Thai businesses seeing virtues of green buildings

Thailand is following the global trend of building more green buildings because the business community has started realising that they offer both long-term energy-savings and increased business value, according to executives close to the industry.

The number of green buildings continues to rise - to 18 as of May 13 from 15 in 2012, nine in 2011, five in 2010, two in 2009 and one each in 2008 and 2007. All of them hold the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the world’s recognised standard from the US for measuring building sustainability.

There are 70-80 buildings waiting to be processed to get certification from the LEED.

Chakrapan Pawangkarat, vice president of the Thai Green Building Institute, said last week that the rising number of green buildings will partly come from the increasing role of Thailand’s Rating of Energy and Environmental Sustainability (TREES), founded by the institute two years ago.

TREES is the rating system specially designed for green buildings within the local context. There are already 15 buildings registered with TREES for the measuring process and more are expected in the future, forced by heightened environmental concern and the changing city landscape.

The new City Planning Act is also a key driver of green buildings. It offers incentives for builders, such as giving them more space for construction.

The cost of measuring of the two agencies is far different, with about Bt1 million for a certificate issued by LEED and Bt200,000 and Bt300,000 by TREES. Clearly, applications for the LEED are aimed at raising international profiles. The cheaper cost here will help convince property owners to apply for standardisation.

“The more green buildings are constructed, the more the related industry is formed up, especially chemical-free material production,” he said.

John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer of UTC Climate, Controls and Security, said green buildings are a promising business. In the US, for example, its market value has kept growing. It is expected to expand 45-48 per cent to US$67 billion this year and $71 billion in 2016, from $62 billion last year. Green buildings have taken share away from non-green buildings in the construction market.

The trend will not be only in the US, but also worldwide, he said.

Mandyck, along with other sustainability experts, gave their views at a seminar held by Carrier Thailand in cooperation with the Energy Ministry’s Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency and the Thai Green Building Institute. It was part of the Distinguished Sustainability Lecture Series.

Nils Kok, assistant professor at Maastricht University, who conducted research on green and non-green buildings from 2007-10 in the US, Australia and the Netherlands, said green buildings are on the plate for investors too. They choose to invest in green buildings rather than non-green due to their long-term value and economic life.

Kok gave the example of a green matter in Singapore. Clearly, global tenants going there have global standards and certified spaces now are part of the procedure. They are banks, insurance companies and oil companies. Meanwhile, urbanisation of the island nation has increasingly put pressure on grids, sewers and roads to follow the trend.

Chakrapan said Singapore is the first nation in Southeast Asia to realise the importance of constructing more green buildings to strengthen its status as a business hub in the region.

Huston Eubank, chief knowledge officer at Regenerative Ventures Inc, said green buildings not only give benefits to investors, but also good health to workers, besides increasing their productivity. In 2002 in the US, for example, the estimated cost of the ”sick building syndrome” was $60 billion.

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