Certification, Performance and Enforcement to Raise StandardsThu, 11/01/2018 - 16:48
Mexico has come a long way in terms of pushing for sustainability but although there are more LEED buildings and other certifications, Mexican regulation is still catching up to international standards, says César Treviño, CEO of Bioconstruccion y Energia Alternativa (BEA). “In the 16 years that we have been in the market, we have yet to see a project in Mexico where the official Mexican energy efficiency and environmental impact code is more demanding than the international best practices of LEED,” he says.
Mexico’s first certification was in 2005 and in 2015 the country had 139 LEED-certified buildings. By the end of 2017, Mexico had more than 305 LEED-certified buildings, totaling over 5.16 million m2 of space. But Treviño says an extra boost is needed, and only the government can provide it. In Mexico, the Voluntary Certification Standards are based on additional fulfilment going beyond the minimum requirements. In the case of LEED, it requires developers to comply with various international energy efficiency standards. If the local standard is equal or superior to its international counterpart, the local one can be used. Treviño explains that this is never the case and that LEED-seeking projects continuously refer to international standards.
In a way, this scenario has also boosted the attractiveness of LEED certifications among developers. Treviño explains that it allows developers to truly differentiate their projects in the market as they go above and beyond local regulations and do things differently. Treviño believes the public sector will also come around in the near future. “We anticipate that the companies adhering to international standards will begin to demand more from Mexican norms,” he says. “In the next few years, standards will be raised in terms of sustainability and voluntary certification requirements will also increase.”
Traditionally, the private sector is quicker to innovate and adapt new technologies and sustainability practices. Despite the push from private sector investors and developers, the public sector still has room to grow. According to Treviño, 90 percent of the projects BEA participates in are private sector and only 10 percent public sector. “At the moment we have seldom participated in public transport, schools and hospital projects,” he says. “But there is growing interest from public institutions to incorporate more sustainable practices in social infrastructure.”
Just like in large infrastructure projects, Treviño says that the greatest challenge is in providing continuity to the strategic sustainable plans across political terms. “We have worked in projects where there are political changes in the planning and development stages and it drastically alters the goal, dynamic and final outcomes of the project,” he says. “But there are better practices in terms of project management and planning. We need to implement these improved methodologies in public works.”
To encourage the public sector’s adoption of sustainable practices, Treviño believes that the development of specialized teams would help. “Depending on the type of project, public institutions should have an in-house team with professional capacity to carry out the technical supervision of critical projects,” he says. “For a particularly large project like a hospital or airport, the government can subcontract these processes because it does not have the staff.”
Sustainability and related certifications in particular are not yet mainstream in Mexico but Treviño explains that recently they have been adopted in unprecedented numbers. “Since green building is not obligatory for real estate projects, many developers saw it as an effective differentiation tool,” he says. “The sector is at a stage where it is shaping its technical abilities for the market and breaking the status quo, providing more value to sustainability practices and monetizing the results.”
There is hope for the widespread use of certifications in Mexico and Latin America, even though some are not as fast to catch on as others. EDGE for instance has had a slower market penetration but Treviño says the possibilities it offers will help it take off among private sector companies. “There is a healthy market balance between world-class certifications, the increase in commercial performance and the enforcement of basic national standards that will raise the bar in the country’s sustainability standings,” he says.