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Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development 1987)

In industrialise countries, around 30-40% of total natural resources used by building industry with almost 50% of it used for heating and cooling in buildings whereas almost 40% of the world’s consumption of materials converts to the built environment and around 30% of energy use is due to housing.[1]

Buildings account for one-sixth of the world’s fresh water withdrawals, one-quarter of its wood harvest, and two-fifths of its material and energy flows. (Roodman and Lenssen, 1995).

Building green is an opportunity to use resources efficiently while creating healthier buildings that improve occupant health and well-being.

What is Green Building?

Green Building is about restricting environmental destruction.

It also about making a healthy, comfortable environment inside the home.

Green buildings can use normal materials and look very conventional, or use very uncommon materials and look quite unusual, and anything in-between.

Green buildings are design to save energy and resources, recycle materials and minimise the emission of toxic substances throughout its life cycle.

Green buildings harmonise with the local climate, traditions, culture and the surrounding environment.

It can sustain and improve the quality of human life.

Green buildings make efficient use of resources; have significant operational savings and increases workplace productivity.

Building green sends the right message about a company or organisation – that it is well run, responsible, and committed to the future.

In Malaysia the demand for buildings equipped with green technology continue to rise as environmental awareness grows and more companies embrace corporate social responsibility (CB Richard Ellis Research, Asia in a special report – Malaysia Market Prospects – Jan 27).

The report also mention that multinational companies will be at the forefront of the trend of increasingly adopting a commitment to leasing green office space wherever possible.

The report cite that growing body of evidence demonstrating that green buildings make financial sense as studies from mature markets such as Australia and the US have found that developing green buildings can help landlords achieve higher values, fetch higher rents and enjoy higher occupancy rates than comparable non-green buildings.

The introduction of The Green Building Index (GBI), the country’s green building rating system is aim towards promoting the construction of environmentally-friendly buildings in Malaysia.

The GBI modelled on international green building rating systems such as

Main office of Clean Water Services in Hillsbo...

Main office of Clean Water Services in Hillsboro, Oregon. LEED Gold building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method or BREEAM and jointly developed by the Malaysian Institute of Architects and the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia.

GBI developed specifically for the Malaysian-tropical climate, environmental and developmental context, cultural and social needs and created to:

i.        Define green buildings by establishing a common language and standard of measurement;

ii.        Promote integrated, whole-building designs that provides a better environment for all;

iii.        Recognise and reward environmental leadership;

iv.        Transform the built environment to reduce its negative environmental impact; and

v.        Ensure new buildings remain relevant in the future and existing buildings are refurbished and upgraded to improve the overall quality of our building stock

According to Malaysian Institute of Architects, 256 applications for GBI certification submitted since the index was introduced, with 54 projects provisionally certified and four fully certified. GBI is Malaysia’s green building rating developed specifically for the tropical climate.

The tangible benefits of green building have long been apparent in business. Energy savings, lower operating cost, and reduced taxes are advantages, which are relatively easy to measure and monetize. However, some of these initiatives may be costly to implement and tangible benefits might not offset the initial costs, especially when considering shorter payback horizons required in challenging times. Without including other benefits, the net present value (NPV) of many projects become negative, making them difficult for businesses to justify. Fortunately, intangible benefits also exist.[2]

Although there are noticeable energy and resource saving benefits related to green building, there are still limitations to consider.

[1] Pulseli, R. M., Simonchini, E., Pulseli, F. M., and Bastianoni, S., (2008) “Energy analysis of building manufacturing, maintenance and use: building indices to evaluate housing sustainability,” Energy Buildings, (39(5), 620-628

[2] McNamara,D. W., Birkenfeld, B., Brown,P., Kresse,N., Sullivan, J.,and Thiam, P., (2011) “Quantifying the Hidden Benefits of High-Performance Building,” International Society of Sustainability Professionals.