(an article written by CleanAir@theFort, a civic group based in Bonifacio Global City, in support of 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015)

If you are looking for a place to live or work in the Fort, such as in Bonifacio Global City or McKinley Hill, or anywhere for that matter, you could do well by paying attention to the information presented below, especially if you are someone who is also concerned about the impact we make on the environment.

After selecting the area that you would like to live in and your budget, you most likely will need to further narrow down your choices by looking at the features that a particular building offers, and match that against your priorities. Well, when you do so, do not forget to put the features suggested below in your list of priorities. Use a point system so that you can get an overall score for a building for easier comparison with other buildings in your shortlist:



Energy efficiency

We should care about energy efficiency of a building not only because the cost of energy affects our pocket, but also because we care about the environment: you know about the problem of climate change, right?  Buildings that have incorporated energy saving designs, such as insulated glass walls, procured energy saving equipment, devices and appliances such as LED and motion-activated lights, have in place a maintenance program to ensure good working condition of electrical equipment and so on should get extra points on your list. 

Indoor air quality

We all know that air quality affects our health. When we spend a lot of time inside a building, we should make sure that it has a good supply of fresh air. Poor indoor air circulation can lead to illnesses and a cause of bacterial infection such as Legionnaires’ disease. Give more points to buildings that have operable windows than those that do not, those that have good ventilation system for public areas such as lift lobbies, and those that have a cleaning schedule for air ducts that connect a unit to common area, such as the ventilation system for bathrooms and kitchens, and ones that have well ventilated parking area.

Water and effluent

Residents of Bonifacio Global City know that water rate here is much more expensive than elsewhere in Metro Manila. Purportedly this is because the water here has been treated so well that the tap water is good enough for drinking without the need for further filtering or disinfection. If a building has adopted measures to minimize water consumption, such as regular and proper calibration of water pressure, or provision to reuse grey water, then it will save residents money and conserve precious water resources. Presence of a dual plumbing system, where rain water is collected and used in toilet flushing, should definitely earn a building extra points.




Other points

The above are the more obvious points where a building’s management and features affect our health, our pocket and the environment. These are actually some of the points presented in the Philippine Green Building Council’s green building rating scheme, called BERDE (short for “Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence”), a voluntary standard for the measurement of environmental performance of buildings developed specifically for the Philippine market.


Need some evidence?

A report entitled “Health, Well being and Productivity in Offices” written by the World Green Building Council in 2013 (downloadable at https://www.worldgbc.org/activities/health-wellbeing-productivity-offices/) summarizes a large body of evidence which demonstrates that the design of an office impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants. Some of the salient points are presented below:

Indoor air quality : a comprehensive body of research can be drawn on to suggest that productivity improvements of 8-11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality. Short term sick leave was found to be 35% lower in offices ventilated by an outdoor air supply rate of 24 l/s compared to buildings with rates of 12 l/s in a 2000 study. The balance between increasing outdoor air supply and energy consumption must be considered carefully. Limiting indoor pollutants

Thermal comfort: studies consistently show that even modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity. The importance of personal control applies to other factors too, including lighting.

Daylighting and lighting: Several studies in the last decade have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows, with experts now thinking that the views out are probably the more significant factor, particularly where the view offers a connection to nature. A study in 2011 investigated the relationship between view quality, daylighting and sick leave of employees in administration offices of Northwest University Campus. Taken together, the two variables explained 6.5% of the variation in sick leave, which was statistically significant.

Noise and acoustics: A study in 1998 found that there was up to a 66% drop in performance for a ‘memory for prose’ task when participants were exposed to different types of background noise.


Other points that BERDE cover in measuring the environmental performance of a building are:

- green cleaning policy : buildings should minimize the use of cleaning materials that are harmful to the environment and humans;

- green house gas emission: measures that will reduce green house emission compared to non-green buildings will earn a building points in the BERDE certification process.  Examples: use of LED light bulbs instead of compact fluorescent lights or incandescent light bulbs;

- emission control : black smoke when a generator starts up? Even an upscale neighbourhood like BGC cannot escape the need to use stand-alone power generator once in a while, and some of you must have seen black smoke belching out from a swanky building here. To obtain BERDE certification, buildings must take measures to mediate emissions from equipment operations, which involve combustion or burning.

- transportation : BERDE certified buildings are encouraged to provide preferred parking to carpool vehicles and other vehicles that shuttle groups of people from the building to other places.

(BERDE information from : https://philgbc.net/berde/berde-op/1.0.0/BERDE-OP-v100.pdf)

As can be seen above, many of the features that are good for the environment are also good for our health, and some are also good for our pocket – triple baseline indeed, as they say in the greenies circle. 



