1. How is the situation currently of green buildings in Serbia?

For example, just a few weeks ago, two buildings here received LEED certification, both EB:OM and NC. Also, we have one building certified under BREEAM in Use. And there are dozens of undergoing projects registered for certification.

But, it is not fair to mention only Serbia because many of SerbiaGBC Members are involved in very interesting green building projects in the region, as consultants, designers, engineers, contractors and green consultants responsible for certification.

Green buildings, in terms of certification, are present in Serbia since 2010. Today, three and a half years later, there is basically no capital private investment project which does not consider going throughout green certification, and that is great.

What is not so great is the general market environment of a few years back. Today we have some announcements of big investments, projects are on the table, urban planning schemes has been changed and legal framework is adjusted for these new developments. Will this become reality, and, will green building professionals in Serbia seize this opportunity to show environmental, urban and social logic of green neighborhoods and green buildings, it is really hard to say right now.

2. Why are green buildings so important?
First, somebody had to do it. And the green buildings did it, so to speak. We are at the beginning of the sustainability era, and it is questionable if this era would have such a good start if there were not green building certification schemes. These schemes, and private sector response (and demand) to these schemes, showed to the governments that big changes can come faster than usual.

Now, when the train has finally been moved, my personal favorite about green buildings is the fact that they are – buildings. It seems to me that we are not quite aware of this great transition, going from „eco-homes“, „green-homes“, „x-and-y-homes“, to „green buildings“, „zero-energy buildings“, „passivhaus buildings“, etc. The fact that today we are talking about the buildings (not homes) shows that we are aware of, and prepared to fight with, urban sprawl, energy and water efficiency, transportation and waste management, infrastructure and planning, public spaces, open spaces, etc.

We live in cities, in urban environment, and, here in Europe, for centuries back, urban is – buildings. There is no sustainable future for our civilization without sustainable buildings, and green is just a first step towards that goal.

Green buildings make us think big about the sustainable future. When you speak about „house“, even if it is „the best house in the world“, you are still speaking about individual, about isolation, about I-am-better-person-more-handsome-then-you lifestyle, about selfishness, if I may say so. House-approach means one-human-being-at-the-time, and that is just not fast enough for where we are and what we need to get where we are supposed to be. Homes could never do the job of moving things forward.

But, when you speak about buildings, it instantly concerns dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people. Home is home, mine OR your home. But building is OUR home, OUR office, OUR hospital, OUR school, OUR theater, OUR city. „Our“ – as mine AND yours.

So, home is home, and building is life, profession, health, education, culture, society. When you understand the building, you understand the city, and sustainability, and civilization, and all kinds of issues, from food to sewage, from drinking water to zoning, from resource usage to energy efficiency, from public transport to public debate.

Green buildings were the key step for moving fast-forward trough all these important issues, and, where society is not yet aware about the changes that needs to be done, green buildings are the best tool we have to remind it and to give it a direction.

3. What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in the growing green building market in Serbia?
As for many other countries – contact local Green Building Council. It`s that simple. It can tell you a lot about local and regional green building climate and leaders. It can also give you better insight of local sustainability level by providing you with specific informations, or by failing to do it.

Also, one must always have sense of wider regional context: cultural, economical, lingual, regulatory, etc. As I previously mentioned, SerbiaGBC Members are the leading companies in green building market in the region. Serbia and surrounding countries are very connected throughout various markets, including green building. So, if you tend to get involved in green building in Serbia, or anywhere near in the region, contact SerbiaGBC, or at least, check out SerbiaGBC Members list. It’s all there.

“SerbiaGBC Members” www.serbiagbc.org/en/clanovi

4. Who do you feel is currently driving the sustainable movement in Serbia; designers, clients or the government itself? Why?
Designers AND clients. There is a strong two-way bond between investors and their consultants and designers. As far as I`m familiar with green building market in Serbia it wouldn`t be fair to say that investors want green, so it is green, or, that designers want it. They work together, the way they are supposed to.

We have engineers with know-how, and we have investors who are willing to listen and let themselves be convinced to go green. Several green projects emerged during these first few years of Serbia Green Building Council because our organization raised mutual relationship of trust in each-others competence. As I`ve already said, I personally do not believe there will be any capital private investment in Serbia without, at least, calculating benefits of green certification already in early stages of the project.

One country can not expect to have green market without green professionals. Investor is investor. We all know that same business can use double standards for different markets. You have to be prepared to offer green so you can get it. Don`t expect from investors to bring green buildings into your country. Ask for it. Or, even if they bring green building without you asking and preparing for it, they will bring their own consultants, engineers, designers, contractors, products.

5. What do you expect for the future of the green building market?
I see green building market as a great start and great tool for next huge steps waiting for us out there. And by „us“, I don`t think about green building professionals, but about all of us, as a society. This way, I see green building market as one thing, but green building concept as something else, much wider than the „market“. We must not forget that green building market is just a logical result of green building idea. Idea. But, once used and shaped, idea can`t last forever, unchanged. It must grow, as idea, not as a market. If we don`t understand this, the other idea will come and bring a new market, the same way green building did it years ago.

Green buildings showed that we can build in a better way than we used to. Also, now we have these emerging urban planning schemes which are taking entire cities in consideration while talking about „green“ and „sustainable“. So, all of that side of the story has its path. But, technology, standardization, certification, etc, these are all just tools designed to shape physical framework for our philosophical and political aims. Green buildings moved the market.

Green building of the future can`t stay in the technical field only. There are some questions we need to answer. Should there be green certified slaughter houses, or GMO food factories, or prisons – in a states that have death penalty? Or what about green shopping malls? When you are building a shopping mall that tend to be certified, you are instructed to use regional materials. But, once you have built it, tons and tons of not-so-regional goods will come in and out that building on daily bases, for years and years.

I`m not saying that we should, or we shouldn`t certify these buildings. I`m just saying that green building movement will soon be challenged to step out of the technical „comfort zone“, and that it would be better to do it by itself, and not by public, media, consumers, or any other pressure.

There is also one more important issue green building movement is facing today – resilience. Can we say that green is enough today, with all these floods, winds, frost and heats we have obviously facing for decade or two? Buildings, in a first place, were made to protects us. Can they accomplish this assignment today? Can green buildings do it? If there are no guaranties they can, than, which buildings can? Are there any? Should green buildings sit and wait for some other concept to take over the market, or we will react in time?

Should green building protocols make statement on this issue by moving things deeper – asking for the extreme physical building quality and multi functionality? For example, by rewarding or demanding 10 percent higher wind, rainwater, earthquake, high and low temperature extremes than local regulation and standards to be taken in green building design calculations?

The way I see it, with the insurance industry looking over our shoulder, the real estate market in general will have to move towards resilience – both financial and construction, but also in terms of management, security, safety, location, privacy, etc. With this climate, in a decade, more or less, green buildings of today could be seen as “out of date”. I`m not sure if green building concept we are all serving and servicing today, any time soon will be able to convince people that you should invest in green, for yours or greater good, with circumstantial, or no extra guaranties at all, when it comes to durability, safety or usability during the extreme weather conditions and emergency situations. In one word – when it comes to resilience of ones` project.

Check out Mladen Bogićević LinkedIn profile. www.linkedin.com/in/mladenbogicevic