Rule Enforcement, a Greenfield for Sustainability, EfficiencyMon, 11/05/2018 - 14:11
Thermal insulation solutions could greatly improve the quality of life of low-income segments of Mexico’s population but the Mexican government must get the ball rolling, says Rendell Segura, General Manager at fiberglass building materials manufacturer Owens Corning Insulation Latin America. “There are interesting opportunities for insulation products in Mexico but authorities must generate appropriate incentives to develop more energy-efficient buildings.”
Segura says the government needs to enforce the Mexican norms on energy efficiency in buildings and perhaps offer incentives for developers to adopt more sustainable construction systems that improve quality of life. “Around 300,000 social housing residences are built every year in Mexico and they usually employ concrete, blocks or bricks, which are thermally inefficient systems,” he says. “And though there are norms on energy efficiency in buildings such as NOM-020-ENER-2011, these regulations are largely not applied.”
Residential real estate within markets where there is a consciousness about the importance of energy-efficient buildings offers many opportunities for Owens Corning, according to Segura. “In these markets hundreds of thousands of houses are built and those new houses require thermal insulation to be energy-efficient,” he says. Looking ahead, Segura forecasts that as countries such as Mexico and Brazil enforce regulations on energy efficiency and build houses that meet these standards, they can generate meaningful energy savings and create more comfortable homes.
Mexico has a strong influence in the Latin American markets, so Segura forecasts that a greater awareness of sustainability will incentivize the creation of more regulations and greater government support for energy-efficient buildings, which will make markets such as Mexico and Brazil more interesting for Owens Corning because of their population size and projected economic growth. “These are the two markets that will offer the most opportunities,” says Segura.
Segura points out that Owens Corning could support the Mexican authorities with its Building Science expertise in the development of norms for residential building efficiency. “As leaders, we have the responsibility to generate demand, but at the same time, to enhance the quality of life of people,” says Segura.
The company followed such a strategy in Chile. “The Chilean government aimed at reducing the air pollution caused by poor people burning wood to keep their homes warm in the winter,” he explains. The government started offering subsidies to boost energy efficiency by insulating these homes and Owens Corning provided support to establish the most cost-effective solutions. “We understood the scopes of these opportunities and now provide these people better living conditions while also marketing more fiberglass,” says Segura. He points out that Chile has the highest per-capita consumption of fiberglass in Latin America due to the fact that it is the only country in the region that has implemented a code for mandatory home insulation and that was accepted and applied by home builders.
Owens Corning also takes advantage of its Building Science department to help clients efficiently design their projects. “Energy efficiency is more than just about thermal insulation, but about studying how a building operates,” says Segura. He adds that the company can take a client’s blueprints in AutoCAD to run energy simulations that consider the construction materials that will be used and give recommendations for an energy-efficient project. “This allows us to offer a useful tool to potential clients and stand out in the market,” highlights Segura.
But there are several challenges for energy-efficient buildings to become commonplace in Mexico. Segura says that each country has its own construction practices and it takes a while for cultural change to happen. However, he expects that as compliance with regulations in this area becomes common, developers will realize it makes more sense to change some of their practices. In Mexico, building energy-efficient houses could mean the use of materials such as drywall or the employment of light construction systems. “This may take a long time, so it is important to develop solutions for the constructive systems used today in the meantime,” he says.