Pedro Paredes
Project Director
EA Energía y Arquitectura

Architecture Firm Paves Green Path with LEED

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 10:15

Until a few years ago, energy was relatively cheap, and therefore there was no real economic motivation for sustainability initiatives. However, when resources became scarce and more expensive, there was an increased consciousness of money saving methods. People realized that by constructing more efficient buildings with green rooftops and rainwater collection mechanisms, money could be saved. Since it was founded in 2007, EA Energía y Arquitectura (EA) has been actively promoting these practices, and the firm discovered that LEED certifications were the most effective approach in accomplishing this. The company aims to improve the way buildings are constructed in Mexico, as well as promoting such initiatives to reach as many people as possible. “We have always tried to be leaders in the energy efficient buildings market, both in terms of profitability and ideology. We try to advocate green practices to as many people as possible through a deep understanding of the benefits they offer,” says Pedro Paredes, Project Director of EA Energía y Arquitectura.

Green buildings imply much more than just using renewable energy, including simple mechanisms that lead to cost savings. “People involved in the construction sector in Mexico often do not fully understand what sustainability and LEED are really about. They have a long-established way of doing business, so new and previously unexplored options are off-putting. Companies are mainly concerned with overheads and profit, thus they hesitate to adopt the concept of LEED,” explains Paredes. The problematic misconception that EA often encounter is the sentiment that sustainable buildings are not suited for Mexico due to a lack of accessibility to technology and the lack of regulations, norms, and incentives. The second is related to the high costs associated with implementing green buildings, with some believing these will total twice as much as regular buildings. “EA has played a fundamental role in trying to publicize the correct information. The reality is that success in green buildings is actually about strategy, planning, and developing a project that will lead to energy and cost savings,” says Paredes.

Despite these challenges, Paredes asserts there have been important drivers in the promotion of green buildings. The continuous publicity and awareness-raising campaigns on climate change to which the public has been exposed plays a fundamental role. In places like Mexico City and Guadalajara, people are starting to think about the environment and about improving sustainability of buildings, which is encouraging LEED certification. Foreign companies such as Colgate have similarly helped in the development of the green building industry. Paredes affirms that recently, real estate developers have also been considering LEED certification. By offering LEED-certified buildings, the company stands out from the competition, with a product that adheres to recognized international standards while requiring less operational costs, which is very attractive to potential clients.

The demand for green buildings represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers as well. “When we started the business seven years ago, there was a lack of availability and variety among the products that were needed for the construction of sustainable buildings. Today, such materials are starting to be produced in Mexico and there is an assortment of locally-manufactured products that we use to make LEED-certified buildings. The green building market is demanding a green product market for elements such as paint or certified wood,” explains Paredes.

The growth of the industry and EA’s success occurred with no proper incentives from the government, although Paredes clarifies that these would be welcomed by EA. However, without proper regulations, rules for certification, or mechanisms to measure the performance of existing infrastructure, provision of incentives will create a risk of greenwashing. This practice consists of companies claiming to have green buildings in order to benefit financially, without paying for the permits or abiding by required green criteria. For EA, LEED is not about investing significant capital in a building in order to make it green; rather, it is about thinking sustainably when designing a building. “The hardest element is changing people’s preconceived ideas, but ultimately overcoming this barrier becomes the most gratifying aspect of the entire process,” concludes Paredes.