greenbuilding brasil

Gaia Travels: Dispatches from Sao Paulo – Greenbuilding Brasil

by  Denise Braun, Associate


Brazil is getting worldwide attention. In the next year the country will receive the World Cup and in 2016 the Olympic Games will be in Rio de Janeiro (designed as a World Heritage Site, by UNESCO in 2012). In August I attended the fourth Greenbuilding Brasil Expo in Sao Paulo. I was impressed by how much the Brazilian green building industry has grown in the past four years. Greenbuilding Brasil is an international conference and expo created by the Brazilian Green Building Council (GBC Brazil). The GBC Brazil was founded in 2007, by a group of individuals and organizations – all leaders in the sustainable construction market.


When I attended the conference in 2010 it was noticeably smaller and many of the LEED certified projects I had worked on were being recognized at the conference and I knew nearly 80% of the attendants and speakers. Three years have passed and I barely recognize all the new names and faces and the number of LEED certified projects were abundant and varied. The growth of registrations for LEED certifications in Brazil has increased exponentially, from one certification in 2004 to over 500 in 2011. Last year the GBC Brazil reported close to 600 certifications.


I attended a session on high performance glass and how different types should be selected according to building use. The speaker presented two case studies: one was a high rise building in the Sao Paulo business district and the other was a higher education building in the south of Brazil. In Sao Paulo the design team selected a green double- glass, with no open system for natural ventilation and which had a high reflectance index. Each of the four facades had different types of glass and different U-value and transmittance levels. I had expected the speaker to discuss lifecycles of Low-E glasses and steel-frame; or how those materials contribute to the recycled and regional credits (because windows represent a big part of building budgets). I also expected to see sessions about the upcoming World Cup or for Olympic Games. I wondered: What type of material is used in the building envelope for the Athletes Village? Though, oddly, I couldn’t find that content and was left wondering how Brazil was going to incorporate green building strategies into these giant projects whose scope has many implications for the people living in dense, urban Rio.


Another session focused on environmental labeling for manufactures. I had not seen this topic in earlier Greenbuilding Brasil sessions so it was encouraging that some manufactures are now making the commitment to being more transparent with their construction materials. Although, I did notice that the speakers missed the opportunity to weave in conversation around the new LEED v4 requirements (which includes greater requirements for product disclosures). Also missing from the conversation were EPDs (environmental product declaration) and any examples on how Brazil was preparing for the new version.


In another session, the speaker presented the LEED rating system that his company used for multiple buildings from the same master plan and same project boundary. In 2009 USGBC created “LEED for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects.” And in my work at Gaia I have seeing many warehouses and industrial projects certified in and around the Southwest; and our extended experience with multi-building projects and the new LEED online exclusive for master sites have given me a lot of insight into managing these large-scale projects. Seeing this session reminded me that the evolution of LEED is growing at varying rates in different countries. I was encouraged to see that multi-project management concerns have caught on as a topic of interest in Brazil – a nation whose developed urban centers could benefit from the decreased confusion that LEED for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects provides.
Specifically, this type of construction has been growing around famous cities like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba. But it’s not only sustainable industrial projects that are growing. In the worldwide ranking of LEED registrations and certifications processes Brazil ranks fourth, according to USGBC national. According to the Green Building Brazil Council, the propensity is to reach a growth of 100% a year, doubling the number of certifications every year, up until about 2022 when sustainable construction would reach 10% of the total construction market in Brazil.


As a Brazilian and with more than ten years of experience with sustainable projects, I really hope that this giant country, with a GPD of $2.253 trillion (in 2012) and the total population is 198.7 million people, keep doing a good job in sustainability and increasing become part of the world dialogue, and can lead by example for other countries in Latin America. Brazil will have “First Green World Cup,” according to the CBF. Maybe one day Brazil will be the “first 100% green” country in Latin America for reasons beyond the greening of the World Cup and Olympic Games.


Denise Braun can be reached at