The Rise of Sustainable ConstructionWed, 02/24/2016 - 10:25
The presence of cities in the landscape of the future is undeniable, as seven out of ten people will live in urban areas by 2050. It is compelling to imagine what the future urban landscape will look like when we add climate change, a growing population, and declining resources into the mix. Building successful cities or regenerating existing urban centers will require a harmonization between concrete and steel, and nature. Bioconstrucción y Energía Alternativa (BEA), a consulting firm specializing in sustainable construction, is at the epicenter of this transition. César Ulises Treviño, Director General of BEA, has noticed a significant appetite for sustainability and efficiency in the construction industry. “International companies sparked this interest as they began to operate under more sustainable practices,” he explains.
The rise of sustainable construction in the private sector has given way to the creation of a new green market. These companies have begun to demand services, products, and in some cases certifications, in order to reach their goals. As a specialist in LEED accreditation, BEA has been involved in the most prominent projects in the entry of sustainability to the construction industry. For example, as the consulting firm for the construction of the iconic HSBC tower, the company can boast an input into the construction of the first green building in Mexico, and is the first to achieve the gold LEED certification in Latin America. Treviño recalls the experience, “People doubted it would work; however, when we succeeded, the offers started pouring in.” The building came to deliver impressive economic savings in terms of operations and maintenance. Treviño notes that the growing market is dominated by international players, “70% of green buildings belong to transnational companies and the remaining 30% are owned by Mexican companies.”
As the largest accredited professional group for LEED certification in Latin America, BEA upholds its position by offering high quality and professional services. The principal factors in gaining the client’s trust are operational costs, health and productivity, and market differentiation. “Another factor we stress is that this is a technological and scientific process that offers results, knowledge, and best practices in terms of energy modelling and data analysis,” he adds. There are many savings that can be measured, such as energy and water, but there are also intangible benefits such as the quality of life of workers. Marketing and brand image plays an important role in convincing companies to opt for a green building. Companies might hesitate to invest due to fears related to high capital and slow returns, but BEA reassures its potential customers that they can achieve silver certifications or higher for less than 2% of the initial cost. Treviño states that, “In the most important streets in Mexico City, such as Reforma, the owners of over 60% of the buildings are pursuing some sort of certification or adopting sustainable practices that surpass regulations.”
Treviño stresses that if a world class building in terms of efficiency or sustainability is desired, then processes must be realigned so the building can become a reality. “The architects, project manager, engineering firms, and general contractors must adopt a new mindset, and as consultants we facilitate this change.” Whilst there may be 118 LEED certified buildings in Mexico, obtaining the certificate is no easy feat. “There are 520 buildings that are vying to become LEED certified and approximately 10% of those will never achieve the standard. This is due to a number of factors, such as incomplete initial planning,” he states.
Every city is different and its roads and avenues echo with its history and cultures. Companies in the sustainability sector must promote understanding of these nuances in order to offer specialized services. Treviño has spotted a major area of opportunity in existing buildings that do not possess sustainable qualities. “We must adapt our services to the existing constructions in order to help them achieve the standards with their current facilities,” he explains. It is undeniable that this will require an extraordinary effort from the decision makers and owners of these buildings, so to succeed in this new segment, the company must present the benefits of making the shift in a comprehensive and tangible way. Treviño explains, “every building has a budget for operations and maintenance. If you approach this with a proposal demanding ten times the initial budget, then it is a difficult decision to make.” To circumvent this obstacle, Treviño proposes the implementation of the ESCO model and offering ESCO integrated solutions. Conquering this new market segment requires collaboration with the public sector through new initiatives, norms, and incentive programs to promote a major transformation for the large percentage of existing, unsustainable buildings. For consulting firms like BEA the future looks bright. “It has taken time for the concept of sustainability and green buildings to popularize, but thanks to the media, it has gradually come to the forefront of the public mindset.”