Despite the spur of growth in green buildings across Asia, the shift towards more sustainable goals still lags in different countries due to a number of key challenges. A recent online poll conducted by AsiaGreenBuildings found that readers see Government Incentives and Regulations as the main challenge for green building development in Asia, followed by High Capital Costs and Green Funds (23,6%), Market Awareness (16,7%), Resource and Skill Gap (5,6) and other (2,8%).
Government Incentives and Regulations
Although Asia is witnessing an increasing number of new buildings every year in response to rapid urbanization, low electricity prices in some Asian countries often do not encourage energy savings practices in buildings. In this case, governments often initiate building energy regulations for promoting energy efficiency in buildings.
Building energy efficiency standards can be either mandatory or voluntary, depending on the country. For example, countries in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam have mixed standards (both mandatory and voluntary), while Singapore and Thailand have adopted mandatory regulations for energy conservation on building energy performance requirements.
The effectiveness in implementing building energy regulations varies significantly from country to country in Asia, partly, as admitted by our respondents, are due to lack of enforcement or government regulations to push forward green building initiatives. Some countries are setting ambitious targets for green building agenda, but not all are complemented with proper set of rules or incentives to spur growth.
Well-targeted financial incentives such as lower local government taxes would encourage green building adoption in the marketplace. The removal of fossil fuel subsidies would also be able to strengthen economic incentives for green building practices.
In some cases, there are also gaps between regions and national and municipal government and lack of political leadership/interest to spur green building adoption and support industry growth.
For some which have set up and implemented statutory green building regulations for green need to also complement it with voluntary codes or green building rating schemes that do not only assess new constructions, but also audit the performance of the already certified buildings. This way, the system and structure of regulations as a whole ecosystem would better guarantee the effectiveness of green building initiatives.
High Capital Costs & Green Funds
Many developers are concerned that adopting green features into their buildings will involve high upfront costs. Compared to conventional buildings, green building projects are often perceived as having higher initial design and construction costs. Capital costs for energy efficiency as part of the green building factor in buildings are often a primary barrier to realizing high performance buildings that can save energy. The respondents from the World Green Building Trend 2016 market report shows that higher perceived first costs are listed as the top challenge in development of green buildings.
According to the figure from Green Building Market Report South East Asia 2014, apart from the high costs of building materials, it is found that high cost of building materials are also a major obstacle for implementing green buildings across most Asian markets.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched a building design tool called EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) which offers an alternative to a more expensive certification system by providing cost effective energy efficiency solutions specifically developed for emerging markets in Asia Pacific.
According to Autif Sayyed, IFC’s green building specialist at the World Bank, the driver behind EDGE is the financial sector, which will prove to offer environmental results. EDGE will help mitigate climate change by encouraging the resource-efficient development of buildings while yielding significant cost savings.
Along with the rise of the green building movement, the demand for green savings and investment opportunities has risen sharply and wider. Banks may be a commercial institution, but that doesn’t mean they are not concerned with the environment. The banks play a vital role in providing the necessary capital for eco-friendly technologies whilst also protecting the environment.
Another challenge for promoting the green building movement is the lack of awareness, education and information on the benefits of green building construction across all stakeholders. Creating awareness is the first and biggest step to ensure in keeping the green buildings development on hand.
The government and public bodies have an important role to play in information campaigns about green buildings, targeted at homeowners and clients as well as the construction industry. These campaigns should aim to overcome the lack of understanding of green building issues among society in general and potential clients in particular.
The report from Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation and the World Green Building Council had found that lack of public awareness is considered to be among the first obstacles in developing the green building market in India. Since green certificates require additional costs, most developers are unwilling to pay for the high costs related to green certification – even though in reality green infrastructure proves to yield significant benefits towards operational costs in the long run. The demand for green buildings in India can then be generated by promoting more awareness on green buildings among its community of architects and real estate developers.
Developing the green building agenda not only requires a commitment from the industry players such as administration and the stakeholders, but also the involvement of every citizen. This figure had found that the client and market demands are both important drivers for the global green movement. This shows how important it is to create public awareness. Gaining awareness from everyone will definitely smoothen the formulation and implementation of green buildings and make the built environment green and sustainable for future generations.
Resource and Skill Gap
Shortages of green skills have become a major constraint to energy efficient building programs and policies in many Asian countries. As for an example, according to a published paper called “Skill for Green Jobs report” by International Labour Office, the green sector in Indonesia is still emerging and green skills remain to be at an early stage of development. While there still lacks structured and formal green skill implementation in all sectors, the country also has no formal evaluation of the effectiveness to green skill response, neither from the policy and planning side.
The highest skill gaps were found to be in the areas of energy efficiency maintenance for HVAC system, competence in use of diagnostic tools to measure building energy efficiency, and the architects/builder skills in passive designs and installation. The main reason for the lack of resource or labour shortages is that skill requirements change as the technologies and practices are introduced or changed, so that previous skill sets are no longer adequate.
Skill development, therefore, plays a pivotal role in promoting the green building development awareness. It is essential that there are enough workers, equipped with the right skills to ensure that the green building can flourish within a city. With this rapidly growing industry, promoting the use of green buildings can be achieved through providing incentives to stimulate the investment in green buildings and the adoption of energy efficiency and sustainability.
Despite the rising acceptance of concepts surrounding the green movement, most countries, especially in emerging markets, still face major challenges with government and regulations being the top hurdle of green building development in our poll. Many real estate developers and government entities still worry with the fact that there continues to be a lack of accurate, thorough, and quantifiable information regarding the financial and economic impacts of high-performance buildings within the construction and home building industry. In addition, the perception of high upfront costs is a challenge in itself, which has hindered quicker acceptance of green building concepts.
Laying down the foundation for green buildings in an urban setting requires a variety of instruments, rules and regulations that is of utmost importance. This can be achieved by initiatives and programs established by the government. It is to be considered that tax benefits and special funds would favour more interest among developers and investors as well. Improving the concern and recognition of green buildings, coupled with green building credentialed professionals with the necessary skillset are also needed . Collaboration with green building companies and involving the private sector may be one of a key viable strategy for the green building construction and industries globally.