Eric Johnson: Green certifications need to be treated as business decisions.

August 30, 2013 at 11:00 am | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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ImageInvited to Bucharest on the occasion of the Green Building Professionals training platform organized by the Romanian Green Building Council, Eric Johnson gave us an exclusive interview where he discussed the development of green building trends, the challenges of managing such a building and the role of the public authorities in the development of this field.

by Diana Şerban

What do you think are the causes for the slower adoption of green building techniques in certain Eastern European countries?

Like in every new field, people are trying to find their way. I believe that they are relatively skeptical, for now, as they have a false impression on the amount of additional costs and they believe that hard work is necessary in order to make this idea profitable on the long term. I think that presently more and more concentrated efforts are being put into finding the right path for this new field.

You are one of the founders of the Czech Republic GBC. How well is the concept of green buildings understood in your country and what are the next steps for a complete development of the field?

I can tell you that all the owners of standard buildings are interested in obtaining a green certification for these constructions, regardless of its type. There are not many such buildings certified, but I believe that gradually their number will start to expand. At the beginning of the financial crisis, everybody wanted to be „green”, to prove that their products where good because they where green, and now I realize this is becoming more and more a strict criteria for the client. I know major developers that said that when you want to sell a building, you will not sell it for much unless it has a green certification. In four years, the Czech Green Building Council has had an impressive activity. We started with 13 certified buildings and we now have almost 100 or more. So even during the crisis we managed to attract enough members.

What does the management of a green building require in addition to a conventional building?

I think that the short answer is that one needs to establish clear objectives and make sure that everyone knows and respects them on a long term, doing what they are meant to do. It is important to know that the work is never the same, every day one learns something new.

Do you think that more human resources are needed for the administration of such a building?

I don’t think more people are needed, but more efficiency. Surely at least one person is required to overlook the whole process. And I don’t believe experience is necessarily required, but the enthusiasm for what you are doing.

What is the most difficult and what is the easiest aspect to promote as a project manager for a green building?

I think that no one would ever say that they don’t want to rent a space in a green building. The additional costs are usually the ones that scare the clients. I believe that when you have a building that is self-sustained in terms of energy and water, these costs will easily be recovered. The most difficult is to convince people not to smoke inside the building or do other simple things that they are usually reluctant to.

Do you believe that the governmental factor has a decisive role in the development of such a trend in Europe? What additional regulations would be necessary at an European level for the encouragement of the green building trend?

I am the advocate of a free market. I am not necessarily delighted by the regulations imposed by the state. For example, the American Government adopted the LEED standard for most of their public buildings and I believe that this is indeed a lead that other states should follow. I feel that these initiatives get stronger if the people engage in them voluntarily. However, I believe that the Governments should keep working on taxes and eventually adopt green certification standards for their buildings in order to encourage private institutions to follow.

Are there currently any public buildings in Europe certified as green buildings?

Yes. I think there are a few in Italy. There are definitely in the U.K., as they underwent a special development in this direction. Besides these two countries, I couldn’t name other examples in Europe.

How do you appreciate the development of green buildings for the next 20 years in Europe, compared to USA, for example? Will there be any differences, or does the trend follow a standardization of the field world-wide?

I believe there are a few differences. Europe relies more on Governments, while the U.S. puts more accent on the markets. So there will be differences in this sense, but generally we will have the same objectives. Even though apparently we are going in different directions, we will finally reach the same place. This field will develop more and more, people will begin to cooperate, to have better and better ideas and where there is a network of good ideas… for example if someone in Romania has a good idea, maybe someone in the U.S. will put it into good practice. It will all amount to sharing the information we have.

What is your strongest argument when convincing a client to build green?
I don’t think there is one sole argument because clients are different and they have different reasons to build green. Generally I try to convince my customers that it is a good business decision. It is the best thing to do in order to consume less energy, to build a solid reputation and to have a quality project.

Eric Johnson is a specialist in the planning, cost management and delivery of the green development and promotion projects, LEED AP and BREEAM Assessor.

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