DOUBLE DELIVERANCE

Panama 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Roberto Forte Taylor, Director of the Panama Green Building Council (PGBC), on how to multiply green construction projects, developing a comprehensive eco-protocol, and how to bring a new green Panama into existence.

 Roberto Forte Taylor
BIOGRAPHY
Roberto Forte Taylor is the CEO of the PGBC and the first and current President of the Central America and Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Development (ACCADES). He holds a LEED Green Associate certification from USGBC, a master’s in resource and environmental management from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, an MBA with an emphasis in finance from the University of Science and Technology, and a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the Technological University of Panama. He has worked in various roles involving key elements of management and environmental performance.

How has Panama received the PGBC, and how are you instilling awareness regarding the importance of minimizing the environmental impact in the construction sector?

PGBC is one of the five-largest green building organizations in Latin America. As we grow, so does our influence and ability to spread awareness. We are part of the World Green Building Council (WGBC), an umbrella organization for all green building councils. In 2009, we contacted the WGBC and informed it of our intention to register the council. Ever since then, we have been escalating our level of involvement and the size of our operations. There are three different levels of association one can attain with the World Green Building Council: prospective, emerging, and established status. Countries such as Australia, Canada, the US, and Italy are all established members. In 2015, less than 30 countries had attained established status. After years of making strong gains, Panama officially received its established status.

Can you elaborate on some of the new green building standards the PGBC is promoting?

In 2016, the construction industry grew, accounting for 14.8% of GDP in Panama. Simultaneously, sustainable construction projects grew. We currently have 30 projects officially certified with the LEED green building standard, which is still the most widely used standard in the world. We also have 80-85 projects in the certification pipeline, which puts us in second place in terms of green building certifications in all of Central America. Only Costa Rica has more.

How are other Panamanian organizations supporting green building activities?

We work with many outside organizations whose missions are similar to ours. We know, for example, which groups or firms have experience with LEED and can therefore consult on projects. The biggest project we have at the moment is putting together a comprehensive eco-protocol for the municipality of Panama. The sustainable construction guide put together by the National Secretary of Energy and the IFC focuses mainly on energy efficiency, but the Eco Protocol will include six or seven distinct efficiency and sustainability categories, including water efficiency, interior air quality, energy efficiency, and green procurement, to name a few.

How do you plan on reducing the environmental impact of the industrial sector in Panama?

The industrial sector is relatively small in Panama; however, there has already been some movement toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Energy and water efficiency have been the sector's most important focuses, because they represent fairly large outlay categories. They want their operations to run as efficiently as possible, and many of their efforts have been having great results. Recently, the National Secretary of Energy announced the recipients of its energy efficiency awards, and industrial firms continue to perform well. As social responsibility becomes more and more important in Panama's business culture, the sector has made great strides to bring its operations in line with contemporary standards and expectations.

What kinds of companies decide to become members of the council?

Some 37% of our members are engineering and architectural firms, most of which are local. While 29% are product distributors that represent a mix of large multinational and local firms. Interestingly, the companies that seem most interested in being members of the council are lighting providers and paint providers. Solar panel firms are also becoming more and more popular, and we currently have three member companies that are solar panel providers. Construction and project promoters also make up a fairly large proportion of our membership, and they include local and international firms. New companies are also usually interested in joining the council because they see it as a way of making a competitive differentiation in the market.

What are your main targets, goals, and ambitions for 2017?

The most important goal is completing the eco-protocol, which will serve as the guiding light and technical foundation for creating a new green Panama. The clear elucidation of expectations and incentives is so important, and this document promises to deliver on both fronts.