Green Buildings in the Fort

There are quite a few buildings in BGC and McKinley Hill that have obtained green building certification from internationally recognized green building bodies.

Buildings that have been accredited with a Green Rating from one of the world’s green building councils have features that target at least some of the environmental factors important to workers’ health.  For example, Sun Life Center at 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, which has obtained a Gold rating from the LEED has CO2 sensors that help to flush out pollutants inside the building, improving the distribution of fresh air. And it has a Green Roof that provides relief and a refreshing view of the BGC skyline for cubicle-stuck employees. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green rating system for sustainable design and structures, and is given by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Net Lima building on 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, has a 4 star rating from BERDE. Amongst its Green features, the building has:

  •      a high performance glass wall and sun shades to regulate sun light and temperature inside the building, while preserving the scenic views;
  •      an air conditioning system that uses the technology of Variable Refrigerant Flow to increase comfort and reduce energy consumption;
  •      a water condenser feature, which is connected to the VRF air-conditioning system. The feature has decreased water usage to just a tenth of the consumption without the feature.

The BERDE Green Building Rating System is a Philippine equivalence of LEED developed under the Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) Program. It is a tool to measure, verify and monitor performance of buildings above and beyond existing mandatory building and environmental regulations and standards.

Below are some of the buildings in the Fort area that have been certified green:

 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED / US Green Building Council)

Source: https://www.usgbc.org/projects

 

  • Sun Life Philippines Head Office (Platinum)
  • Wells Fargo Center Philippines Buildings A, B and C at McKinley Hill (Platinum)
  • Ore Central (Platinum)
  • Arthaland Tower (Gold)
  • Mind Museum (Gold)
  • The Curve (Gold)
  • World Plaza (Gold)
  • One World Place (Gold)
  • Bench Office (Gold)
  • Megaworld 8 Campus Place Buildings A, B and C (Gold)
  • Sun Life Financial Headquarters (Gold)

Look up their score cards to see how they score on individual parameters such as water and energy efficiency.

 

Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE / Philippine Green Building Council)

  • Net Lima (4 Star)



Thus, a green building is one that not only provides environmental benefits, but also contributes to the well-being of its tenants.

If a green building has so many benefits, then why aren’t there more green buildings? Well, it is likely the same old story with many environmental issues. While a green building is good for the public, its owners and its tenants, the cost is borne completely by the building owner.

Therefore, constructing a green building is probably more costly than building a conventional building.  Fortunately, there are developers who are committed to building green. “You pay more, but you get a higher quality building,” said Mr. Ramon Rufino, chairman of the Philippine Green Building Council.  Mr. Rufino should know, as he is also an Executive Vice President of the Net Group, which developed and manages seven office buildings in Bonifacio Global City, including Net Lima.

According to Mr. Rufino, the higher the star rating of a building under BERDE rating system, the higher the quality the building can provide to its tenants.  Furthermore, many international firms have realized that environmental responsibility is part of their brand image. When they look for office space to house their office needs, they give preference to those that can contribute to their environmental goals.

In fact, the Net Group is so committed to building green that it has made Net Lima the first building in Metro Manila outside Meralco properties with charging stations for hybrid or electric cars.



Other means to improve health in office environment

Mr. Rufino informs us that the Net Group will be building smokers lounges in buildings under its management, so that non-smokers can breathe without worry about secondhand smoking.

He is also planning to upgrade the security system of the buildings so that tenants can have access to stairways of the buildings without having to compromise security of the building. Walking the stairs is actually a very good way to burn excess calories and strengthen our heart. The fact that it will reduce electricity consumption and wear and tear of the lifts are added bonus for the building owners.

We need more buildings with green features

Currently, all LEED or BERDE certified projects in BGC and McKinley Hill are office buildings. Fortunately, developers of residential buildings are beginning to be interested in getting green certification. Arya Residences, for example, has applied for certification under both LEED and BERDE. In order to encourage more developers to build green residential buildings, next time you make enquiries for a residential property in the Fort area, be sure to ask about a building’s green attributes, so that words get back to the developers to show that buyers care about these things.

(Acknowledgement : we would like to thank Mr. Chris de la Cruz, CEO of Philippine Green Building Council for his time in explaining the work of PhilGBC and the BERDE rating system)


United Nations Conference on Climate Change will hold its 21st meeting in France from November 30 to December 11, 2015. The conference is crucial because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C. Visit their website  to find out more.


There will be a supporting event held in Bonifacio High Street on Sunday November 29 at 4pm to draw attention to this cause. The Bayanihn Parade will have a Global Climate March segment. Join us and show that you care about the environment!

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