Urbanisation is one major reason why Asia is increasingly going green. As Asian economies grow, increasing numbers of people are moving from rural areas to the cities in search of jobs. Commercial and industrial enterprises providing the jobs as well as infrastructure to accommodate the swelling population will require huge amounts of energy.
But because Asian cities are in a growth phase, they are in an ideal position to take advantage of green technologies that reduce energy consumption and use green, renewable energy sources such as solar power and geothermal energy.
Government initiatives drive the green building trend
Singapore was the first Southeast Asian nation to adopt a green building policy with its Green Mark certification system. According to a Yale University report, over 20 per cent of Singapore's floor space had received Green Mark certification by 2013. The rapid adoption of green building practices in Singapore is largely attributable to government initiatives and incentives.
Similarly, Malaysia is rapidly catching up with Singapore in the adoption of green building solutions. The trend towards green building in Malaysia began in academia, but after the Malaysian Green Building Confederation produced the Green Building Index, the Malaysian government began aggressively promoting green building design. As in Singapore, incentives such as the Green Technology Financing Scheme and the solar power feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme helped fuel interest in green building in Malaysia.
Indonesia, too, is undergoing a green awakening. The passing of Governor Regulation No. 38 mandates that buildings in Jakarta with 50,000 square metres of occupied space or more must be designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste.
Environmental and financial benefits of going green
While there are several benefits to sustainable architecture, the Green Building Market Report Southeast Asia 2014 suggests that the three main reasons are:
- To help protect the environment and strive to alleviate the consequences of global warming.
- to achieve lower lifecycle costs and
- to enhance the value and marketability of their projects.
Addressing global warming and greenhouse gas emissions is one of the main advantages of building green. Using passive cooling or proper insulation in a home can reduce the use of fossil fuels used to regulate temperature, and using renewable energy from solar panels is a benefit to the environment over a coal-powered heater.
In green building, the environmental and financial benefits go hand in hand. The use of green building technologies in building construction and the practice of sustainable design will result in a reduction in carbon-emission and an increase in energy-efficiency, and this will in turn reduce costs in the long run.
A study by the United States Green Building Council, reveals that green building is cost-effective, increasing the return on investment (ROI) by an average of 19.2 per cent on existing buildings and 9.9 per cent on new buildings. In addition, operating costs are reduced by 13.6 per cent in new constructions and 8.5 per cent on existing building projects. The study also cites a major hotel project that spent approximately $184,000 on energy-efficiency improvements saved $58,035 yearly on energy costs, giving them a payback period of just 3.17 years.
As the spread of the environmental and cost benefits grows amongst investors and property developers, buildings with better sustainability credentials will enjoy a rise in asset value and increased marketability. This addition in value can be experienced in the form of higher lease rates, lower operating costs, higher occupancy rates and lower yield, according to a report by the World Green Building Council.
While the practice of green building in Asia is still growing, much evidence points in the direction that given the long term cost and environmental benefits of sustainable architecture, it is just a matter of time before sustainable building becomes mainstream in the region.