Developing a local green building code
While the concept of a “green building” has already become quite fashionable in the country, it is however not yet so easy to find buildings in the Philippines that are truly green. The very first obstacle to determine whether or not a building is green is having the sufficient technical background and understanding of green building practices.
By now consumers should be aware of “greenwashing,” a term which refers to any deceptive marketing of products, services or properties claiming to be “green” without sufficient technical evidence. A common example of this is that many people are still easily fooled into thinking that a condominium project is a green building simply because of the presence of landscaping and gardens.
Standards for the tropics
Local experts in the building industry are the most qualified and objective arbiters in determining what buildings can or cannot be considered green. The Philippine Green Building Initiative (PGBI) is an alliance of the professional organizations of architects, engineers, interior designers and heritage conservationists in the country. In their professional capacity, this organization has developed the building rating standards by which buildings can be evaluated. It is important to note that this evaluation tool is particularly well-suited in the Philippines because it was made primarily for local climate conditions, unlike other evaluation systems that were designed for colder climates.
The PGBI’s building rating system is already being implemented, with a growing number of accredited assessors already trained and deployed throughout the country. However, such a rating system is purely voluntary. While it would indeed be helpful in having a local version of such world-class rating systems as LEED or BREEAM, the reach of such a rating system would be limited as standards are quite demanding. To close this gap, the PGBI has started working closely with a local government unit in developing a pilot mandatory green building code, to ensure a wider audience and implementation of green building standards throughout the country.
City green building code
With the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the PGBI and the Mandaluyong City government have rolled out the first mandatory green building code in the country which was designed in collaboration with the technical experts of the PGBI and IFC. This green building ordinance was officially adopted and implemented starting last Jan. 27 and will be mandatory for all applicable buildings (building floor area per type of building determine applicability) seeking approval from the Mandaluyong City government.
The team of Mayor Benjamin Abalos Jr. and his city engineering office led by engineer Arman Comandao started collaborating with the technical experts in designing the green building code in 2011 and this included baseline studies, market analyses, as well as stakeholder consultations before the ordinance was finalized earlier this year. The Mandaluyong City green building legislation requires more green performance measures than currently required by the local building code, however it is not as demanding as required by the PGBI’s rating system. This is to strike a balance between making the new code enforceable and feasible for building owners and ensuring a baseline standard for green buildings in Mandaluyong.
The major components of the green building ordinance include energy and water. A green building is most concerned with the building envelope which includes the exterior walls and doors, windows and the roof. These elements, being exposed to the sun, absorb heat which affects the thermal comfort of the occupants. The ordinance mandates solar control glazing and control of solar radiation to achieve air conditioning efficiency. For water, the ordinance mandates water reduction, rainwater collection and water recycling.
Other LGU initiatives
Meanwhile other local governments have similar initiatives like Quezon City’s voluntary green building code, which is the only other green building code in the country today. Makati City also has an umbrella program tying the city’s green initiatives together.
The Presidential Commission on Climate Change led by Commissioner Heherson Alvarez together with the IFC headed by senior program manager Hans Shrader and the PGBI with Chair Laurentino Punsalan, successfully convened a meeting on April 23 with local government units’ building officials from across the country to share best practices in LGU green building initiatives, with representatives from the DPWH, DOE, Senate of the Philippines and private sector groups, with keynote addresses from Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Loren Legarda.
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