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Green Building Councils: A Step Towards Green Construction
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Green Building Councils: A Step Towards Green Construction

Facilitated by RECONOMY, the establishment and revitalization of Green Building Councils (GBCs) in the Western Balkans has officially begun. These independent bodies aim to steer the construction industry towards sustainability, aligning with the Western Balkan countries’ goal to become low-carbon economies.  In some Western Balkan countries GBCs are already in place, although most need support enhancing their impact, but in other western Balkans countries the constitution of these council constitutes a first step towards greening the construction sector.

As EU membership aspirants, the Western Balkan countries are required to implement the Green Agenda, with strong implications for the construction sector. While significant progress has been made, practical efforts and awareness of green construction, particularly energy efficiency, still need further enhancement.  Given that the construction sector is one of the largest consumers of energy, raw materials, and land, it is also a significant generator of waste. Moreover, if buildings are not properly constructed with energy efficiency in mind, they can lead to increased energy consumption in the long term. Therefore, addressing these issues is crucial to ensure sustainable building practices, to minimize the sector’s environmental impact and contribute to a greening the Western Balkans economies. The region has seen advancements in policy frameworks and initial steps towards sustainable practices, but the challenge remains to translate these efforts into widespread, on-the-ground actions and increased public awareness.

There’s an urgent need for green construction

The urgency to establish GBCs in the Western Balkans arises from several critical factors. The construction sector in the region is one of the most significant contributors to carbon emissions and energy consumption, making sustainable practices essential to combat climate change and comply with the national obligations under the Paris Agreement and the region’s EU accession aspirations. Other factors, such as the world-highest levels of air pollution associated with predominantly lignite-based energy production, negatively impact public health and well-being. Additionally, energy poverty remains a reality for vulnerable households. All these combined factors leave no choice but to encourage the countries to move away from fossil fuel-dependent energy production and invest in greener, energy-efficient solutions. Additionally, the region must address the low awareness and implementation of green construction practices to ensure energy saving, a healthier environment and better quality of life for its citizens.

GBCs promote sustainability in the construction industry by influencing policies, educating professionals, and implementing green building standards. These councils are vital for creating healthier and more sustainable living spaces. Through education and advocacy, they help reduce ecological footprints, foster economic growth, and ensure healthier environments for future generations. The goal of the councils is to elevate awareness and practices related to green building through events and collaborations with chambers of commerce, state institutions, universities and vocational education and training (VET) schools, and other key stakeholders.

GBCs will work on implementing and improving the certification of buildings in the Western Balkan countries. Certifying buildings as green brings numerous benefits. Certified buildings often have lower operating costs due to increased energy efficiency, leading to significant savings on utility bills. They also have higher market values and can attract environmentally conscious tenants and buyers. Additionally, certified buildings contribute to better indoor air quality and overall occupant health, making them more desirable places to live and work.

GBCs may serve as mediums or brokers between all stakeholders, facilitating the application of new technologies and know-how in the construction sector. By bringing together various players, these councils can create synergies that drive innovation and enhance the sector’s overall performance and sustainability.

Establishing GBCs in North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania, and revitalizing those existing ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, marks a significant step towards green economic development. By aligning with international standards and fostering cross-sector collaboration, the Western Balkans are set to make substantial progress in reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy-efficient construction practices. Recently, a series of workshops were held in North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, attracting over 200 companies and other stakeholders from the construction industry. Participants expressed strong motivation to adopt green building practices, citing the potential for cost savings, improved market competitiveness, and environmental benefits. Many companies have already committed to implementing energy-efficient measures and obtaining green building certifications.

Green Building Councils enhancing trade through sustainable construction

The shift towards sustainable construction practices not only benefits the environment but also opens new trade opportunities for the region. Adopting green building standards attracts investments from companies and investors that prioritize sustainability. This can lead to increased exports of eco-friendly building materials and technologies, fostering economic growth, job opportunities and creating new markets for local businesses.

Moreover, implementing green construction practices enhances the region’s competitiveness in the global market. As more countries and companies commit to reducing their carbon footprints, demand for sustainable construction solutions will grow. The GBCs can position the region as a leader in this emerging market, driving both regional and international trade.

What lies ahead?

Establishing GBCs in the Western Balkans is a crucial step toward regional sustainability. With a strategic focus on energy efficiency, these councils aim to transform the construction sector, making it more environmentally responsible and resource efficient. This initiative aligns with the EU’s Green Agenda and sets a precedent for other countries in the Eastern Partnership region to follow.

As we continue to push for a greener future, RECONOMY remains unwavering in its commitment to support stakeholders in the Western Balkans through the establishment and operationalization of GBCs. But our efforts don’t stop there. We are also dedicated to green skills development and improving access to green finance. For more information, please click here.

By taking a synergistic and holistic approach, we ensure that GBCs promote sustainable building practices, provide crucial training, and our financial initiatives empower stakeholders to tap into available financial products. Together, these efforts are paving the way for the Western Balkans to build safer, greener, and more sustainable homes and communities.

Authors

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Vidoje Kojovic

Vidoje Kojovic is the Program Officer for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. Over the past four years, he has been an integral part of Helvetas, where he has cultivated his skills in driving sustainable progress. In his current role, Vidoje is enthusiastic to leverage this knowledge and experience to contribute to the mission of fostering inclusive and green economic development in the Western Balkans.

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