An industrialized countries duty, or why green building design know-how must be shared today with emerging countries. How an updated economic principle from the last century help reaching significant results, fast and easily.
In 2014, 54% of worldwide population live in urban areas. There was only 30% back in 1950 and forecasts raise the figure to 66% by 2050. It means an additional 2.5 billion people in urban areas, almost 90% being in Asia and Africa.
Industrialized countries benefited from a slow and progressive urbanization. It went along with their industrial development (evolution in building construction, waste water networks, public transportations, etc.).
As an example, Paris, 2.3 million inhabitants, built its subway in the early 1900s. Jakarta, more than 15 million inhabitants, expects its first subway line to be operational in 2017!
Emerging countries are facing a demographic explosion paired with a massive migration from rural to urban areas.
Most of today’s big cities are located in emerging countries. And all will keep expanding: Bombay, Lagos, Calcutta, Karachi, Jakarta, Manilla…
To be able to host a constantly growing number of people and keep developing their economy, cities have no other choice but to build, get infrastructures, renovate.
With this fast urbanization, failure is not an option
Economic development must be sustainable. Governments and all stakeholders have to be proactive. Facing these challenges and fast urbanization, any inaction from governments and stakeholders directly leads to an economic slowdown. It then turns in to an economical asphyxia as cities lose their attractiveness, being unable to fulfill primary needs: to move, supply energy, accommodate…
Buenos Aires is known for its summer black-outs. A too high building’s energy consumption with both urban growth and outdated electrical networks provoke black-outs during days in some neighborhood. In summer time, gensets flourish all over the city to overcome these problems.
[…] buildings are a necessary part to address. They highly help overcoming the environmental and economic issues addressed by emerging countries fast urbanization.
In 2014, Jakarta roads network weighted for 6.2% of the city area. As a comparison, cities like New York, Tokyo or Singapore are up to 15-20%. Moreover, Jakarta road network’s growth is around 0.9% a year while simultaneously, the number of cars annually rises by 9%
Within all problematics due to expansion, even though there are only a part of the solution, buildings are a necessary part to address. They highly help overcoming the environmental and economic issues addressed by emerging countries fast urbanization.
Between received ideas on green buildings and lack of interest
This is a challenge, but far from impossible. It “just” requires to do right since the beginning. Environmental certifications (BREEAM, LEED, HQE…) have a strong marketing power bringing the image that a sustainable building is a certified and most expensive building. Even though these certifications ensure the achievement of a minimum level of sustainable performance, they’re obviously not mandatories. Moreover, a sustainable building isn’t a more expensive building.
[…] INDESO project in Bali (INDONESIA), demonstrate that high energy efficiency levels can be reached. Performance reached is outstanding for Indonesia with a consumption under 100 kWh/m².year, 60% less than a typical office building.
Let’s illustrate with a case study in Indonesia, focusing on energy. Average energy consumption for office building is 250 kWh/m².year. Few new projects integrate targets to reduce energy consumption in their design. Sometimes for cost reasons (extra studies, construction) but also, and mainly, because of a lack of interest (ecological awareness, low energy cost, no law or regulation, no government incentives).
Some buildings, such as INDESO project in Bali (INDONESIA), demonstrate that high energy efficiency levels can be reached. Performance reached is outstanding for Indonesia with a consumption under 100 kWh/m².year, 60% less than a typical office building. To achieve this performance, one of the best in Indonesia as today, there have been some small study and construction over-costs. However, savings will compensate them in a few years.
Customize engineering to fit in emerging countries specificities
Let’s now think differently. Let’s state that investors don’t consider sustainable buildings because they have no middle term vision, which is the case in many emerging countries, and therefore want to reduce the costs (expert during design stage then potential construction over-cost).
Even though there is no proportional relation between the time spent and design studies cost, an interesting parallel can be drawn with the Pareto principle. Also known as “80/20 principle”, it states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It applies to buildings too. Design to reach 100 kWh/m².year, which is a high performance, requires quite a long study time.
[…] for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. […] Target an energy efficiency improvement around 150 kWh/m².year is technically easy, fast and cheap.
As previously stated, the link between energy efficiency improvements and study time isn’t proportional. It’s much easier to reduce from 250 to 200 kWh/m².year than from 150 to 100 kWh/m².year. Even though Pareto law can’t be directly applied to energy efficiency, this interpretation makes sense: 30 to 40% of the time spent on studies allow an energy reduction from 250 down to 150 kWh/m².year. Target an energy efficiency improvement around 150 kWh/m².year is technically easy, fast and cheap. During construction stage, there is a small or no over-cost (0-4%) as performance is reached through architecture improvement and a better usage of technical equipments (rarely by installing costly chillers or solar panels). Savings are important, around 100 kWh/m².year, and also improve both comfort and building durability. Most often, payback periods are under 5 years. Impacts are huge, at various levels:
- Users: less impacted by rises in energy cost, better, healthier and more enjoyable life or work spaces;
- Real estate professionals: asset improvement and differentiation, better durability, higher profitability on each project.
- Governments, cities: reduction of energy supply issues, improvements of urban quality (heat island effect, pollution peaks).
The picture « green buildings » are only a privilege for industrialized countries vanishes as soon as the right inputs are considered. Industrialized countries have a duty, bring the experience and expertise gained to emerging countries facing a fast development, now.
 Source : United Nations report
 Confidential data.
- United Nations