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How property companies can develop more ‘green’ buildings in the Philippines

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By Romsanne Ortiguero

IS THE Philippines really far from becoming a “green” and “smart” city?

Eduardo A. Manahan, chairman of the Building Owners and Managers Association of the Philippines, noted the Philippines has come a long way when it comes to undertaking sustainable initiatives.

“Actually, we’re on that road. It’s a concerted effort of the developers and the designers. Philippines is not very far. We’re always going after them as far as technology, finished product, and everything,” he said during a seminar “The Philippines: Green Cities in the Making” last week.

“We have a law pending in Congress about green building, and we are also in the process of approving the revision of the National Building Code. Once approved, everybody should follow, and the buildings should be compliant with these things.”

Mr. Manahan further noted that sustainable practices — especially those that follow rating systems, such as the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or LEED — are now being put into motion by local real estate developers.

“They are putting equipment that is energy efficient, water efficient, resource efficient, and not harmful to the building occupants and at the same time to the environment,” Mr. Manahan said, citing projects in Bonifacio Global City and McKinley Hill as examples.

Despite these successes, there are still roadblocks ahead.

Liza Morales-Crespo, design director at Liza Crespo Ecotecture, said she encounters some challenges in incorporating green or sustainable designs

“I also practiced in New York for 12 years, and you can see a disparity. In other countries, they have incentives — the government actually gives incentives so that when you incorporate green design, you get rebates. We are sort of lagging behind when it comes to government incentives, and hopefully, that’s something that could be worked on by the current administration. That would give us the necessary push to really go at it,” she said.

Another challenge according to Ms. Crespo is the availability of green materials because most have to be imported from elsewhere.

The architect also wants to change the perception that going green would incur large expenses. She usually tells clients that there are passive interventions that can make a building more sustainable but don’t necessarily cost much.

“I think the important thing for any building here in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world is to convince the client or the owner. They have to be onboard that they want to do and build green. Once the owner says they want to do green, then half the battle is won already. That’s the critical thing,” she said.

Ms. Crespo also emphasized that sustainable practices are becoming more important than ever, not just because it’s a design trend.

“The Philippines has the highest per kWh (kilowatt-hour) rate in all of Asia, so it just makes sense for us. Going green is not really just joining the bandwagon, but actually, it becomes more of a necessity for this country,” she added.

CONFERENCE
Meanwhile, the annual Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia and Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia is set to gather professionals, thought leaders and policy makers in a three-day trade show from September 5 to 7 in Singapore.

“The event focuses a lot on sustainability as well as energy efficiency. This is the 11th year and every year, without fail, we have a lot of key stakeholders from the building community,” Louise Chua, project director at Reed Exhibitions, organizer of BEX and MCE Asia, told reporters in a recent press briefing.

Latest technologies in energy management systems, automatic controls, Internet of Things solutions, smart grids and leading edge systems will be showcased by more than 450 companies from across the globe.

“Our event focuses on a lot of international solutions and products. We have solutions from Germany, Italy, Japan and Singapore. These are all new technologies,” Ms. Chua noted, adding that the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are the key markets they want to engage.