It can be quite intimidating. As more and more buildings turn out to be green, or at least try to be green, as you have seen in clever and creative advertising, you wonder how your conventional building can ever keep up with this rapid pace of technical development.
You are beginning to see the environmental benefits of going green plus the growing demand for green buildings.
You have also heard of the initiatives by certain municipalities that are developing their own green ordinances with tax incentives to entice building owners and developers to go green.
There are now several green building rating systems in the country—all trying to change the environmental landscape in the building industry.
In particular, the Philippine Green Building Initiative (PGBI) differentiates itself from other rating systems because it is designed for our local tropical climate conditions—a feature that makes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system not directly comparable for use in the Philippines because it is designed for colder climates.
Making my building green
Meantime, questions keep popping in your mind. “How do I convert my conventional building to a green building? Can I afford making the changes without altering the original structure?”
Just as you started with the technical drawings and plans to reduce uncertainties when you constructed your building, a conversion or evolution plan can also help minimize risks linked with the conversion of your building, thereby laying the groundwork for long-term financial and sustainable benefits.
Your first big step is to establish benchmarks.
Benchmarking is the process of comparing how your building performs in relation to the industry standards or in some cases, your competitor.
I once met a big-time developer who had constructed many buildings. I asked him a simple question that caught him by surprise: “Which one among your buildings is the most energy efficient one?” He was visibly embarrassed when he replied, “come to think of it, I don’t know!”
Apparently, they never practiced benchmarking even within their organization. Without benchmarking you would never know if you are making progress or not.
Start by evaluating your building’s energy usage. Are you aware of your energy breakdown? What percentage of your energy goes to lighting or air conditioning? How much goes to your equipment?
What about water consumption? Find out if you need to use potable water for all your systems.
A building audit or a thorough evaluation of your present building systems will give you a clear picture of where you are so you can plan for your building’s conversion.
The next step is to create your wish list for the future of your building. Are you aiming to have your building certified by an objective green building rating system? Do you want to contribute to the environment? Do you want a zero energy building? How much of the latest green technologies can you integrate in your building?
Can you improve the daylight in your building? What about your old air-conditioning equipment? The latest AC equipment today is more compact and much more energy-efficient. Is there a way to collect rainwater for various needs? Have you considered green roofs and green walls?
If your building is oriented with maximum exposure to the harsh effects of the afternoon sun, shading devices can greatly reduce solar penetration.
Light shelves can also help reduce solar penetration while bringing in light deep into the building interiors.
Armed with the result of your building audit or evaluation you can now determine, for example, if your energy use can be reduced by upgrading your lighting to an advanced LED lighting. Did you know that on the average retrofitting your lighting has an ROI of about 2 or 3 years?
Your building interior can also be replanned to increase rentable or saleable area while possibly increasing daylight.
The secret to converting your building is to seek what you can do now with the existing structural system, materials and design the building to adjust as your finances improve.
Each year choose one green strategy toward the conversion of your building and do it. This will mean cost savings and better environmental practice.