Making the case for green buildings
When Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) replaced the 30-year-old chillers in its old office building along Ayala Avenue in 2010, monthly electricity bill fell by as much as P1 million per month.
The sudden drop in electricity usage puzzled power distributor Manila Electric Co. so much that it had to send a team to inspect the building and make sure that there wasn’t any technical error.
This old building will soon be demolished to give way to a newer, bigger and greener office and commercial complex that will be developed by BPI, in partnership with Ayala Land Inc.
A pioneer in sustainability energy finance (SEF)—a funding initiative for climate resilience, energy efficiency and renewable energy—BPI seeks to practice what it preaches. BPI has so far disbursed more than P126 billion in sustainability-focused loans. Of these, P52.6 billion went to mid-sized enterprises while the rest funded big-ticket energy projects.
As part of the SEF, the bank is now making a big push for green building initiatives. It is offering financing to other companies planning to either retrofit their old buildings to become more environment-friendly or build new ones.
Given the growing consciousness among today’s businesses to go green, BPI expects its SEF portfolio to grow by 15-20 percent annually, Eric Roberto Luchangco, BPI senior vice president and head of corporate credit product group, said in a recent press briefing.
Demand for these special financing is also seen to grow as more companies strive to comply with tighter requirements under the Philippine Green Building Code. But beyond the front-loaded expenses, these initiatives are seen to improve bottom line over the long term.
“Going green can be very profitable. It should be part of long-term planning not only for the environment, but also for businesses that want to be around for generations. Green building innovations generate notable savings in energy and water consumption, promote good health and well-being among employees, and lower operating and maintenance costs,” BPI head of SEF Jo Ann Eala said.
For property developers building office space for rent, certifications that the building meets green standards are a come-on for prospective tenants.
Looking only at climate control initiatives funded by BPI, about P9.6 billion had so far been disbursed for green building initiatives. Eala said this was just the beginning given that the green building code had been enacted only in 2016.
Based on data from the Department of Energy, buildings account for a significant 36 percent of national energy consumption. The country’s greenhouse gas emission levels are expected to escalate if more businesses and real estate companies erect more buildings without regard for their environmental impact.
“Green buildings, while part of the global view to create a sustainable society, are still considered merely ‘nice-to-have’ by many businesses in the country. That view is slowly changing with the strong business case presented by green financing,” Eala said.
Energy efficiency innovations in building include the use of LED lights, inverter airconditioner/efficient chillers while harnessing renewable energy could include installing solar roof panels. Water efficiency can be enhanced by using low-flow faucets and showers, dual flush systems while use of low-carbon footprint materials can mitigate climate change.
“Some people think that mere adoption of these innovations will suffice. Through our certified consultants, we help project owners and managers see the quantitative impact on capital expenditures as well as operational expenses as each innovation is implemented in the project,” Eala said.
Businesses were also urged to consider the regulatory implications of not going green.
In 2017, BPI teamed up with the Philippine Green Building Initiative, which conducts trainings and certification programs for auditors and technical experts. “Only a few companies, developers and even government agencies are aware of the code and the consequences for noncompliance,” Eala added.
BPI also provides free evaluation by International Finance Corp.-trained and -accredited consultants to ensure that all projects are verified for technical feasibility and financial viability. The consultants also help the clients choose appropriate technologies, comply with green building standards and calculate potential energy cost savings.
“Investments in green buildings should not be considered an extraneous expense. We help clients create a business case that results in both profits and long-term viability of their companies. Green buildings do not only help the environment, they also help us protect our investments and ourselves from the disruptive impacts brought about by climate change. Businesses in the country can make this possible if they make sustainability part of their long-term planning,” Luchangco added.
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