Philippine architects defend ‘green’ from skeptics


RCBC Plaza Building

The issues of “green,” “greenwashing” and “sustainable building initiatives” are turning out to be contentious, with their own fair share of skeptics and proponents. They are also issues that must be addressed and resolved, especially now that the property sector faces a future inevitably shaped by climate change and a growing human population.

Last week, the Inquirer Property story “What to look for when developers claim to be green” was published and uploaded online. Almost immediately, readers reacted to the green-building ratings systems described in the article. Some of them wrote that these rating systems were “all marketing strategies” and that the Philippines was just following the hype that originated in the United States. One even predicted that a green accreditation rating system in the Philippines would not prosper, it being another potential source of corruption.

Asked for comment on these readers’ reactions, architects agreed that green-building rating systems were, indeed, environment marketing strategies, but in a way that would still benefit both the Earth and humans inhabiting the subject project or development.

Efficient way

Christopher Cruz de la Cruz, UAP, CBP, chair and president of the Philippine Green Building Council and proponent of the Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (Berde) Philippine rating system, said green-building rating systems are recognized as an efficient way to communicate to the public the environmental performance of buildings.

“What we would like to have is a scenario wherein the public leases and/or buys properties that are good for them. Think about the ‘nutrition facts’ stated in a milk carton, isn’t it a good way to guide consumers in their purchases? Declaration of vital eco stats will make the public more aware of the eco performance of the properties they are buying,” De la Cruz quipped.

Green Architecture Movement founding chair Amado P. De Jesus Jr., FUAP, said: “With less electricity and water use, your utility bills will be less. This means that for more tenants or buyers, green buildings make sense, don’t you think? The owner also stands out as being a responsible member of the business community,” he said.

Local context

Dela Cruz said the Berde rating system, as part of the development process, has been reviewed by several established rating systems from all over the world.

“It must be noted that the Berde framework was based on the UN Sustainable Development Framework. A quick scan through the system will easily show that Berde was designed keeping in mind local context and environmental priorities,” he added.

He pointed out that this was evident in the differences in the scoring mechanism of Berde and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) of the United States.

Voluntary basis

De Jesus said green accreditations are normally voluntary, but those who comply with green-building principles reap the many benefits in terms of lower utility bills and better working conditions, and be recognized as well as a protector of the environment.

“If the green rating or accreditation system does not prosper here in the Philippines, it will be to our disadvantage. The rest of the world is now adopting their own green systems—all for the purpose of saving the environment and creating healthy buildings.”

He then disclosed: “Did you know that most buildings use up to 60 percent of their energy bills for air conditioning alone? With proper green principles applied, this can be easily reduced to 50, or 30 or 10 or even zero, like the Zero energy building in Singapore. This is a reality.”

Dela Cruz said the Berde rating system, like most rating systems, is voluntary. “It is designed as a recognition scheme. We need to have an effective way in the market to recognize leaders in industry that are doing good for the environment.”

As for one reader’s reaction that Berde can be corrupted, Dela Cruz replied, “I hope this does not happen. There is no incentive to corrupt the system.  Building owners are not required to get Berde ratings. It’s voluntary.”

De Jesus said, however, that Berde must be more than voluntary. “Eventually it should be compulsory, like in other countries.”

He throws the questions back at critics. “It would be interesting to know how much people really know about what it means to be green,” he said.

He revealed that not many would even know that this country has several international standard green buildings, such as the RCBC Plaza in Ayala Avenue that won an award several years ago in the Asean Energy Awards.

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  • J

    Green building rating is not bad at all however most technologies of materials and equipment used in a green building, i.e., “green” glass, or air conditioning system are imported, a da mn fact that we have been dependent for donkey years. I was thinking that foreign proponents introducing such rating system maybe getting some “points” from foreign manufacturers for whatever shipment of such products into the Philippines. This may mean an additional “burden” to owners or the buyers. The rating system would include so called accreditations, like what happens in those countries where these ideas came from, of companies locally as part of being part of the “green” initiative. If one reads between the line looking at our local scene then maybe he/she is reading my mind. Being sustainable does not always mean we must depend on foreign products. Those who created/hatched such system, with the good purpose in mind, now being out into our mouth maybe good for us but we must do it to benefit the whole country and not for only few.

