David Domínguez
Founder and CEO of 3Lotus Consulting Mexico
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Insight

Smart Certifications for Every Market Niche

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 17:16

Just like finding the right shoe to fit Cinderella, developers must ensure they choose the correct certification for their project. LEED, BREEAM, SITES, TRUE, EDGE – each has its own scope and impact. It is a matter of finding the right one for every market niche, says David Domínguez, Founder and CEO of 3Lotus Consulting Mexico. Sometimes, however, the top option is not always the best fit.
In the end it comes down to priorities. LEED aim for net-zero energy consumption, while EDGE focuses more on resources and simple sustainability. At the top of the pyramid, the Living Community Challenge (LCC) targets a symbiotic relationship between all aspects of the environment and people. “The most demanding is the Living Building Challenge, followed by Regenerative Design,” Domínguez explains. “LEED is on par with SITES and TRUE.”
Despite LCC setting the course that all sustainable buildings should follow, it is still hard for Mexican metropolises to comply with all its waste, energy and water requirements. “LCC is the best option for new developments and its principles should be adopted in existing buildings where possible,” says Domínguez. “But it is key to acknowledge that it is not always going to be viable and that other certifications may fit certain projects better.”
3Lotus Consulting Mexico has advised several projects on how to achieve LLC, but it is so restrictive that so far, no skyscraper has obtained the certification in the world. “The available technology in Mexico is good, but compliance with this certification’s requirements is still difficult,” Domínguez says. Given how much of a challenge it can be for big constructions to achieve net-zero energy, water and waste; LCC currently fits residential real estate better. “In my opinion, residential is the right way to go,” he says. “But in cities like Mexico City, with such a high resource-consumption rate, it is more challenging.”
Given LCC’s complexity, LEED has been the certification with greatest market penetration, making Mexico the LEED leader in Latin America. Despite its popularity with certain projects, Domínguez believes that LEED and the other certifications at a similar impact level answer to a market that sometimes is elite and represents 30 percent of global infrastructure developers. “EDGE, on the other hand, is a tool that seeks to serve the remaining 70 percent through a mass market transformation,” he explains. The latter is simpler, cheaper and faster to obtain, as it does not have the same scope of the other certifications. But he stresses that the certifications do not compete. Instead, each has a specific feature that makes it the best fit for a particular project. “For example, in Mexico, the cost of LEED is too high for hospitals, hotels and the housing market,” he says. “Other certifications, such as EDGE, can bridge this gap.”
This raises an important issue: green building must also meet developers’ budgets. Constructing sustainably can be more expensive at the beginning, as the market needs to adapt its regulations, permits processes and materials to certifications’ requirements. Domínguez believes that, at the moment, sustainable building can increase project costs by 5-10 percent, but many developments have seen the benefits of building green without their costs going up. “We also need incentives because if it is more expensive to build sustainably, developers typically will not do it,” he says.
In general terms, Domínguez believes these costs can be divided in three. One is the money paid to the US Green Building Council for the certification, which for large projects can reach US$30,000. The second cost is market-driven and considers all the consultants required for obtaining the certification. The remaining costs are allocated to all the extras the developer must incorporate to comply with the certifications, such as special materials. “Developers need to undergo a decision-making process to choose which materials to use,” says Domínguez. “According to estimates, materials can increase costs between 3-5 percent.”
Materials could also be the key for what Domínguez believes is the ultimate solution for building sustainability: energy consumption. “Facades can be the solution to 60-70 percent to all energy problems,” he says. “A good facade with the right material and proper building orientation that manages natural light can save a lot of money on air conditioning and lighting, increasing energy efficiency.”