Green Building Emerges in Serbia!
Last week I was the guest of the Serbia Green Building Council in Belgrade, on the occasion of the first Serbia Green Building Expo and Conference. I was the keynote speaker at the first day of the conference and also provided LEED training for about 60 people. A prominent government minister gave the kickoff speech, and my appearance was featured on several TV stations and in the local media, helping boost interest in the event.
My hosts, Marija Golubovic of Energo Energy Efficiency Engineering and Mladen Vukanac of Sauter Building Controls, chair and vice chair of the council, respectively, both work in the design and construction industry, so they bring a practical perspective to what I often find is a government, NGO and academic-dominated approach to green building in many countries. I was particularly impressed by a turnout of more than 100 people from Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries in Europe. The exhibit hall at the fairly new Belexpo Center in New Belgrade (Novi Beograd) was full, with more than 40 booths, most of them occupied by large international companies.
I have to say that, especially for a first event, the organization by the Serbia GBC was fantastic and certainly should serve as a model for other green building councils just getting started. Serbia is a small country, only eight million people, so organizing a successful first event of this magnitude was a great achievement! I also met with two leaders of the Croatia Green Building Council, Hrvoje Kvasnicka, Snjezana Turalija.
There are now about 10 LEED registered projects in Serbia and, by the middle of 2013, I’m sure a few of them will be certified. I was able to meet with architects and engineers doing one of these projects, including leaders of Arhi.Pro, the leading architectural and engineering firm in Serbia. There’s plenty of opportunity for green building consultants, as the country is just waking up to the promise of green building.
I also met with a wonderful team at Confluence Property Management, operators of the largest shopping center in Belgrade, at the confluence of the Sava River with the Danube. Confluence Property Management is working with Energo Energy Efficiency Engineering, the leading green building consultancy in the country, to secure a LEED for Existing Building O+M certification for the center, which would be a tremendous achievement.
The economic situation in Serbia is difficult, more than one might imagine, but green building is making headway in the Balkans, in Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe! It was also great to meet up with other green building practitioners, including Warsaw-based Devin Saylor of Colliers International and Dominika Czerwinska of the World Green Building Council, a Canadian also based in Poland.
I was also able to visit with relatives of Dick Glumac, chairman of the board of the Glumac engineering firm, originally from Serbia. They gave me a walking tour of the city, including the prominent medieval fortress of Kalemegdan, a remnant of the Turkish invasion and long-term occupation, and treated me to a genuine home-cooked meal!
Walking along the Knez Mihailova, the main pedestrian shopping street in the old city, I noticed more bookstores than bakeries, indicating perhaps that Belgrade residents would rather read than eat!
The record cold had frozen the Danube just prior to my arrival, and the ice breakup was causing a lot of damage to boats moored along the banks of the river. Luckily, the temperatures ranged from about 30 to 45 the whole time I was there, with no snow and only a little rain.