Why developers’ projects need green building certification
Several years ago, I met the president of a successful development company that had built many kinds of residential and commercial buildings, both high-rise and low-rise. Out of curiosity, I asked him, “what is the most energy efficient and greenest building that you have constructed?” He stopped for a moment and replied, “I never thought of that. I do not know.”
This experience makes me want to pose a challenge to many developers in our country. What is the most energy efficient and greenest building that you have constructed? The next important question is this: is your building green certified?
Many developers will say they do not need to get green certification because they are doing well financially. Perhaps, many developers are not aware that buildings that are green certified offer many cost benefits not only to the developers but also to the building owners, the designers and the community in general.
The first major benefit of having your building certified is gaining a competitive advantage. As more developers join the industry to keep up with the demand for commercial and residential spaces, the competition will be much tighter in the years to come.
We must also consider the proposed integration of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) which is meant to create a single market where goods, capital and skilled labor will be allowed to move freely across borders within the Asean countries. Two of the major changes expected from the integration are stronger demand for real estate properties, and the growing demand for more and better infrastructure.
Many of our neighboring Asean countries have buildings that are green certified like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Incoming investors in our country will expect our buildings to be similarly green certified.
The planning and execution of green certified buildings will be checked carefully and comprehensively as part of the standard requirements. External checking of drawings and documents will be done by a third party, the accredited green building rating body, to prevent costly errors before construction is started.
The rating system aims to lower utility costs and improve environmental quality. A green certified building is the answer to the growing demand from real estate property customers who are getting more conscious of savings from energy and water use, and good indoor air quality for health benefits. You will agree that a certified green building helps regenerate the city and improve local business.
Another major benefit for getting a green certification is that the developer avoids greenwashing. The developer of a truly green building cannot be accused of misleading his buyers or tenants by claims that are unsubstantiated. We call the practice of calling a building or building materials “green” even without scientific evidence, as greenwashing.
What is greenwashing? It is the process of conveying a false claim or misleading information about a company’s products or services by saying they are environmentally friendly without any basis.
For some projects, greenwashing is manifested by showing some landscaping and attractive façades while making a general or vague statement that the project is green without anything to back up their claim.
Green certification can show in precise terms reduced energy savings in kilowatt hours per square meter per year, compared to the base case of a standard building. For water, savings can be shown while citing the technology used to achieve it.
The best way to avoid greenwashing is to relate advertising claims with clear, specific benefits while providing information and data to support the claims. Doing so will build trust in the development company, trust in the building, staff, customers and the media.
Raise the bar of the building industry
As more and more buildings get green certification, the inevitable improvement in the building industry will hopefully occur. This is the experience of many of our neighboring countries in the region. Those who cannot keep up will be left behind.
We are already behind our neighbors in terms of green buildings—only a self-regulated improvement system like the green building certification can hopefully do the job.
Many countries are already aiming for Zero Energy Buildings, which is being promoted by Japan in the region. For our country, many of our buildings are still struggling with energy efficiency and conservation. This is a good start, but it is time to move on. We must not wait for government regulations to “raise the bar.” We can do it by encouraging more of our buildings to be green certified.
The next time someone asks you, “what is the most energy efficient and greenest building that you have constructed?” I hope that you, as a developer, will have a well certified answer.
The author is the principal architect of A.P de Jesus & Associates-Green Architecture and vice chairman of the Philippine Green Building Initiative. For comments or inquiries, email [email protected]
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