"It's Brazil's time" said President Lula de Silva when he made the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Well, it is!! I spent the last four days on the road here, with USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi and John Mandyck, the CSO (that is, the Chief Sustainability Officer, yes they exist!) of Carrier. For those who were still in doubt: Brazil is booming! We spoke at two big events, one in Rio and one in Sao Paulo. As foreign investors are pouring in capital (not a strange choice, given the low yields in Europe and the US), the market has started to develop real estate at a frenetic pace. In fact, in Sao Paulo, with 20mln inhabitants, there are just 30 (!!) class A office properties. Foreign developers, such as Prosperitas, Tishman, etc, are working on new supply, but prices have skyrocketed in the meantime. Everybody is in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup (revenge for Holland?) and the 2016 Olympics. And, guess what, global tenants have global demands, so LEED certification is incorporated in many (if not all) of the buildings. Yes: Haliburton wants a green building. Telefonica wants it. And Goldman Sachs as well. We had a good meeting with Previ, the largest pension fund in Latin America, and they're certifying all of the buildings in their portfolio. "Just good business," as Rafael Castro of Previ explained to us.
The Brazilian Green Building Council is working hard to help the sector, and the new developments going up here are truly great buildings. I compare it to skipping the landline-era: emerging economies like Brazil can avoid the fate of Europe and the US, and just develop the next generation of buildings, without being stuck with the crap we developed in the 70s and 80s. It's impressive though, to see that large existing buildings are certified as well: I went on a building tour with JLL today, hearing all about tenant engagement in a 8-year old building. LEED Silver as a results. $150k in cost savings, and a sky-high sales price to an American investor just a month ago….
While browsing Brazil, I'm reading Ed Glaeser's "Triumph of the City" (long overdue of course). He describes the "favelas" (the slums) as a phenomon that symbolizes how cities attract people from poor rural areas. Indeed, there are many more jobs in Rio de Janeiro than in the north of the country (and even low-income households prefer living close the beach rather than in traffic-clogged Sao Paulo). Even though favelas are close to the beaches and the city, there is not that feeling of fear for crime when you walk the streets. Important for a city that wants to attract millions of visitors per year (the "Corcovado" that towers over the city is pretty impressive indeed)!
During our trip, I learned quite a bit from Rick and John: there are now 187,000 LEED APs, more than 40 percent of LEED projects are outside of the US, and more than 40,000 people are expected at Greenbuild in San Francisco. If you need a feel-good moment, watch this (scroll to 2:26min for some Dutch comments…). I'm planning to hold to sessions on green building finance during Greenbuild. More later!