Reflections on Celebration of Spain’s First LEED Platinum New Construction Green Building
I’m heading out of Bilbao airport this morning, flying over the verdant and long-settled Basque coast, on my way back to San Francisco via Frankfurt. This is a good time to reflect on what I saw in Spain both in terms of green building activity as well as architecture and this amazing city.
First of all, the amazing Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry, now 15 years old, demonstrates once again what great architecture does: it informs, inspires and intrigues all at once. You’ve all probably seen the photos; but inside the museum, this is an amazing experience of space and time, with geologic age sandstone and modern titanium combined into one huge volume. I would have to say, if you have time to see no other work of contemporary architecture in Europe, see this one! And I was fortunate to see a major exhibit of recent and older works by David Hockney, certainly one of our great living artists.
The occasion? A half-day green building symposium celebrating the inauguration of a new LEED-NC v2.2 Platinum Municipal sports center major renovation, of about 150,000 sq.ft., Polideportivo San Ignacio, the first such high-performance building in Spain. The organizers were the Bilbao City Hall together with my friends at the Spain Green Building Council(r) (Consejo Construcción Verde España(r)), led by Aurelio Ramírez, a civil engineer and LEED & project management consultant from Madrid. Active since 1998, the SpainGBC(r), www.spaingbc.org, has been strenuously promoting LEED, an effort which has lead finally to the pinnacle of green building achievement in Spain.
I was interested also to find out that, because of the Council’s work, Spain has the third largest number of LEED registered and certified projects in Europe (101 and 22, respectively). In addition, there are about 150 LEED Accredited Professionals now in this country of 47 million, so I believe that despite the significant problems in the Spanish economy, particularly in the property ownership and real estate development sector, that green building certification already takeoff in Spain. This is because many of the big Spanish international companies want to locate in LEED-certified space, from the big banks, power and energy companies, real estate, telecommunication, universities, to hotel chains, small medium companies, and some local and regional government bodies.
At this event, organized by the City of Bilbao with the support of the SpainGBC(r) , Aurelio Ramírez put in context the audience about the work of the SpainGBC(r), what LEED is and some case studies about LEED buildings in the city and in Spain. Then we heard from the head of the Bilbao city council, the First Councilor, Mr. Ibon Areso about how proud the city is of its LEED building and about how they expect that sustainable development will be a strong part of this region’s future economic growth strategy. Following the opening presentation, Ramírez was joined on the panel by Zaida Basora, Assistant Director of Public Works for the City of Dallas, Texas; Lynn Perkins, AIA, project manager with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and myself. Basora, a former USGBC Board member, talked about how Dallas has gradually adopted green building ordinances and strategies over the past decade, a process that she has heavily influenced. Perkins discussed the work of the Foundation and its LEED Platinum headquarters building in Seattle. In my green building keynote, I presented the business case for rapid development of green building in Spain.
In addition to Ramírez, CCVE president and head of the Zeta3 consultancy in Madrid, it was a great chance to get to know the other officers of the CCVE, Ignacio Losada of Zeta3 project management, Francisco de Paula Crespo, head of facilities for Bankinter, and Javier Martin of Aplein Ingenieros and to discuss with them some next steps for the evolution of the Council. Ramírez was an incredibly gracious host, taking us on Sunday for a tour of the countryside around Bilbao.
We also had a chance to spend time with Gerritt-Jan Teunissen of Traject Real Estate Management, a foremost LEED green building consultant from The Netherlands and founder of the nascent Dutch LEED Green Building Council, and to hear from him some of the issues in getting large real estate owners to revamp their development approaches to take into account LEED requirements.
Bilbao is a very compact city, located along a river with tidal influence from the nearby Bay of Biscay (Viscaya), which has totally transformed itself the past 30 years from an aging industrial town into a vibrant center for tourism and Basque culture. I can highly recommend a visit, not only for Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, but also as a point of departure for seeing the lovely Basque countryside, well worth a visit, especially this time of the year and well into the fall.
I’m off to Portland this week to celebrate another LEED Platinum project, this one the LEED-CI 2009 new headquarters of Glumac consulting engineers, itself a remarkable achievement. I’ll update you on that soon via this blog!