Thursday, August 27, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]
AS PEOPLE become more aware of the negative consequences of climate change, more companies are trying to capitalize on people’s growing preference for products and services that brand themselves as ecologically friendly or "green."
Here in the Philippines, some firms have also begun to harp on their "greenness." But for the real estate industry, one group is calling on developers to hold off waving jade flags until local standards are set.
In a briefing on Tuesday, Christopher C. de la Cruz, chairman of the Philippine Green Building Council, said the group plans to launch within the year a rating scheme that would do just that.
"It’s always ideal to have a third party checking on your work than you checking yourself and proclaiming yourself as green," he said. Allowing companies to declare that they are green on their own is like a student checking his own test papers, he pointed out.
Mr. de la Cruz said the rating system, to be named Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence or Berde, would measure a building’s level of sustainability by gauging its energy and water consumption as well as waste management.
Berde will also include a heritage conservation criterion, taking into account whether historical structures were damaged or demolished.
While there are existing rating schemes from other countries that developers can use, it is still important to have a specific scheme for the Philippines, Mr. de la Cruz said. "If you try benchmarking one building in two rating systems, [you can fail in one and pass in the other]," he said.
But Mr. de la Cruz clarified that the council would not take over the government’s function to set such standards for ecologically sustainable buildings.
"We are not going to take over government function. If they decide to raise the bar we would revise accordingly, and measure again how much a project is above and beyond the standards," he said.
Mr. de la Cruz said the government could copy Singapore’s model to encourage more green buildings and provide tax or cash incentives for such projects.
"It is the domain of the government to determine that, but we are now in discussions with [lawmakers] and the Department of Energy," he said.
Ang Kian Seng, research division director of Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority, told reporters during the briefing that incentives were crucial in encouraging developers in his country to explore the "green" option.
The Singaporean government wants 80% of the country’s buildings to be green by 2030 from 4% to 5% today, and has set aside S$100 million in incentives.
Mr. Ang said the project is expected to reduce carbon emissions from Singaporean buildings by 10% to 15%.
While the Philippine government may not have the resources to match Singapore’s incentive program, the Omnibus Investments Code has provisions that developers can take advantage off in their desire to go green, Mr. de la Cruz said.
"Although it’s not labeled specifically for green buildings, [the provision in the investments code grants perks for] projects or investments ... wherein you have innovated, facilitated technology transfers ... Those would enable you to [get] income tax holidays," he said.
Mr. de la Cruz said such incentives would encourage developers to build more green buildings, which could be more expensive than conventional structures by up to 15%. — Don Gil K. Carreon