Vietnam’s green architecture industry remains in a nascent stage, but what does its future look like?
Globally, most people now live in cities – a fact that does not bode well for Asia, where urban population growth is projected to increase rapidly. With its resources under severe strain, sustainable development is a priority for the region. This has led to enormous strides in green architecture.
For Vietnam, however, things have moved comparatively slower. Despite the fact that its construction industry consumes 36 per cent of the country’s total electricity usage, greening the industry has not yet taken off. To put things into perspective, there are currently just 42 recognised green buildings in Vietnam, compared to Singapore’s 2,700.
Challenges to the green building industry in Vietnam
In 2013, strategy consulting firm Solidiance developed a white paper in collaboration with the Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC) to assess the country’s green building industry. Its report identified five key factors that challenge the success of Vietnam’s green construction sector:
- Low electricity prices
Vietnam enjoys low electricity prices compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours. Investing in energy-efficient technologies and processes is therefore a disincentive for most companies.
- Skills shortage
With interest in green architecture only just developing, the country lacks the expertise to provide training and education on a wide scale. Because of this, few professionals are qualified to develop green buildings that meet local industry standards.
- Misguided conclusions about cost
Property developers in Vietnam often cite short-term costs as a downside, instead of focusing on long-term savings to drive their investment. Melissa Merryweather, director at Green Consult Vietnam, says professionals in the construction industry are misinformed about the actual costs of green buildings and are regularly told they cost 25 per cent more – a claim she dismisses as “ridiculous”.
- Lack of government support
The government currently offers no incentives for property developers to grow the industry. Moreover, the commercial law and regulatory environment in Vietnam remains undeveloped – and the green construction sector is no exception. Vietnamese policymakers must implement firm reforms to promote green buildings and take stronger action against construction companies that violate environmental regulations.
- Price sensitivity among domestic firms
Lacking accurate knowledge about green architecture, and given few incentives to educate themselves, the priority for most property developers is to work with the lowest price point. Most of the time, this means working with local suppliers without green building technologies and materials, instead of international suppliers that are more likely to charge a premium for the quality of their eco-friendly products.
These five factors are intersecting points that can be distilled into two primary causes. Low awareness about green architecture leads to the dissemination of inaccurate information, poor interest in the benefits of green buildings and price sensitivity. A lack of government support also discourages property developers from being more involved in the green architecture trend.
Promoting awareness of green architecture in Vietnam
Vietnam’s green building industry may be in its infancy, but the future looks optimistic if it can take the next step.
Once Vietnam’s current green buildings are evaluated, property developers will have access to a clearer picture of the true costs of attaining green certification. Demonstrating a return on investment is necessary in order to shift mindsets and pave the way for large-scale adoption of sustainable architecture.
Thankfully, there are several events and organisations aimed at promoting awareness of green architecture in Vietnam. The Green Architecture Club held its 10th annual Green Architecture Seminar in July, which provided an overview of Vietnam’s green building industry.
In November, Panasonic Vietnam conducted a workshop in collaboration with Vietnam’s Ministry of Construction, the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, and the International Finance Corporation to promote green building development in the country. The workshop allowed nearly 70 developers from local and international firms to exchange insights about green architecture. Panasonic also introduced its One Stop Solution concept for achieving green buildings that are energy efficient, secure, comfortable, healthy and reduce operational costs.
Low awareness and inaccurate information are two of the biggest hurdles facing the sustainable architecture sector in Vietnam, leading to price sensitivity and a green skills shortage. However, with governmental support and increased interest from the private sector, the industry is expected to experience enormous growth.