COVID-19 is Pushing Humans to Reconsider ImpactBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 09/28/2020 - 10:43
Q: How is the market adapting to the COVID-19 situation?
A: I think this pandemic has demonstrated that things have to change. COVID-19 has forced us to consider how our lifestyle impacts the world. Reducing our footprint through the optimization of construction resources has only become more important. Now that we need to reinvent ourselves, why not do it in a greener manner? It is true that personal health has become a more important factor to consider when designing new buildings. It comes down to common spaces that allow people to interact with enough distance. Access ways need to be equally considerate. Also, air conditioning can be a source of contagion, so we need to look at greener ways of assuring good air quality, which is an area in which we already have expertise.
When we consider the purpose of buildings, mixed-use projects are a useful concept to ensure that people can have access to different needs without actually having to travel away from their homes. These buildings can include residences, office and commercial spaces. In addition, residences themselves also need to take into account a greater home-office capability. Conversely, offices are taking on more home-like characteristics.
Q: To what extent do the building certifications you already work with take into account COVID-19-related requirements?
A: The LEED certification has an integral approach. It also considers aspects of quality of life and health. LEED has a team of volunteers around the world who are constantly working on how to integrate new concepts into the certification and to offer this to other products. They are now including credits addressing COVID-19 through cleaning, going back to work with good practices and good indoor environmental quality . The other certification we work with is EDGE, the primary standard we have been focusing on for the past few years. This standard is oriented more specifically to energy, water and embedded energy in materials efficiency, not health-related issues. Lastly, there is a standard called WELL, which is growing fast in popularity. This standard recently published new indicators for specific health aspects related to COVID-19.
Q: Do you see more opportunity at the moment in new construction or retrofitting of existing buildings?
A: Our firm is currently focused more strongly on new construction. However, we have also identified that most square meters that will undergo construction and renovations in Mexico are actually existing buildings. No doubt, retrofitting presents a big opportunity. There are very interesting cases of buildings that are hundreds of years old and have a LEED certification. Obviously, working with an existing structure presents more challenges; you cannot just remove a wall or replace an entire power system. The important factor in a project like this is to understand how the building operates. Then you need to work with its inhabitants to change water, electricity and gas systems, as well as to implement best practices that fit the new normal we live in. Overall, around 85 percent of the projects we work with are residential developments, from social housing to the residence-plus segment. As I stated before, mixed-use buildings are also an interesting niche at the moment; for example, those that have a supermarkets or malls within their premises and residential.
Q: Will developers feel less appetite to invest in green branding following the economic downturn?
A: It is really important for developers to understand the added value that sustainability and certifications bring to their project. Being recognized by a third party with a well-known certification is going to help the project out-compete others. At the same time, more efficient use of resources also brings economic benefits for the owner and final users. Lastly, millennials have purchasing power and they are looking for ways to have a more sustainable lifestyle.
Q: How is the government aiding in incentivizing construction of greener buildings?
A: It is no surprise that the administration has different priorities right now. There are no fiscal incentives at a national level for more sustainable buildings. However, at the state or municipal level, such as in Mexico City, there are benefits for developers. Another area that has progressed well in recent years is green financial products offered by banks. The World Bank made significant progress in this area in Mexico. Lastly, the overall sustainability of our buildings is also related to the development of renewable energy accessibility in this country, which is another issue.
Q: What consulting services do you offer to industrial real estate development?
A: We provide efficiency consulting for industrial developers to help them get green certified. This is very important, considering that the industry is the second-largest energy consumer after transport and before residential buildings. We focus on the overall building performance and in the majority of cases work with the EDGE certification.
3Lotus Consulting is a consulting company that guides developers through the process of acquiring a LEED or EDGE certification. The company is active primarily in residential real estate, but also offers services to the commercial sector and industrial sector