April 21, 2017

Green buildings do not only make cities healthier environments to live in, they save money. So why have so many of the region’s cities been slow to embrace sustainable thinking, delegates wondered at a recent event in Malaysia.

Green buildings are good for the environment and ultimately save the construction business a lot of money. So why are so few buildings piercing Asian skylines with sustainability in mind?

According to a report by Research and Markets, the number of green buildings doubles every three years, and the global green buildings market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent between 2015 and 2020. The green buildings solutions market is billed to be worth US$364 billion by 2022.

However, the report found that while major European cities such as Paris and London had a high percentage of green buildings (64 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively), Asian cities were only just making the switch.

Only Singapore has a relatively high penetration (30 per cent) of green buildings. Beijing (11 per cent), Shanghai (15 per cent), Tokyo (8 per cent) and Hong Kong (4 per cent) are playing catch up.

At the Green Buildings & Parks World 2017 conference in Kuala Lumpur in January, delegates debated why Asia’s construction industry has been so slow to make the transition.

Ruben Langbroek, Asia Pacific head of sustainability consultancy GRESB, tells Eco-Business that a “short-term investment focus” in many Asian real estate markets is a key factor, as is a low level of awareness of the benefits of green buildings.

“The real estate sector clearly needs more insight into the business case for going green,” he says.

The benefits of green buildings include improving the health of occupants and boosting productivity, the economic return of premises that have reduced operational expenses, and the environmental benefits of lower greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.

But since awareness of these benefits has been low, so the industry has been reluctant to pay the upfront costs required to build a green building or convert an old one, says Dr Stellios Plainiotis, chief executive officer of environmental design and engineering consultancy Neapoli.

The green buildings market in Asia has only recently moved out of the “push phase”, he says, when it was led primarily by government regulation rather than market demand.

But as adoption accelerates, particularly in fast growing Southeast Asian markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, so the need for government interference will diminish, he says.

What is needed now, says Dr Plainiotis, is for certifiers to get better at marketing green building labels to end users and real estate firms to speed up the rate of adoption.

As Dr Jason Byrne, associate professor, Urban & Environmental Planning, at Griffith University’s School of Environment in Australia points out, constructing new green buildings will only cut a fraction of cities’ water and energy use.

Read more at : eco-business.com

Written by Neetu Jain