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August 26, 2014

Green Architecture: Green Green Buildings at Home

Zuellig may have been known to most of us as a pharmaceutical company providing a comprehensive line of drugs and health care products. But lately, it had achieved a big one for the Philippines in the field of environmental care.

A little more than a year ago, on July 16, 2013, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification, awarded the new Zuellig building, located along Paseo De Roxas Street, Makati City, a Platinum certification. It is the highest award given by LEED to buildings and the first building to be given that prestigious certification in the Philippines.

What about green architecture and LEED?

green-architecture

Less than a week ago, August 22, 2014, the International Union of Architects (UIA) composed of 1,3 million members and 124 countries had made a pledge to phase out CO2 emissions from buildings by 2050. The 2050 Imperative states that:

1. Failing to act now on climate change will put future generations, and those already affected by extreme weather, natural disasters, and poverty, at great risk;

2. Urban areas are responsible for over 70 per cent of global CO2 emissions, mostly from buildings;

3. Over the next two decades an area roughly equal to 60 per cent of the world’s building stock will be built and rebuilt in urban areas; and

4. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.

On the other hand, the USGBC initiated a move to motivate builders to be environment conscious since most of CO2 emissions come from buildings which is responsible for 70 percent of global energy consumption. The result is LEED. LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. It stands for green building leadership. It helps change our views on role of buildings in global economy and care. LEED is present from design, construction, maintenance and operation of the building. It has the following criteria: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes. Most importantly, contrary to what some had said, LEED certified buildings save money and resources aside from having a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy.

The cost effectiveness of green buildings is proven by a study of Heat/Piping/Air-Conditioning Engineering (HPAC). It stated in its article that a green-building cost analysis commissioned by California was found to have a

“minimal increases in upfront costs of about 2 percent to support green design would, on average, result in life-cycle savings of 20 percent of total construction costs — more than 10 times the initial investment. For example, an initial upfront investment of up to $100,000 to incorporate green-building features into a $5 million project would result in a savings of $1 million in today’s dollars over the life of the building.”

Last May 2014, the USGC released its ranking of the top ten (10) countries for LEED outside of the United States, demonstrating the global reach of the movement that is transforming the built environment into healthy, high-performing structures that benefit the planet and all of its people. Here is the list:

Rank Nation GSM of LEED-certified space (million) Total GSM of LEED-certified and registered space (millions) Total number of LEED-certified and registered projects
1 Canada 17.74 58.66 4,068
2 China 14.30 96.22 1,638
3 India 11.64 66.22 1,657
4 South Korea 3.84 16.61 242
5 Taiwan 2.98 6.97 114
6 Germany 2.90 7.32 365
7 Brazil 2.85 23.24 829
8 Singapore 2.16 3.86 91
9 United Arab Emirates 1.82 47.16 850
10 Finland 1.45 3.56 148

In the Philippines, LEED certified or green architecture designed buildings still need to gain popularity and patronage. To most, the cost is still the issue. But the fact that it had been debunked as myth should eventually make green architecture for environmental care acceptable and become the norm soon. Before Zuellig, other LEED certified buildings in the Philippines are: Asian Development Bank, Nuvali One Evotech, Shell Shared Services Office, and Texas Instruments in Baguio City and in Clark, Pampanga. Some 58 projects are awaiting LEED certification. As a further healthy development, a local rating, a counterpart of the LEED certification, was created by Philippine Green Building Council (PHILGBC), a non-profit organization that promotes green building design, construction, and management that are ecologically responsible, safe, and healthy. It is an alliance of building and construction industry leaders from public and private sectors who develop a nationally accepted green building rating standard, called Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE).

There is hope. In fact, Zuellig did not stop being “greener” after being granted the highest certification by LEED. They also installed 200 square meters of solar panels with a capacity of 28.3 kW to generate an annual output ranging from 32,538 kWh to 37,802 kWh, depending on the incidence of sunlight. The produced energy will be used on any electrical load in the developers’ office, located at the 32nd floor of the building. That is why what our president stated two SONA’s ago regarding the inviability of investing in solar energy is questionable. After passing the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (R.A. 9513), a hard fought law by the way, it was expected that the Philippines will embark on a bullish renewable energy industry. So far, the Philippines is still very much coal and fossil oil dependent. With a president making such a demoralizing and probably ill-advised statement, these initiatives may not prosper at all.

Due to the urgency of reducing carbon emissions in the urban areas, courtesy of buildings, it should be in order to enact a law requiring all future buildings to be environmental-friendly. Our local Philippine Green Building Council and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) should unite and cooperate with our legislators to make this a reality. Our basic resources had been greatly depleted due to the dramatic increase in urban development and devastated by calamities. Every year we are always threatened by shortage of power and water. Oil and coal imports continue to rise. Meantime, our renewable energy resources are wanting and waiting to be tapped. There are investors willing and raring to spend and harness these resources. We can best compliment them by providing a law which would encourage the use of renewables, economize on non-renewables, and reduce carbon emissions.

I suggest that we all go and visit LEED certified buildings, starting with the Zuellig Building, to have a first hand experience of what we are talking about.

 

Photo credit: Coordinates

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