Shaping up the Adoption of Green Buildings in Philippines | Philippines Green Building Council | Raymond Rufino

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Philippines is seeing the growth of green building industry takes off as the market is starting to pay more attention to the green practices for their business. One of the trends is showing the increase of market demands towards eco-labeled construction materials as the green building practices are getting more popular voluntary acts in the country.

In this exclusive interview with AsiaGreenBuildings, Raymond Rufino, the Chairman of Philippines Green Building Council shares the fact that the office space is dominating the green built environment and the multinational companies are showing their prowess in terms of the knowledge and skill brought from overseas. Despite the skyrocketing energy prices in Philippines, the adoption of green building practices is still relatively low, due to the lack of the government push as they prioritize more in solving other issues such as poverty, societal peace, political issues, etc – and tend put the sustainability efforts on the lower rank of the list.

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What is the main issue in the Philippines’ green building industry and what do you think could be a quick win to cope with it?

Raymond Rufino (RR) : I think the main issue right now is a lot of people are aware of green buildings but have not yet taken the commitment to go  green or made the commitment to go green in their respective sectors or industries. People know that this is something they have to do or would like to do but have yet take that initial step to commit and actually integrate green buildings into the way they design, build and operate their projects.

In terms of a quick win, what we really have to do is to have more green building projects in the Philippines. As more and more people see green buildings being successfully designed, built and operated in the country, that will really give a lot of people the confidence, and the security that green buildings can be done here in the Philippines. And so if they want to do the same in their own project, they’ll know that they can really do it, and do it well, and be successful at that.

What are the current market trends in Philippines’ green construction?

RR : There are a lot of trends and obviously the biggest trends now are in the materials where a lot of people in the industry are paying more attention now to how products are being labeled as Eco-labeled.  The people used to very much focused on just getting the right specification and the price of  the product, without considering any green specifications. People are now demanding for more eco-labeling and it is going to be a key component of the construction industry. I’m seeing a day where every single item you use in the construction process of a building is going to have some sort of eco-labeled component/requirement for that product.

Right now the advantage of the multinational players operating here is the experience and expertise they bring with them from the areas where they operate around the world.  These companies have successfully done green projects and have successfully distributed green products as well in various markets, and they’ve seen what doesn’t work and they know how and what are the most important things to set right in order to push their products in other markets. That really helps here because a lot of the local players are really just trying to get their own experience in the local market but there are not much buildings or projects in the local scene. So those who come from the multinational, when they bring that experience and expertise with them, it really is very helpful. However I would say that in terms of the passion and the commitment in delivering the green products, they are at par in that respect.

What are the main reasons behind the relatively low adoption of green buildings in Philippines and the government’s reluctance to mandate green building measures, despite the skyrocketing energy prices?

RR : I’ve always spoken before of this “waiting game” in the market.  We are in the situation where there are particular issues that you face, depending on which side you are at the real estate industry.  For example, material suppliers who wanted to bring in green products doesn’t want to bring in the products because there isn’t any market yet for the products; there wasn’t any market ready yet for this products because developers or project owners are saying, “green is nice but I don’t want to do it yet,” because they felt that it was going to be difficult because green products is scarce. So all of these, it’s quite complicated in a sense that a lot of these experiences where people are waiting for other people, or companies are waiting for other companies make commitments, take leads, do initiatives, and people were just basically waiting for each other to move, and hence the initial momentum to drive the adoption of green buildings in the Philippines is hard to achieve.  Now, since we’ve already been able to develop that over the past couple years, we’ve seen that since the incorporation of the Philippine Green Building Council that the momentum has really built up.  The advantage that we have now is that momentum has really generated a lot more interest, and a lot more people now more comfortable, more comfortable now in their green projects as they used to be.

