Lourdes Salinas
Director General of THREE Environmental Consulting
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Insight

Sustainability: Not Just Green Marketing, but an Investment Strategy

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 16:55

Mexico’s mindset regarding sustainability is changing for the better but there are still gray areas as developers come to grips with just what it means to create a sustainable project. “Sustainability can be seen simply as a label that one can place on a building or as a marketing strategy,” says Lourdes Salinas, Director General of THREE Environmental Consulting. “On the other hand, if carried out in the right way, with the right studies and analysis, it will give developers greater added value and a return on their investment.”
THREE Environmental Consulting’s goal is to support developers in the creation of projects that focus on the most cost-effective strategies within sustainability consulting and LEED certification. “THREE Environmental Consulting carries out a series of numerical studies using computer programs to precisely measure the results each sustainability or architectural strategy would generate,” Salinas explains. “It is important that any strategy implemented is not simply aesthetic or subjective, but that it actually has numbers to back up the investment. When developers see these results, that is when sustainability stops being a trend and becomes a replicable investment strategy.”
One size does not necessarily fit all, which is why it is crucial to carry out the proper studies before implementing a strategy. “Not all sectors or projects are the same and it is our job to be creative and find the unique characteristics that can increase the value of each product,” Salinas says. She stresses the importance of not only taking into consideration the space and environment, but also the habits of the people that will inhabit that space. “Developing best-fit solutions for residential real estate is far more complex due to the variety of uses the space can have, as opposed to commercial real estate, which tends to have standardized schedules and uses.”
THREE Environmental Consulting has experience working on commercial and residential real estate, which includes many corporate, housing and mixed-use projects in Monterrey and other cities across Mexico and the US. Salinas identifies Monterrey as a city that is experiencing a strong push forward in sustainability. Urban projects such as Distrito Tec, which is being carried out by ITESM, push for the construction of sustainable buildings and bolster the involvement of communities in infrastructure projects to generate greater value.
Salinas says one of the toughest sectors in Mexico’s real estate is social housing due to restricted budgets, specifications and locations. THREE Environmental Consulting has participated in research alongside the Association of Companies for Energy Savings in Construction (AEAEE), where together they studied 14 cities with high population growth and different bioclimatic characteristics to identify the best ways to increase comfort and reduce energy consumption in social housing.
Later, in collaboration with IDB, KfW and SHF, THREE Environmental Consulting participated in the evaluation of energy consumption, humidity, and temperature with real-time sensors for EcoCasa housing, a federal program that provides credit to developers that incorporate sustainable technologies and practices in their projects. “Through this project, we identified that in many cases, the problem is not energy consumption, but occupant comfort in social housing,” Salinas says. “Comfort levels vary greatly depending on how the house is used by each family, so comfort can be improved through education and community security.”
One of the main issues the firm has identified is that it is common in Mexico to have the subcontractor generating the design and engineering for a certain system also selling and installing the equipment. This is uncommon internationally; it means the same company providing the engineering solutions also provides the technology and systems, and without generalizing, this may adhere to the most convenient low-cost and fast-turnaround metrics for the designer but fail to consider quality or energy efficiency for the project. “The ideal situation is where a specialized engineering firm focuses on the most cost-effective, energy efficient design and a specialized construction company carries out an adequate installation; this is the recommended way to assure the best interests of any project.”