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Sustainability as a business advantage in the building sector

  • Published 15/02/2012
Sustainable building should be about joint company and community value creation, said Tuuli Kaskinen from Demos Helsinki at the Nordic Green Building Councils conference in Oslo on 9-10 February.

Kaskinen highlighted the role of gatekeepers to stimulate a green market.


- Those who affect what decisions we make are the gatekeepers: life style magazines, construction companies, real estate agencies, tourism services, supermarkets, work communities … These have a huge responsibility, and therefore we must ask ourselves who needs to be a part of the solution and why.


She said that it is important to involve the people who actually work with people and know the customers’ needs. As an example she mentions a hardware store in Finland that used to focus on selling tools for building new houses.


- Then they realized that the market for renovating houses has a huge potential, which they now have taken into consideration and they are working in new ways. Sustainability can and should be seen as a business advantage, she said.


Liv Signe Navarsete, the Norwegian Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, expressed her satisfaction with the number of participants at the conference and stressed the significance of their actions.


- By your demands you have the possibility to change the direction of policies, she said to the audience.



Human green behavior

Jeff Risom from Jan Gehl Architects talked about the correlation between a livable city and a sustainable city. That places continue to develop over time but that they have one thing in common: the process always starts with people.


- People don’t change their behavior because you tell them so, but when the context compels it. Design and policy should foster sustainable human behavior and new metrics should be designed to monitor this behavior.


Stefan van Uffelen, CEO at the Dutch Green Building Council, highlighted the positive financial impact of green building as the demand for sustainability among users is increasing. Lower energy costs, better image, health and comfort are the greatest triggers, and these in turn stimulate a higher value of sustainability buildings.


Professor Brian Edwards from RIBA Sustainable Futures Group, listed the key findings from at study on design innovation, certification and productivity in the US, UK and Denmark.


The study shows that certificates foster a more innovative thinking in architecture and design, and that renewable energy is a big design driver especially in emerging economies.


When asking the users, certified buildings are often associated with a high level of satisfaction. The benefits of green buildings are found mainly in increased business performance, user productivity and an improved company image.


From a designer’s point of view certification can be a problem when it matters more than design quality, as it can lead to standardization when it comes to design. The question is: Can design variety exist in a highly regulated and certified green world?


- Regional patterns of green design are emerging in spite of global accreditation: Hold on to these. Green buildings should reflect cultural values as well as environmental ones. The real benefits from green building come when energy, user, company and design benefits are all combined.



Nya Karolinska as an example

After lunch some examples on green building projects were introduced. Maria Nordberg from Skanska presented Nya Karolinska in Stockholm, Sweden, a climate neutral hospital with 100 % of the electricity coming from renewable, local energy production.


Jukka Naponen from Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund, presented Jätkäsaari, a city block in Helsinki for sustainable construction. The goal is to develop and demonstrate energy-efficient, innovative solutions for low-carbon urban design and construction.


- As you might know Finnish buildings are famous for their saunas, but at Jätkäsaari we have embraced the more sustainable concept of public saunas, Naponen said with a smile.


Finally, Eili Vigestad Berge, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation, presented Nordic Built, the Nordic Innovation initiative to accelerate Nordic competitive concepts for a sustainable built environment.


- We welcome you to join the program and take ownership of it. The Nordic building sector is strong, and Nordic Built is the foundation needed to move forward. Together we can position the Nordic region as world leading within green building.


Nordic Built consists of three modules; an identification process of opportunities and challenges in the building sector to create a common and uniting way forward. A challenge competition to visualize what is actually possible for the Nordic building sector actually to do and foster disciplinary collaboration cross borders, and finally a third module to engage and build on existing national efforts to improve the Nordic built environment.

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