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Notes from the Network: Exploring pathways towards greater green building impact in Asia Pacific

As French president Emmanuel Macron pointed out at December’s One Planet Summit – “We’re not moving quick enough. We all need to act.”. He’s right. We need to hasten the pace of our action on climate change, and where else can we better appreciate this than in Manila, a city that never sleeps?

Philippines has a young, urban population, with around 20 per cent between the ages of 15 and 24, and 13 million people in metro Manila alone. More than 10 per cent of the workforce works in the business process outsourcing industry, serving all time zones, around the clock.

Manila provided the backdrop for our 2017 year-end Asia Pacific Network meeting, at which we celebrated Philippine Green Building Council’s 10th anniversary and reflected on how far Green Building Councils (GBCs) in the region have come. We took stock of what the Network has achieved: we are now self-sustaining within a short span of a year, gaining greater visibility and with more countries getting ready to join the movement. Building on this momentum, we have charted the way forward, and positioned ourselves for greater impact.

But how? We are sharpening focus in two key areas of impact.

The first is economic impact. GBCs have committed to identifying the key ways to deliver a strong business case for green buildings in their market. This involves looking at not only the cost savings from green buildings, but also valuation uplift and financial returns from green buildings and how it benefits investors, developers and building owners directly. We are working with a knowledge partner to input into a regional research report that sheds greater light on this topic.

The second is in environmental impact, where we are deepening and aligning the GBCs with our global goal of all buildings becoming net zero carbon by 2050. While there are 15 GBCs committed to net zero carbon building certification and other actions, GBCs in the Asia Pacific Network are examining how we can chart that pathway, especially in a high-rise, high density urban environment of a typical Asian city. We have started to think about this in Singapore, by breaking up the problem into “Positive Energy Low Rise, Zero Energy Mid-Rise and Low Energy High-Rise” given the strategy of using on-site solar or power purchase agreements to meet energy demands.

Over the course of 2018, the Asia Pacific Network will begin to roll out WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zeroproject regionally. Dialogue on this will begin alongside our twice a year meetings, with the first one taking place in Melbourne, Australia, after GBCA’s Green Cities Conference from 13 to 15 March. There we aim to chart the region’s pathways towards net zero involving government stakeholders, developers, technical professionals and other relevant interest groups. Stay tuned.

The meeting concluded with a discussion around the impact framework, a vitally important piece of work which aims to cover areas a typical GBCs should have impact on, such as skills and capacity, awareness, finance and economics, corporate targets, policy and regulation, and certification. As a strategy framework, it was very useful to see how each of our GBCs had prioritised different impact measures in different markets.

For example, in highly urbanised Hong Kong, HKGBC reported that buildings consume 90 per cent of the city’s energy and contribute to 60 per cent of its carbon emissions, and largely from existing buildings. Hence, capability development for the industry in retro-commissioning is critical in ensuring that buildings are performing well in terms of energy efficiency.

This is compared to the Philippines, where building owners have a huge incentive to be energy efficient due to the high costs of electricity. PhilGBC has then focused a big part of their effort in government advocacy and working with various cities to strengthen their building code.

As we start the year, no doubt many of the lessons learned and ideas sparked will drive our actions in 2018. The foundations have been laid, we are ready to act, and we must act quickly.

Joelle Chen is Regional Head of WorldGBC’s Asia Pacific Network