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The Challenge of Green Building in the Developing World

Gain insight into green building in the developing world with our edited version of an article which first appeared in "CommonEdge" 10/16/19 by author Martin C Pedersen.  Martin talked with Prashant Kapoor (pictured) about his work at the World Bank and evolving green building efforts in the developing world. 
Most growth will occur in the developing world:  China, India, Asia, Africa, and parts of South America.  That's a prospect fraught with both extreme peril (many of those countries are still burning copious amounts of coal) and opportunity.  Washington, D.C.-based architect Prashant Kapoor of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) is helping lead the charge.  The Indian-born Kapoor led the development of EDGE, a green building assessment tool, as well as the  EDGE certification program, a lower cost alternative to LEED, created for the emerging markets.  
What is your role at the IFC? 

I work as an industry specialist.  IFC is a private sector investment arm of the World Bank.  My primary role is to help guide investment decisions in low carbon developments, sustainable cities and energy saving companies.  (ESCO).  I help launch projects to finance green buildings and green urban developments, such as green mortgages, green bonds.  I created EDGE , a free software application, and certification system to mainstream resource-efficient building growth in emerging markets.  In 2010, it was difficult to quantify green buildings, because LEED was quite expensive for clients in developing countries. 

Our clients in emerging markets also needed to quickly figure out what works and how much will it cost.  There was a clear need for a mass market solution, a down-to-earth measurable approach -- one that could turn an ordinary building into a higher performing one, at very little cost.  It had to be scalable in emerging markets where new building is taking place. 
We created EDGE, an online web platform...a database with market-specific metrics, hid the complexity beneath the user interface, then offered it for free. To achieve simplicity for the user we established an IT platform anyone could use in nearly 150 emerging markets.

Clients required some sort of validation to confirm a project was green.  We decided to create the EDGE certification platform.  We started with nothing, zero in 2010.  Now we do close to a billion dollars in investments a year in green buildings. In certain countries like Vietnam, South Africa, Columbia, it's been a roaring success.  The market penetration to Vietnam alone is about 6 to 7 percent.  
Are there solar and wind farms in India? 

There are, actually, India is investing in renewables, but at the same time also investing in coal power stations.  Although they might be adding renewables, the level of growth is outpacing those advancements. 
The CH-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center (GBC), Hyderabad, India.  The first building outside of the US to be awarded LEED platinum rating at the time of its inauguration. 
Martin asks, How do we keep developing world countries from making our mistakes?  Can you show them a future that has all the right ingredients for energy efficiency and is environmentally sensitive, then the rest of the design becomes so much stronger, correct?  It's important that we influence architects and designers before the form and shape of the building have been conceptualized.
The more populous emerging economies get it.  They know that there is not much choice.  And they're working hard behind the scenes to make it happen. But do we have enough tangible, scalable actionable ideas, in terms of master planning, transportation planning and urban policies?  Ideas that can still provide a good quality of life that are anchored in low carbon environments and can be implemented within a reasonable time frame and cost?  I thank the jury's still out. 
The big issue is scale.  How do we scale it up? 

To some extent it's a technology question, but it also needs to be an equity question.  For example, metros (trains) are being laid out in India and other places, but they're just too expensive for the masses to use.  If you put in electric vehicles, as a policy mandate, how do you make that work in the cultural context of Africa or Asia? 

All of this comes at a cost.  How do you make that work in developing countries, where they have other priorities:  education, health, housing?  How do you get them to see this as value? 
My honest feeling is that just LEED or EDGE, on a voluntary basis, is definitely not enough.  Work in developing countries has to save money, not just save the planet.  Most Indians who buy cars, they buy based on fuel efficiency.  An average person in India knows the fuel efficiency of every car.  It we can get them to see buildings the same way, then developers would cater to that market, and governments and banks would follow suit.  Banks would allow home buyers to borrow maybe $2,000 more, for a green house, maybe a zero-carbon house. Why, because the homes would save customers money, lower the risk for the banks, and raise the property values of the homes themselves.  If you want to capture 50, 60, 70% of the market, you have to make this a value proposition, not just a brand proposition. 

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