image: at the Embassy of Switzerland, Ambassador Urs Ziswiller
Okay, I was there last night attending "Green Building Policy and Design: Best Practices from Switzerland" in which DC Green Connection was one of the hosts for the event. (I signed up through DC Green Connection).
It's quite interesting mix of panelists. The three panelists: 1) Nick Begliger, speaking on behalf of Minergie, the issuer of the country's green building standard. 2) Stephan Tanner, a Swiss-American architect, speaks about Minergie product showcase in Minnesota and 3) Kevin Morrow with the National Green Building Program with NAHB.
Considering that this is after work event, it was a success. There were 175 people attended the event. The room was packed. This is the night when everything that the panelists talked about surrounds sustainability, green buildings, homes, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. The Ambassador made his point that among 140 nations, Swiss is the most greenhouse gas efficient country in the world, according to a Yale's Environmental Performance Index. And the US? It's way down, number 39! You see, we got a big problem over here...
In short, the way I see it, Switzerland is making the case for the adaptation of its green building standard - in the US. Sure, there are always interesting aspects that we could learn from it. For example, according Nick Begliger, Minergie is a registered brand. In such that it focuses on quality, lifestyle value, and keep things simple. Even though the program is voluntary, it is mandatory for public buildings.
What's interesting about their green concept is this: their green building standards adopted a simple philosophy with business goals behind the concept to export this brand/product (which is the certification) outside of the country. After all, Switzerland is a country about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire -combined with population around 7.6 million people. So, they need an outlet for its product that will help the country increase its revenues from exporting this sustainability brand of green buildings and green homes.
I am not a LEED expert, and this is my two cents. I think we can do better with all kinds of green programs, if we want to compete globally. LEED is currently the market leader. The program might be more comprehensive than Minergie, but if economic growth is key, keep it simple product might be the way to go.
Since the Swiss product is a 'brand,' they said they can take the certification away from the user, if users are not keeping up with their standards. Interesting concept. Not sure you can do the same with LEED.
Obviously, we still have room to go with builders building green homes. The bright spot of recession, says Kevin is "builders building green are doing okay." Hmm, wonder why builders got into the green bandwagon sooner..
While there, I got into an interesting discussion with a gentleman who said that he hasn't heard anything from the panelists about retrofitting homes. That's a good point. The argument is that there are more existing homes than new homes. Point well taken.
The evening ends with a visit to the Ambassador's residence, that in itself is a showcase of sustainability, green, and contemporary home.