Toward a greener construction industry

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The country’s construction industry is seen sustaining its growth, supported by robust macroeconomic growth and the acceleration of infrastructure as pushed by the government.

Oxford Business Group (OBG) said in a 2017 report, “Nowhere are the effects of the Philippines’ sustained economic growth more apparent than in the construction industry, which is benefitting from pent-up demand and a positive outlook for future growth. This momentum has driven the industry to one of the highest growth rates in the country, with the Philippine Statistics Authority reporting growth of 11% in 2014, 10.4% in 2015 and a jump to 14.6% in 2016.”

“Years of investment and strong economic development have fostered a robust real estate sector that now extends beyond Metro Manila and into secondary markets. Economic development and a growing middle class continue to fuel demand for new, high-grade residential units, while commercial investment drives an ever-increasing amount of retail and office space,” it added.

Sharing a positive outlook for the country, the report said that these growth prospects exhibited by the construction industry will seem to gain momentum in the future.

“The Duterte administration has expressed its intention to boost domestic spending, particularly on large infrastructure projects and socialized housing, both of which would trigger a sustained rollout of big-ticket items for the construction industry as the state ramps up its infrastructure spending to 7% of GDP.”

With the strong demand for commercial space in the country, particularly in Metro Manila, OBG said that developers and contracted construction companies have been focusing on adding new floor spaces as quick as possible. And while a number of these new projects have been built to modern standards, with high-tech, aesthetically pleasing details, the report said that only recently have environmental concerns become a relevant component of building design and construction.

More than ever, going green in construction is vital especially since buildings’ energy consumption has an effect on health as well as environment; and can contribute to the growing problem of global warming.

Apart from reducing the negative impacts on the environment, experts said that adopting green solutions in buildings can bring forth positive yields to a business, including lower business costs; increase in value of property; conservation of resources; improved air quality; and improved occupant health and productivity, among others.

Amid this call for greener solutions, other reports also highlighted the growing importance of paying attention to the way a building is built or its “embodied energy’’ rather than how it is used.

Embodied energy concerns the upstream value of the energy consumed by the processes associated with building production — from mining and the processing of natural resources straight through to manufacturing and transport. This is according to a report of International Finance, a member of the World Bank Group through its Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) program.

“The worst culprits in building materials manufacturing are easy to determine. Five to seven percent of global CO2 emissions are caused by cement production. The iron and steel sector account for 11% of global CO2 emissions. And more than 5% of the world’s entire electrical generation is spent on the production of aluminum,” the report said.

“Not only does the manufacturing of building materials have significant energy-related GHG emissions, but it also causes high levels of air pollution.”

In designing a green building, the report said that finding realistic ways to reduce the embodied energy of the roof and floor structure is critical. Thus, the report suggests the following: reduce the quantity of materials used by adding “filler” in slabs and/or reducing column spacing; substitute high-embodied energy materials with lower embodied energy materials; selecting a more efficient construction technology such as post-tension concrete slab, planks and joists; and identifying a completely different material such as timber floor construction.

The report also positively noted that mainstream building material manufacturers are committed to making initiatives to reduce their carbon emissions in the years to come.

“Given the important role that building materials play in global resource consumption, air pollution and GHG emissions, it is essential that the measurement of embodied energy become a crucial part of the decision-making process for designers and clients. Recognition must also be given to those who are responsible in their choices. Through greater awareness we can create a larger market for low embodied energy products and put pressure on all manufacturers to develop alternatives for their respective markets,” the report concluded.

Meanwhile, the Green Building Market Intelligence report of EDGE for the Philippines stated that green buildings can reach as high as 20% to 25% of the market in 2025 due to a combination of policy support, tax benefits, educational and awareness programs and realized savings from energy efficiency.

IFC also projects that the overall percentage of new green building is expected to steadily increase by 2% to 5% every year, at least until 2030.