Global experience proves that green buildings are not only better for the environment but also attract a lot of interest from tenants.
Building sustainably has become an international trend, with 51 per cent of architects globally saying they are designing “green” projects for clients. According to Ms. Melissa Merryweather, Director of Green Consult-Asia and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at the Vietnam Green Building Council, the concept remains relatively new in Vietnam but more developers are now willing to build according to “green” standards to show they have a higher-quality product that is better for occupants, is more efficient, and is environmentally responsible.
A Vietnamese property developer, the Phuc Khang Corporation, has registered for certifications in LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, which benchmarks the project to US standards) and LOTUS (specific to Vietnam but which relates to international standards) for its Diamond Lotus apartment project in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 8.
The project covers an area of 1.68 ha with total investment of VND1.268 trillion ($56.3 million) and is the first residential project to be designed, built, and operated under LEED standards.
“Despite construction costs being 10 per cent higher, or VND120 billion ($5.3 million), because we are building the project under LEED standards, we are proud to develop the first such project in Vietnam,” said General Director of the Phuc Khang Corporation, Ms. Luu Thi Thanh Mau. Diamond Lotus consists of three apartment blocks ranging in size from 58 sq m to 91 sq m. More than 72,000 buildings in 150 countries around the world are certified to LEED standards.
The certification process begins early in the design phase and continues all the way through to the construction phase, including handover, Ms. Merryweather explained. Certification is normally awarded shortly after building completion. “Phuc Khang will aim for Gold Level certification to show they are committed to the highest ‘green building’ standards,” she said.
The criteria for sustainable building includes 20-30 per cent less energy use, 35-50 per cent less water use, the use of sustainable materials, reductions in waste and pollution, good site ecology with the local surroundings, sustainable landscaping, improved occupant wellness, with better ventilation, daylight, and non-toxic materials, adaptation to climate risk, community features, and better management during design and construction.
It has been shown around the world that sustainable buildings not only improve occupant health, reducing the number of sick days and improving productivity, but that people living and working in sustainable buildings are happier and feel safer, Ms. Merryweather said.
Further, statistics around the world indicate that areas where green buildings are common receive higher rents and tenants stay longer and have more “brand loyalty”. “This is in developed markets, but we already see that some green buildings in Vietnam are attracting the best tenants and a lot of interest from clients,” she told VET.
“So even in Vietnam, where green buildings are quite new, their owners confirm that their projects stand out among their competitors,” Ms. Merryweather said.
The greatest obstacle to sustainable projects in Vietnam, however, is false information on the high cost of “going green”. People believe a lot of information without checking the basis of the claims, she said.
Other obstacles include a fixation on the building cost; the idea that the actual cost of running the building is not important, when actually the average building costs far more to operate over its lifetime than to build it. Finally, skill sets are still developing. “We need more architects, engineers, and other building professionals who actually know what sustainable building is about and how to design properly for it,” Ms. Merryweather said.
“The Vietnam Green Building Council has some great courses on Green Building Basics and the LOTUS AP course, and we would encourage building professionals to sign up and take those courses. We are also putting them online to reduce the cost and take it to a wider audience,” she said.