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[IMGCAP(1)]The recent announcement that Colliers International Southeast Europe has formed a Regional Initiative for Sustainability and the Environment (RISE) is just the latest evidence that Europe increasingly is going green in terms of property development. To do so, however, involves a number of challenges in terms of education and even in the creation of a Continental standard akin to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the United States. Among other educational challenges, “We’re debunking the myth that sustainability is expensive,” says Erin Inglish, Regional Sustainability Advisor for Colliers International Southeast Europe, Zagreb, Croatia.

The RISE program will offer Colliers’ clients in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, FYR of Macedonia, and Cyprus consulting services on educating employees on sustainability, training employees interested in becoming green building consultants. In addition, the company is promoting best practices by developing outreach materials for clients and including features on environmental sustainability in feasibility studies and market reports. Inglish currently is teaching a 14-week online course on the issue of sustainability. “The idea is not to transpose LEED to Southeast Europe, but to create enough ideas for countries to consider,” including simple items such as the use of permeable pavement, Inglish said.

[IMGCAP(2)]For developers this is a country-by-country effort, though the International Council of Shopping Centers has formed a Sustainability Working Group to adapt the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), used in the United Kingdom, to create a Pan-European sustainability standard by 2009. But doing so across 25 European Union members and candidate countries at varying points of sophistication, and with differing national standards, presents some difficulties.

“We always choose the national standard as a minimum,” explained Jaap Gillis, COO of Redevco Europe, Amsterdam, and the chairman of ICSC Europe. “On top of that, you have the regulations from the European Union for standards that must be met by 2020.”

In fact, more developed countries will have a harder time meeting standards, as existing buildings will need to be retrofitted. Some 95% of Athens’ building stock is already complete, Inglish notes. Countries with less shopping center development, such as rapidly growing Bulgaria, can build “green” from the beginning, but they face a different hurdle. “Countries have to set their standards for a certificate, and have to form a national green building council to assess standards,” Gillis said. “That means creating an exam. A whole system is starting in Europe. Shopping centers should have one standard–there are not so many[shopping centers], and there are only a few players.”

Regardless of the problems, both say, sustainable development is a permanent change in the landscape. As oil and food prices continue to rise, and other regions continue to develop, conservation is a must. The European Union has committed to reducing its overall emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and increasing the share of renewables in energy use to 20% by the same date. “This is a factor in determining the obsolescence or the value of projects around world,” Inglish said. “Carrots will eventually turn into sticks regarding compliance.”

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