The developing world, particularly China and India, could soon be major players in the booming green building market, according to a by cleantech market research firm Pike Research last week.
While the industry is evolving differently in every country, the one element that all nations — developing and developed — share is government involvement, says report author Eric Bloom, a research analyst at Pike.
"As a general rule of thumb, national-scale programs that were established within a country to address buildings in that country tend to be favored by the government and/or have government involvement in the development of the program," Bloom says.
"One of the easiest first targets has been public sector buildings. And that goes for pretty much every country," he adds. "In the U.S., all government buildings need to meet LEED silver or higher, and in China and India the path to green building has been similar."
What's different about the movement toward green building in China and India, however, is that local government-developed certification programs have been launched in tandem with the adoption of international standards. These global programs include the U.S. Green Building Council's (LEED) rating system and the UK's (BREEAM).
By contrast, in the U.S., the LEED rating system was in place long before the government even thought about mandating green building. When the government did move, it opted to simply mandate a certain level of LEED certification, rather than come up with its own standards.
In 2007, meanwhile, China announced the launch of two national green building standards — the Green Building Design Label (GBDL) to certify the design of buildings and the Green Building Label (GBL) to certify operational efficiency. Around that same time, as the world started talking about the "green Olympics" in Beijing, developers in the country began to embrace LEED.
For the first two years of its existence, the government initially did little to support its own green building program, other than releasing several technical guidelines. By mid-2009 only ten building designs had received GBDL certification.
However, over 100 Chinese buildings had applied for LEED certification during those same two years.
Interest Explodes in China, India
Things have changed dramatically in recent months.
According to Bloom, the last six months have brought an explosion of interest in the nation's green building labels. That fact, Bloom says, is mostly due to the inclusion of green building as a focus in the country's most recent , and China's sudden interest in pushing its own green building system.
"Overnight, the [Chinese] government has said they want there to be more GBL and GBDL certified buildings, and so there has been an explosion of interest and of government involvement at the same time," Bloom says.
The benefit of country-specific green building certifications is that they are tailored to the climate and construction realities of the country.
"I think we'll see big government involvement in pushing green building in China and India. And also, there's just a lot of building happening in both places in the coming decade, so they're thinking, 'Okay, we need to find way to make all this greener,'" Bloom says. "Because they're going to be under international scrutiny, but also because these governments really believe it's important."