Conference explores why Asia slow to catch on to green buildings
A daylight facade with mirror light shelves. Photo by Gregers Reimann
Green buildings are good for the environment and ultimately can save lots 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 percent between 2015 and 2020. The green buildings solutions market is billed to be worth $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 percent and 68 percent, respectively), Asian cities were only just making the switch.
Only Singapore has a relatively high penetration (30 percent) of green buildings. Beijing (11 percent), Shanghai (15 percent), Tokyo (8 percent) and Hong Kong (4 percent) are playing catch up.
At the recent Green Buildings & Parks World 2017 conference in Kuala Lumpur, delegates debated why Asia’s construction industry has been so slow to make the transition.
Ruben Langbroek, Asia Pacific head of sustainability consultancy Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), told 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 said.
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, said 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 said, 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, the need for government interference will diminish, he said.
What is needed now, Plainiotis said, 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.
Delegates at the conference in Malaysia also pointed out that the biggest obstacle to adoption is the perception that green buildings are prohibitively expensive.
To challenge that perception, Sheena Moses of green building solutions firm IEN Consultants delivered a presentation titled “The Top 10 Inexpensive Green Building Ideas & Applications.”
Pick of the list was a light shelf. It is a horizontally positioned sunshade with a reflective upper face fixed to the outside of a building, below the top of a window. The idea is that the sunshade stops the warming effect of direct sun rays entering the room, but reflects sunlight back toward the ceiling of the room and hence into its interior.
Unlike with Venetian blinds, the horizontal position means that the room still has a view and does not require artificial lighting.
Another simple solution from Moses’ list was for natural ventilation. She showed that if apartment building windows on the same wall are hinged to open in opposite directions, there is a resulting 425 percent increase in windflow, compared with if they both open on the same side. All condominium windows should be made to incorporate opposing hinges on the same wall to create airier living spaces, she suggested.
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