Buildings are human-made structures that serve essential purposes for humankind: shelter, protection and convenience. Unfortunately, in spite of the recognized beneficial purposes, these human shelters also simultaneously pose significant threats to the environment and health. In particular, buildings directly or indirectly affect land use, energy use, water consumption, materials usage, waste production, outdoor and indoor air quality, among others.
Based on facts supplied by the Philippine Green Building Council, a Filipino non-stock corporation that promotes green initiatives in our country, the building sector alone accounts for 30-40% of global energy usage and global greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, it is one area with huge potential gains for having smarter environmental and economic strategies and applications.
If left unchecked, our buildings and other developments could greatly contribute to the deterioration of our environment–and cause damage to our communities in the process–far outweighing their intended benefits to humankind. In fact, the unusual flooding in Metro Manila caused by Ondoy in 2009 and, recently, by Gener and the “nameless” monsoon rains, has been plainly and euphemistically attributed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines to “the urban sprawl”. The WWF-Philippines said that, “the problem lies in Metro Manila’s poor planning, political gridlock, inadequate or inappropriate urban management, the inadequate implementation of zoning rules and land use plans, haphazard real estate development, among others.” (Alave, Kristine, “Disaster blamed on rapid development of Metro Manila”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 August 2012). Our fisherfolk also shares this view. (Carcamo, Dennis, “Malls, condos blamed for huge floods”, The Philippine Star, 13 August 2012)
Hence, it is imperative that we make our buildings truly “sustainable” by adopting and enforcing “green building” standards, and also a rating system by which to gauge compliance with the said standards.
According to the United States Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, “green building” is the practice of (1) increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials, and (2) reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal—the complete building life cycle. While the “green building” movement may have originated from the energy crisis in the United States in the 1970s, today, green building considers other environmental impacts as they relate to sustainability. Thus, green building requires an integrated design approach and recognizes the environmental, economic, and social aspects of building.
With the increasing global public awareness about the effects of global warming and climate change, nations have begun to adopt comprehensive measures to counterbalance such ill-effects. The development of national green building laws and regulations is one such measure. Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Asian nations such as Singapore, Japan, Hongkong, Thailand, and Vietnam have all developed their own green building regulations. Alongside the development of these laws, these countries have also implemented green building rating systems with which to gauge compliance by developers, contractors, and construction companies with the green building laws in force, such as the United States’ LEED; the UK’s BREEAM, Australia’s Green Star, Japan’s CASBEE, Singapore’s Green Mark, Hongkong’s BEAM Plus, Thailand’s TREES, and Vietnam’s LOTUS. Unfortunately, even in the face of the tremendous global issue of climate change and global warming, the Philippines still has not adopted and enforced its own green building standards and rating system.
The reason for Senate Bill No. 3251 that I filed is precisely to seek to attune Philippines to the rising global standard in sustainable buildings and construction developments. Through this bill, not only shall we establish green building standards and a rating system, we shall also incentivize builders and owners by way of tax breaks and other benefits in exchange for their compliance with the said green building standards.
Indeed, the Philippines has laws and regulations in place that prescribe minimum standards and requirements in the construction of buildings, such as the National Building Code, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the like. However, “green building” strategies essentially adopt a “beyond code” approach and aim to push the envelope further by inviting compliance beyond the traditional building regulations and requirements.
By adopting green building standards, the Philippines will be true to the advocacy of the United Nations of “sustainable development,” which is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”