Special Feature

Critical Constructs

Posted on October 27, 2011

Through its launch of the Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) rating system last November, the Philippine Green Building Council (PhilGBC) paved the way for greener paths in the construction industry.

The BERDE system, which considers factors such as management, land use and ecology, water, energy, transportation, indoor environment quality, materials, emissions, waste, heritage conservation, and innovation, puts a green stamp on buildings that meet the various requirements of an energy-friendly building.

Chris dela Cruz, PhilGBC president and chairman, cites the landlord-tenant paradox to describe the problem of conflicting interests in building green; developers may be reluctant to invest in green features since they are not the ones that directly benefit from these decisions.

“The Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism, and the Building and Construction Sector,” a 2008 report by the UN Environment Programme, points out that such clashes of interests can also apply to various stakeholders in the building process. Developers, builders, owners, and users of commercial and residential buildings, in most cases, are not the same person or company and vary greatly in their regard for energy consumption. “The multi-player and multi-stage characteristics of the building life cycle make coordination of these stakeholder interests difficult,” said the UNEP.

Smoother discussion among different key players in the building cycle is one aim of the BERDE rating system. “We want to promote consensus-building among architects, engineers, contractors, and civil society,” said Mr. dela Cruz in an interview with BusinessWorld.

More than better relations, however, the implementation of a local green rating system is expected to give incentives to developers in raising the bar for the construction of buildings in the country. Mr. dela Cruz likens the star-rating system to hotel rankings. “A guest doesn’t complain if he stays at a five-star hotel and gets charged more,” he says, adding how a green building, despite the higher initial payout, still offers more value. “[By encouraging more buildings to go green,] the system promotes friendly competition.”

The current state of the construction industry, said Mr. dela Cruz, can be likened to a bell curve. The outliers on the left side of the curve represent properties that do not meet the minimum building standards, while the outliers on the right side comprise buildings that exceed the regular requirements. As BERDE-certified buildings become the norm, however, the substandard buildings on the left side of the curve and the buildings in the middle section�”which represent properties that meet the set standards for construction�”will gradually move toward the right side of the curve and also become environment-friendly.

The advantage of a locally developed rating system lies in the scheme’s proper fit with the Filipino setting. The adoption of a local system, however, may be viewed with skepticism, especially when there are already properties in the country that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified. But Mr. dela Cruz stressed that BERDE does not aim to compete with�”or even replace�”LEED. “A building can still be both LEED- and BERDE- certified,” he said.

Apart from the rating system, the PhilGBC has found other venues to promote its cause. The first day of the FuturArc Forum held yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel brought together different key persons in the industry for a master class workshop and a discussion of case studies of internationally recognized green building projects in the country. Today, the discussion will focus on the different challenges and successes in implementing BERDE during its first year.

The council, said Mr. dela Cruz, is working on four other green rating systems for industrial buildings, residential properties, interiors, and communities. “We are also looking into developing a framework for socialized housing,” he added.

Recently, the Department of Energy (DOE) selected the BERDE system as the national building scheme through its Energy Efficiency Program. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), meanwhile, has identified construction as the key industry that will help the country transition into green-collar jobs. �” Anna Patricia G. Valerio