Lowering Entry Barriers for Green CertificationsWed, 11/01/2017 - 15:07
Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword in the infrastructure industry as more and more developers are realizing it can offer tangible energy, water and cost savings on a project. In Mexico, it is taking a little longer but these trends are starting to creep in. The country was ranked 47 out of 65 in RobecoSAM’s 2017 Country Sustainability Ranking and 67 out of 180 in Yale University’s 2016 Environmental Performance Index. In both cases, Mexico was overtaken by countries moving at a faster pace in sustainability. There has been improvement but there is still plenty to do.
To truly adopt sustainability, the country must change its mindset in relation to what the word means, according to Luis Vega, president of private sustainability certification association Sustentabilidad para México (SUMe). “Sustainability is not about saving water or energy, it is the cultural process of defining how people want to live in the future and the kind of world they want to leave for their children,” he says. SUMe is dedicated exclusively to the Mexican market and offers a variety of green building certifications and education in sustainability to its member organizations. “There are 275 certified projects in our portfolio and about 947 in the process of being certified,” says Vega. “This is only the beginning: every new building can look better, use recyclable construction materials and be much more energy-efficient.”
World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report (WGBT 2016) estimates that 65 percent of construction activity in Mexico is conventional while only 35 percent is green. But Mexico is the global leader in terms of expected growth of green activity in the commercial sector according to this report. This will require green certifications. Vega believes this increased focus on sustainability will also increase demand for cutting-edge technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM). “BIM processes and wellbeing of personnel will be the main focus for companies in the coming years,” says Vega. “Having a better development built with better materials that adopts a culture of sustainability is possible and it does not need to push up prices.” BIM helps construction companies simulate the construction of their developments so they can better allocate their resources, troubleshoot and develop their projects sustainably in a more efficient manner through the use of software, prior to even breaking ground.
There are still challenges to be overcome in promoting green building and sustainability within the Mexican infrastructure industry, both in the public and private sectors. The most important one, according to WGBT 2016, is high initial outlay, the second being lack of public awareness and third the lack of government support or incentives. To combat high initial costs, the company helps investors achieve returns on investment in sustainability by helping them create new strategies, providing education on sustainability and reaping the benefits of those results. This can include greater market share due to customers looking for green alternatives and cost efficiency. SUMe provides strategies for a range of different areas including energy saving, waste management and logistics. Forty-five percent of its associates are assigned to sustainability advising, certification and education, 25 percent to materials and 30 percent to areas related to construction.
In terms of government support for these sustainability initiatives, Vega says that “the government is involved in regulating and certifying sustainable business processes, specifically BIM.” This software is compulsory when building IMSS projects, for example. Moreover, there are laws in force that aim to promote sustainability like the General Law on Climate Change or General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste, as well as several regulations drafted by SEMARNAT. “If SUMe manages to engage the government in processes, if norms and certifications become mandatory and if these norms are applied seriously, sustainability will be improved,” says Vega.