LEED’s International Impact: An Insider’s View

Jones Lang LaSalle's Global Sustainability Perspective interviews Jennivine Kwan, Vice President of International Operations at the U.S. Green Building Council.
Feb 21, 2012 10:25 AM ET
Campaign: GSP

Global Sustainability Perspective recently asked USGBC Vice President of International Operations Jennivine Kwan to share her insights on LEED’s relationship to other certification initiatives throughout the world, and how different organizations can work together toward common green building goals. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Q. How would you characterize USGBC and LEED’s accord with other green building groups and systems in different parts of the world?

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A. We definitely see our relationship as symbiotic, not competitive. All the groups coexist toward the same end result of increasing green building initiatives, regardless of the impetus. Our own goal is to enable LEED to be a catalyst for sustainability however it can best be utilized in any particular location throughout the world. If that’s determined to be LEED certification, fine, but if LEED can be used as a benchmark or facilitator for another group’s effort, that’s just as valuable as far as we’re concerned.

For example, the measurement tool preferred by China’s government is its Three Star System, with One Star and Two Star versions geared to regional and local markets. We support that system in any way we can, because it encourages the entire green building industry to grow in China. From my perspective of working in China for several years, I think that LEED’s international reputation as an effective tool helped the China Green Building Council in developing its own preferred system. And it’s notable that over 300 Chinese buildings have received or applied for LEED certification, which demonstrates how LEED and USGBC can contribute to and learn from sister initiatives throughout the world.

Q. USGBC has some chapters in other countries, but it seems to be somewhat limited, even though LEED is internationally recognized. Is this your preferred approach, and why?

A. Our international strategy is not really to develop as many chapters as possible. It is to make LEED the common language of green building; to provide a sense of unity, community and a common way to talk about the same thing. We know that there are different regional characteristics and issues, and we try to make LEED adaptable for use itself, or as a benchmark for a nation’s own system.

By the same token, our overall strategy behind forming international USGBC chapters is ... Read more