  • ji p

    The issue we are touching here is on sustainability.  When we say sustainability our outmost concern is to ensure that future generations will have something in the future.  So in designing or constructing a building, for example, the design should consider materials that have low embodied energy particularly in its production and transport.  Using local materials like bamboo, clay, rice straw are low in embodied energy that can be utilise in construction with the proper R&D.  They can be durable, sustainable and aesthetically beautiful.  Another way of being sustainable is how a building can capture rain or reuse water to reduce water bills.  One city actually promoted having gardens on rooftop. There is a growing interest in green technology around the world and yes, if Filipinos do not act collectively towards sustainable future, we will again be left behind when technology changes and we will become the junk of Pacific.  Rating is important to benchmark.  

  • jomel

    BERDE can be corrupted? I hope this does not happen. There is no incentive to corrupt the system. Building owners are not required to get Berde ratings. It’s voluntary. If soon politicians got attracted, it’ll be impractical to implement such as gossip political ideas. Nevertheless, plans might accomplished after just like Bonifacio’s prone the katipuneros. LOL

  • joboni96

    ang green
    ginagamit ng developing countries
    para magbenta ng bago at mas mahal na teknolohiya

    kung gusto mong talagang green
    ask the kuripot este thrifty ilocanos

  • Anonymous

    As long as the Philippine construction industry is import-sourced (i.e. steel, glass, aluminum, cement, gypsum etc.) the local “green” movement will never be TRULY green. More than green and sustainable, local designers and engineers must instead focus on “ecological tropical design” approach as espoused by Ken Yeang and Geronimo Manahan. Designers and Engineers must also strive for creativity and innovation and come up with local materials, products and processes that are truly responsive to the environmental demands of construction. 

    For example, local bamboo is plentiful and renewable, why can’t the local industry create a demand for bamboo lumber and plywood? Also, why can’t we ban the use of coco-lumber for small scale construction? Why can’t we come up with a local industry that build our own small-scale wind turbines, power savers and solar panels? Why can’t we make rules and regulations that put a cap on power and water use of residential and commercial buildings? Why can’t we implement laws that ban toilet fixtures that use too much water? Does anyone ever monitor where the big contractors dump their construction wastes? These ideas are practical, doable and only require political will from our professional organizations and legislators. The spirit of the local green organizations is admirable but their mistake is that they are market driven, which must never be the case. Local designers must never be satisfied with what’s readily on the shelves, not only in terms of products but also of ideas. They must strive to live up to the dictum that sums it all (from architecture for humanity): “the design process is the ultimate renewable resource”.

  • Herbert

    LOL! Such trend is a gimmick. Developers need not be eco-friendly, or they would lose focus on profit.

  • Anonymous

    To be green in the temperate environment is different to that of a tropical environment. So standards must keep this in mind. Tropical Green is more relevant to us than Temperate Green. Makes sense does it not. If this is what Berde is espousing, kudos to them.

  • Anton

     “It would be interesting to
    know how much YOU  really know about what it means to be green,”

  • Anton

    MISMO !  walk _n_cycle . kasi mas malaki ang architects design fee sa mga building at other developments than residential houses , kaya mas magandang maging sustainable kuno ,,and the more on concepts and theories lang naman ang GREEN ,, i havent seen any concrete or validated results if it is really sustainable or green ,,, pure marketing tool!!!  

  • Anonymous

    What about household solid waste? There is nothing in their “Berde” or Green labeling that deals with household basura. No even schemes where garbage is segregated. Other than reducing electricity through natural ventilation,  household waste should part of green building design. Garbage is in fact the a major pollution issue. 

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