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Home Green Home – The pathway to transform Brazil’s residential sector

Everyone recognises the green building movement’s success and growth. After years of collecting great results in the corporate sector, green buildings have penetrated different market niches such as retail, warehouses, data centres, manufactures, public and institutional buildings.

The reasons for such an optimistic scenario go beyond the environmental aspects, corporate responsibility and operational savings; the compendium of reasons conclude that green buildings are the best business option in the real estate market.

Being the best business option would put us in a comfortable situation, because sooner or later everybody would follow it. But the Green Building Council’s mission is aggressive and ambitious, and besides, climate change doesn’t allow us to feel comfortable.

With that said, since we matured and accumulated market experience, the green building movement started to implement a consistent plan to develop the residential market – it represents the largest construction activity volume in most of emerging economies.

In Brazil, around 200 volunteers from our 800 Members created the GBC CASA & CONDOMÍNIO, a certification rating tool for the residential sector. Notwithstanding the GBC desire for having a certification tool designed for the residential sector, we would like to have a robust rating system to support policy makers to improve the Municipal Building Code according to green building practices. The first version was destined only for individual homes, but then, after the request from important developers we created and launched in 2017 the second version that includes multifamily low, middle and high-rise residential buildings.

Currently we have 37 homes registered and 8 certified, and 17 residential buildings registered and 1 certified.

The rating tool is based on LEED and Selo Azul da Caixa (Brazilian certification tool created by the Governmental Bank responsible for financing Affordable Housing). The certification has 8 categories, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environment Quality, Social Credits, Project & Innovation, and Regional Credits.

The important topics that have been attracting the developers and investors’ attention for green certified residential buildings are:

  • Comfort, Health and well-being. The certification emphasised all standards, credits and prerequisites that connects with those topics. The first projects under certification are exploring with their sales material the Acoustic, Thermal and Lighting Comfort Manual, as well as all benefits that those topics offer to the occupants.
  • Another important benefit is the operational and maintenance savings. After facing a recent water and energy crises, Brazilian consumers are more aware about the importance of efficiency, to avoid wasting money and natural resources. With all those new disruptive communication channels, the consumers are better informed about the building costs and how much the operation costs represent in its life cycle.
  • Certification offers a quality double check. It is an additional evidence that the building has higher performance in all its systems, based on local standards and compared with the benchmark.
  • Green homes offer economic advantages for investors and the building owners. The same advantages that we see in green corporate buildings such as better occupancy rate, premium value per square meter, lower investment risk… we will see at green residential buildings.

In Brazil, the pioneers have a different mindset, but they also invested in market surveys alongside their clients. The conclusion is that the clients who know about the green building movement and its benefits want to buy a green home, while those who haven’t heard about the green building movement may not put us as a priority, but as soon as they have the least amount of information about green building’s positive impact in their life, health and savings, they start to demand it.

For that reason, GBC is helping capacitate not only the developer’s marketing & communications departments involved in the first registered projects but also the brokers that will have direct contact with the clients. And it is working!

In the city of Curitiba, all new upper-class residential projects have registered in GBC CONDOMÍNIO. Attached to the traditional sales artwork materials, special pieces start to emphasise the results of computer simulations, how it maximizes natural ventilation and lighting, the thermal comfort during summer and winter according to the standard, the savings expectations…

We also registered an affordable low-rise residential building. Here the technical challenge is much higher, but it is cost-effective depending on the location and the experience of the developer and the project team involved.

Another interesting project is a middle class low-rise residential building, located in the city of Campinas (countryside of São Paulo State) that registered in GBC CONDOMÍNIO and GBC ZERO ENERGY. The developer decided to decrease its profit margin and invested in an off-site photovoltaic farm and the new apartment owner will have the contractual right to receiving per month 245kw/h. The apartments have 60m2 and considering a regular family of four people it is going to be enough in terms of energy demand per apartment. It means that the new owner will live in a green and healthier home and will never have to pay for energy.

In terms of the average of savings the first 9 certified projects show us important numbers:

  • Water efficiency: 62% of the certified projects reduced 21% to 40% while 38% reduced 41% to 60%.
  • Energy efficiency: 38% of the certified projects reduced 41% to 60% and 13% of the certified projects reduced 61% to 80%.
  • Waste diverted from landfill during construction: 37% of the certified projects reduced 61% to 80% while 63% reduced 81% to 100%.

There is no doubt that green building connects people to the planet and the presence of our movement in the residential sector is one of the pathways to connect and engage all people to our movement. Soon we will be not only relevant but also revolutionary!

Felipe Faria is CEO of Green Building Council Brasil and Chair of WorldGBC’s Americas Regional Network.