In the United States, sustainable building initiatives and resource-efficient engineering and construction practices help businesses large and small minimize adverse environmental impacts and save money. For example, LEED-certified buildings, such as the Reed Smith Centre in Pittsburgh, tend to have lower operating costs than other facilities; utility bills may be up to 40 percent lower, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.[i] But in developing areas where resource conservation and sustainability would make the biggest impact, LEED and other initiatives do not exist. To support resource efficiency in emerging markets, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Green Building Council have collaborated to create Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE), a green building certification system.

EDGE aims to encourage sustainable development to help preserve increasingly scarce resources in developing countries. The certification system will also assist investors in identifying cost-efficient development projects; improve community health by reducing emissions; and help generate jobs by spurring innovation and freeing up financial resources for workforce expansion. Sustainable building may also promote improved marketability and resilience against extreme weather, enhancing prospects for real estate developers.

IFC and the World Green Building Council announced the program July 16, 2013 at IFC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. as part of its “Transforming the Built Environment in Emerging Markets” event.[ii] The EDGE program will be tested initially in Brazil, China, India, and South Africa, with plans to expand to 20 countries throughout the next year. Developers in those nations will be able to use the EDGE online tool to assess construction projects and identify resource-saving solutions based on local climate conditions. EDGE provides impact analysis demonstrating cost-efficiency at every stage of the building process, from reduced material costs during construction to lower maintenance and operating costs after construction completion. According to IFC, building-related greenhouse gas emissions may double by 2030, with most of the increase occurring in developing countries.[iii] By encouraging sustainability through EDGE and similar programs, areas of rapid growth can control local emissions and take advantage of short-term benefits such as cost savings and increased property value as well as long-term benefits including reduced emissions, lower healthcare costs, more cost-efficient businesses, and increased innovation and employment. Both companies and individuals benefit from more responsible resource management, with reduced construction and utility costs making home and business ownership a reality for many, thereby boosting overall economic prospects for developing nations.

This post was written by Brian Willett (Summer Associate)