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Green visionaryby Duncan Hare on Dec 24, 2011
USGBC president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi delivers his verdict on Saudi’s Kingdom Tower and Qatar’s World Cup.
Ponder the following facts for a second: More than 30% of our entire lives are spent at work and an astonishing 90% of them spent indoors. Rick Fedrizzi, founding chair of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993, has dedicated the vast majority of his working life to promoting sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated.
In his words, these “boxes” in which we almost entirely envelope ourselves as human beings, either “treat us with respect as humans, or not.” To speak to Fedrizzi is to speak to someone who is acutely aware of the vast challenges and changes that construction will face in the decades ahead.
Acutely aware that the unsustainable practices of the previous few decades which were de rigeur will no longer wash, practices which Fedrizzi has little hesitation in declaring came from a base of being “drunk with power.”
It is perhaps then somewhat surprising to hear his rather ambivalent attitude to the mega-project, super-soaring constructions so prevalent in the GCC such as the Burj Khalifa and its future champion as the world’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“From the smallest affordable home to the largest tallest office building, I do not think there is fundamentally any difference if, in fact, the space is utilised properly,” opined Fedrizzi.
“If every measure is taken to improve energy, water, waste, materials, air quality, then tall buildings can perform terrifically on a number of different metrics. [You] have to understand that, and put the investment in their design, and then monitor them after they are constructed so that the performance actually comes out of them.”
Fedrizzi was appointed president and CEO of the rapidly-growing USGBC in April 2004. Under his stewardship, USGBC has undertaken a far-reaching agenda that has tripled its membership, broadened its influence, and cemented its role as a leadership voice in the global sustainability movement.
A crucial aspect of that agenda has been USGBC’s internationally-recognised LEED green building certification programme.
Indeed, the growth of LEED has led to more than 151,000 individuals earning either the LEED AP or LEED Green Associate professional credential. That, however, does not mean LEED is the be all and end all – as Fedrizzi was keen to emphasise.
“LEED is our ratings system, but we wholly support and endorse other credible rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi,” said Fedrizzi, speaking at the sidelines of a UAE lecture event entitled The Global View of Green Buildings.
“It helps people in every part of the world understand what is necessary to deliver high-performing green buildings. We are not competing with other systems.” The LEED rankings currently chart the UAE as third in its global ratings system, behind only the US and China.
“The significant thing – and the interesting thing – is when we turn the debate away from construction to existing buildings, and the question is ‘How would the Middle East fare there?’, I do not know,” admitted Fedrizzi. “What I will tell you is that, in the US, we ourselves are not as proficient or accomplished in the ‘existing building’ world as we should be. It will take time.
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