In terms of the government’s reluctance to mandate green buildings measures, we have to realize that the Philippine government has a lot of other pressing issues to deal with. As a developing country we have issues on poverty, peace and order situation, we have damages caused by typhoons and all these natural calamities, and politics that affect the government.  Green building is just but one of many priorities that the government needs to address.  And so I think what happened is while the government means well, it’s just that in the grand scheme of things, there are so many things that needs to get attended to therefore the progress on green building in particular has been quite slow.  Again, similar to the challenges of the private industry, we’re seeing momentum building on the government side as well. There have been significant initiatives both at the local government and the national government level to try and move toward mandating green building norms and practices, and I think we are moving toward that.

Which sector currently leads the green construction initiatives and why does it outpace the others?

RR : In terms of property type, I think the office sector is leading the green building charge because a lot of the tenants of these developers are looking for green projects or green certification in the buildings that they will occupy. If you look at the number of buildings that are currently certified or undergoing certification, vast majority are office buildings, because it is being driven by the users of these buildings. On the side of the industry, in terms of the professionals, I think the Architects have been very pushy about this for a very long time. A lot of the architects have been talking about green and have been convincing their clients, convince other professionals about the merits of doing green design as well.

How is the Philippines’ market readiness to welcome the impending shift from voluntary to mandatory green building measures?

RR : The momentum on the private sector has been building up, we now have more and more companies that are better equipped with better experience and expertise to provide you—whether it be the design of the building or the engineering side or the particular products you want to use—the capability building of the market has been improving dramatically over the past couple of years. We’ve seen a really a sharp wrap up in the quality of the players providing goods and services in the market related to green building.

I think that’s critical because when you move now from voluntary to mandatory, everyone is going to scramble, so if we shift from voluntary to mandatory overnight, everyone will be overly stretched to fill in the gaps and do what needs to be done. The private sector has also started building up that capability. Since it’s slow moving to get into mandatory, hopefully by the time we get there, and the market will be prepared in a way and ready to provide us the goods and services needed by all these companies who will now have to green their various projects as mandated by the government regulations.

There is currently a mounting demand from the foreign enterprises to pursue green initiatives in Philippines, when will the local demands actually catch up?

RR : I think local demand is actually building, what needs to happen from an economic point of view is as more and more buildings get built and more and more people gets inspired to do green and that becomes business as usual, moving from doing the traditional style of construction and design to green buildings and sustainability. You are going to see that a lot more projects will be done and I think that the foreign enterprises will be key to that growth.

I think we are snow-balling right now in terms of momentum.  In the coming years, this initial batch of skeptics who are not really listening or paying attention to green buildings will realize that green building practice is a standard and it’s going to become the norm. And what will happen is due to the rapid growth of our constructions and our economic growth, this area will represent a lot of opportunities.

How would you envision the green investment in the next decade, and which segment will lead the market share?

RR : Green investment over the next decade will continue to grow. It’s one of the areas definitely of growth for the Philippines in terms of our real estate industry because really green buildings is at its infancy and I just see a so much potential both in terms of new constructions and even existing buildings. There’s just so much we need to accomplish in the local market so I think the investment there is going to continually increase in the next decade. Again, I still feel the office sector will take the lead because the drivers really are the multinational locators who are demanding green building features and sustainability as part of their projects

I think residential is going to be, something’s going to come up soon, because I think as more and more of the younger generations are more sensitive to the impacts these projects are making to our environment, I think some of them will also demand at a future standpoint that “I’m going to live in a condo, or a house or a building that is green.”  As they enter into the market, as they start building their own families, they’re going to insert their own demands in the market.  So I think residential will start to follow soon after this one.

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About the Philippines Green Building Council :

Philippines Green Building Council is a national non-stock, non-profit organization that promotes the sharing of knowledge on green building practices to the industry to ensure a sustainable environment in Philippines.  It was organized to serve as a single voice in the promotion of holistic and market-based green building practices, to facilitate the sharing of green building information and practices in the building industry, and to serve as a non-partisan venue for the development of a green building measure, called the Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) rating system.

Website : www.philgbc.org

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