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Building smarter, greener offices is the way to go

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Tricia Pacete, Colliers Philippines

SMARTER and greener buildings are fast becoming the norm in the Philippines, with more and more property developers taking action to address climate change and to embrace the available advanced technologies.

The building and construction industry has been continuously evolving to cater to the ever-changing environment. Sustainability initiatives, smart technologies, and increased safety standards for occupiers’ well-being have been shaping the transformation of new buildings’ design and features.

The industry has a significant impact on the economy, society, and the environment. It plays a crucial role in the economy, driving jobs and growth. An article published by Industry Tap noted that the building and construction industry accounts for about 13% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

The construction and building industry touch every kind of business: it provides shelter, infrastructure, manufacturing facilities, and many others. The quality of the buildings it produces leaves a lasting impact on the lives of people.

Amid continued expansion and growth, its environmental impact cannot be left unnoticed as it accounts for 39% of carbon emissions. This figure is alarming and calls for an improvement in the quality of construction and the materials used. The unprecedented global pandemic has contributed to the acceleration of innovation across industry.

These innovations have given rise to key trends shaping the construction industry. These trends focus on sustainability initiatives, well-being, and the integration of smart technologies into the building management system.

Looking at the Philippine construction industry, it can be observed that the country is steadily keeping up with the trends. Many buildings now are becoming more digitized and have more sustainable features not just to reduce cost but also to lessen their carbon footprint.

Many domestic players are also exploring the potential benefits of incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning to their building management systems (BMS). Artificial intelligence, for instance, can be used in crucial building operational systems, such as energy management, enhanced HVAC system for optimal comfort, and predictive maintenance.

Aside from artificial intelligence, sustainability features are also a major consideration for real estate developers. Being a sector with the largest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, it is safe to say that the real estate industry has a responsibility in creating a greener and more sustainable built environment.

As the world transitions to a new normal, the building and construction industry is also transforming to cater to the needs and ensure the well-being of their building users. Returning to a safe workplace is now one of the top considerations; therefore, developers are investing more in innovations that will not only ensure productivity but will also provide a sense of safety. One such innovation is contactless or touchless systems, such as sensors, access cards, and facial recognition software. These features will help lessen the risk of transmission not only of the COVID-19 virus but also other pathogens.

To further promote sustainability, there are a number of globally recognized green building certifications that building owners and developers can take advantage of as a way to reduce their properties’ environmental impact. Aside from affording their client-occupiers the appropriate credentials to satisfy their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) standards, many are now attributing the importance of green and sustainable buildings to staff productivity, health, and overall happiness.

Sustainability in the built environment is not just an option, rather it is now a must-have. We believe that the future of office buildings leans towards creating spaces that are safer and healthier with minimal impact on the environment. Many studies have shown that green and sustainable buildings not only have an impact on any business’ balance sheet, they also have lasting benefits on people and the communities where they are located.

Colliers Philippines believes that the development of greener and more sustainable spaces will be the norm moving forward. The pandemic has highlighted the need for these spaces. Sustainability will play a crucial role as we lure more employees to report back to traditional office spaces.

The rise of green and sustainable buildings is also evident in the Philippines. Local developers have successfully integrated green and sustainable features and have acquired green certification from different international organizations such as the LEED certification by US Green Building Council (USGBC) and EDGE by International Finance Corp.

Notable green and sustainable feature of LEED/ EDGE certified buildings in the Philippines include water and energy efficient technologies such as vertical green wall, a rainwater harvesting system, green roof, and double-glazed glass curtain walls for increase energy efficiency.

Additional smart features that make the buildings more resource efficient is the BMS that cuts energy expenditures and consumption. Aside from offering top-notch office spaces and amenities to its occupiers, developers can also take note of these features especially if they are planning to be more resource efficient, acquire green certification and leave a lasting positive impact on the built environment.

Tricia Pacete is an analyst at Colliers Philippines.

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