä states.

Residential sector is also moving fast with adapting sustainable development. For example, NCC has set their goal on offering supreme sustainable solutions. “In 2015 we built a high-rise apartment building where new design solutions enabled us to cut the carbon footprint by 20% in comparison to similar buildings,” describes Johanna Kirkinen, Environmental Manager from NCC Building. NCC is now building an Ecolabel apartment building in Vantaa and it will follow strict requirements on environmental, health and quality aspects. ”We are also building an energy self-sufficient apartment block and an apartment building with a wooden structure in Turku. Energy and material selection is crucial for lowering carbon emissions,” Kirkinen concludes.

Saint-Gobain Finland’s Sustainability Manager Anne Kaiser strongly agrees with the statement on material selections’ role in sustainable building. ”The built environment has a huge impact on peoples wellbeing now and in the future. Construction materials are present in our homes, offices and hobbies through the buildings we use. Saint-Gobain is determined to push sustainability with high-performing products and structural solutions that increase wellbeing and safety of building users with low environmental impact.” Safety, health and wellbeing are becoming even more important subjects in the sustainability discussion alongside environmental aspects.

Green Building Council Finland’s tagline has long been “to the top of sustainability, together”. Since the early days of the association, we have identified the need for finding even better solutions from experts around the sector, to support the constant development of our industry and to take care of the society around us. By chance the tagline #together was selected as the motif of Finland’s 100th year of existence too. Alongside this we see that the business case for green and sustainable buildings will remain as another constant driver for advancing sustainability while producing the best economical outcome for us all.

Take part in the World Green Building Week events and join the conversation on social media by using the tags  #WGBW2017 and #OurHeroIsZero!

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The week is full of great events on various sustainability themes. The main language however will be Finnish as you can see from the titles.

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