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How green buildings are advancing Indonesia’s progress

Blog post   •   May 06, 2016 09:56 SGT

Image Source: Photo by Bart Speelman/CC by 2.0

Here’s how the archipelago of Indonesia is making headway in the green building industry, despite being slightly late in taking action compared to the rest of Southeast Asia.

More than half of the world’s population now live in cities. Despite Indonesia comprising more than 17,000 islands – many off the main city areas and still in various stages of development – the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projects that two out of three Indonesians will live in cities by 2020.

This rapid rate of urbanisation, coupled with Indonesia’s lower-middle income range, makes sustainable development a growing problem for the country as it struggles to meet the basic human needs of the population in its congested cities.

One way to provide relief to the various symptoms of urbanisation is through sustainable architecture. Designed to anticipate global urban sprawl, the initiative to build environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and modern housing is quickly gaining appeal in the country.

Structuring policies for green cities

The Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI), founded in 2009, is the main body responsible for promoting sustainable building practices in Indonesia and is a member of the 90-country World Green Building Council.

A year after it was established, the GBCI introduced Greenship, a voluntary green ratings tool to evaluate the environmental design and construction of buildings. The tool measures buildings in six categories: land use, energy efficiency, water conservation, source materials, air quality and environmental management. As of 2015, 140 buildings in Indonesia are registered to receive green building certification.

The Indonesian government has also made efforts to encourage green construction methods. In 2012, the authorities in Jakarta passed stricter legislation to increase the environmental quality of buildings, both new and existing. They must now comply with a maximum energy consumption of 45 watts per square metre, optimise natural lighting, have a minimum indoor temperature of 25°C to save on air conditioning, and must treat and re-use wastewater.

In 2015, the government also pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent by 2020. The administration has argued that increasing the number of green buildings in Jakarta is crucial to helping the city reach this goal.

The challenges for green construction

The biggest challenge for the green building initiative appears to be educating small developers about the economic value of green buildings. A stigma persists around the concept, as many believe green designs will cost a lot more than non-green buildings.

However, according to acclaimed eco-architect James Pomeroy, founder of Pomeroy Studio in Singapore, the initial costs of green buildings are marginal: only one to five per cent more than non-green buildings.

Additionally, few developers realise that although green buildings have higher capital costs, operational costs are lower than for non-green buildings as the improved efficiency helps to save on energy expenses. They also fail to take into account that green buildings tend to yield many benefits. They are more attractive to tenants today, command a financial premium in terms of rental and sales prices, improve worker productivity and occupant health, and heighten the building’s asset value – all resulting in larger profits.

Another factor that prevents the growth of the industry is the lack of incentives for property developers to go green. Coupled with the lack of awareness about the true cost of green buildings, it’s easy to see why uptake of Greenship-approved buildings is low: about 15 so far. Moreover, according to GCBI chairperson Naning Adiwoso, the process to get a building certified will usually take six to 12 months, depending on the building’s design.

The potential for sustainable architecture

While Indonesia’s progress in the last seven years has been impressive, it still lags behind other Asian countries. Singapore has given green certification to 2100 buildings since 2005, a full 25 per cent of its built-up area, and Bangladesh has recently seen a 420 per cent growth in eco-homes listed on one of its leading property websites. In Pakistan, 17 per cent of the 100,000 house listings on the Lamudi property portal are eco-friendly to some degree.

However,the future of the green building sector in Indonesia is promising. After growing from 125.3 trillion RP in 2003 to 907.3 trillion RP in 2013, the construction industry accounts for roughly 10 per cent of GDP today. This trend is set to continue with the Widodo administration last year pledging to build 1 million houses over the next five years.

Having committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to developing more green buildings, there’s plenty of room and opportunity for the country’s sustainable architecture industry to flourish. We certainly hope to see this trend gain ground in Indonesia.

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