Green development has traditionally ranked low on the Philippines’s priority list, but increasing demand from multi-national companies is now driving a demand-led surge in LEED-registered buildings.
LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification used worldwide that is also now gaining traction in the Philippines.
Across the country, more real-estate developers are adopting environment-friendly practices in commercial, industrial and residential projects. At present, there are 245 LEED activities in the country, with 61 projects having already obtained certification.
More will soon be joining the likes of Zuellig Building in reaching the highest standards of environmental-friendly construction. Located in the financial center of Makati City, Zuellig Building was the first in the Philippines, and among the first buildings in Asia, to be Platinum-certified under the LEED program.
Just north of Manila in Clark Freeport Zone, a new city—Global Gateway Clark—is under construction that will eventually cater to 500,000 workers. Currently, One West and Two West office towers have been precertified gold and these buildings, along with a further three office towers, which are scheduled for construction later this year, are targeting a postcompletion certification of Platinum status.
Another major project—the Clark Green City in Tarlac province—will draw on expertise from the private sector to develop key environment-friendly initiatives.
Japanese companies Hitachi Asia and The Power Grid Solution will work with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority to set up an energy management and storage system, a district cooling system, a total energy network system and a private utility company across 23,400 acres that will accommodate over 1 million residents.
The appeal of sustainable development Such projects are a part of a bigger government vision to lighten the load on the congested National Capital Region and encourage more international companies to set up bases in the country. Clark, which has an international airport and connectivity to Manila, is emerging as the best location as the country’s new business hub. Green credentials are becoming more important for new and existing developments if they are to gain traction with an increasingly sustainability-conscious business community, according to Mark Williams, CEO of Global Gateway Development Corp. (GGDC), which owns and operates Global Gateway Clark.
The global market for green buildings grew to $260 billion in 2013. According to World Green Building Trends 2016, the percentage of firms anticipating to have over 60 percent of their projects certified green was expected to rise from 18 percent last year to 37 percent by 2018. For the Philippines, going green is essential as it positions itself as a low-cost business hub.
“Green certification is much more than applying labels that add a positive image to real- estate projects. From a business perspective, these certifications show that the investment has a higher asset value and is recoverable through reduced operating costs and higher return on investments,” Williams said.
“While energy savings is a direct advantage, it also has other benefits, such as a greater company marketability and increased employee productivity,” he said.
The future of green in the Philippines
Despite rising awareness and willingness to develop sustainable projects in the Philippines, there is still much to improve regarding commitment, action and government support.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress in recent years. Aside from LEED, the Philippines also has its green building rating scheme called Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) from the Philippine Green Building Council.
The establishment of the domestic rating system, together with the launch of the Green Building Code by the Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways in mid-2015, shows that the Philippines is indeed shifting toward a greener real-estate industry.
There are also schemes to reward green initiatives. Quezon City, the largest city in Metro Manila, awards land developers and planners with tax credits and tax discounts for compliance with eco-friendly infrastructure design and construction standards under the Green Building Ordinance of 2009. While the Philippines still lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors, such as Singapore and Thailand, in green initiatives, sustainability is now in the mind of developers when building new projects and retrofitting existing ones.
“The rapid expansion of the green building industry globally sets the bar high for the local real-estate sector, and should ultimately encourage developers to keep up with the demand pressure for livable spaces as a result of increasing urbanization and the inflow of foreign businesses,” Williams said.