Gearing for Green Buildings

LETTERS: Green buildings are not a common topic in Malaysia. The upcoming Earth Day on April 22, therefore, will be a golden opportunity to promote green buildings and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the World Green Building Council, a “green” building is one, in its design, construction or operation, reduces and can create a positive impact on our climate and natural environment. It constructs based on green features and designs that enable re-use and recycling, and green materials, such as solar energy.

Any building can be a green building. With green buildings, individuals can enjoy good indoor environmental air quality and well-ventilated indoor spaces. But, it is relatively challenging for Malaysia to have more green buildings in the current climate as more than 90 per cent of our electricity comes from fossil fuels.

In addition, there is a lack of awareness of green buildings long before Covid-19. People often consider the price, the condition of the property, the views it offers without considering whether the property is “green” or even energy-efficient. Many also do not consider buying green buildings as they are expensive.

Even then, many turned on the air-conditioner for hours without considering the adverse effects on climate change. Although Malaysia lags behind in the green building-related agenda, it is applaudable the current administration is committed towards green recovery, advocating sustainable development agenda in the 2021 Budget.

According to the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, the Malaysian Carbon Reduction and Environmental Sustainability Tool (MyCREST) was adopted since 2016 to encourage more construction of green residential and commercial buildings.

The Public Works Department had made it mandatory for government building projects worth RM50 million and above to adopt MyCREST. This marks a good start in advocating the green building agenda.

Furthermore, the Green Building Index (GBI), Malaysia’s first comprehensive rating system developed by the Malaysian Institute of Architects and the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia, places a good foundation to have more green buildings throughout the country.

GBI examines based on six criteria — Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environment Quality, Sustainable Site Planning & Management, Materials & Resources, Water Efficiency and Innovation, to evaluate the environmental design and performance of buildings.

Therefore, to promote usage of green buildings, Emir Research has several policy recommendations for the government to consider:

STRONG enforcement of rules and regulations are needed to ensure wider compliance to environmental standards;

ENCOURAGE industrial players to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels by providing small grants- — the way forward towards building a more sustainable green future;

ATTRACT impact investors by promoting and emphasising the uniqueness, strengths and opportunities of having green buildings in Malaysia;

ORGANISE advocacy campaigns with Malaysia Green Building Council to educate the benefits of having green buildings.

According to GBI, the incremental construction cost of going green (inclusive of material and technological costs) ranges from 0.7 to 11 per cent besides registration and renewal fees.

Although an initial costing is required, GBI-certified buildings could yield at least 30 to 40 per cent energy savings for their dwellers, compared with the average baseline building.

Higher energy savings could be achieved in buildings with higher levels of certification; and,GIVE additional tax deductions to GBI-certified buildings, where building owners could enjoy income tax deductions equivalent to the additional capital expenditure needed to obtain the GBI certification.

By highlighting the link between the environmental degradation and pandemic outbreak, more Malaysians would advocate green building agenda and reimagine sustainable cities that are fit-for-purpose post-Covid-19.

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