Charting the green regulatory forest

09:27 | 21/07/2014
Do Huu Nhat Quang the founder of the GreenViet consultancy on green building in Vietnam and Southeast Asia takes a look at the various options for investors wanting to pursue added-value ecologically-friendly building construction techniques.


LOTUS vs LEED? LEED vs Green Mark? Confusion can be eased by employing a green building specialist

There are more than a hundred national green building councils across the world and a variety of green building systems. Almost each country has its own rating system which is suitable for its economic, social and natural conditions. However, several well-known systems are applied across borders in conjunction with many local standards.

There are now three popular green building rating systems in Vietnam which have been applied in recent years including LEED (US), Green Mark (Singapore) and LOTUS (Vietnam). While Green Mark is favoured by Singaporean developers like CapitaLand, other owners tend to apply either LEED or LOTUS for their green building projects.

LEED

LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification programme that recognises best-in-class building strategies and practices. LEED was developed and released by US Green Building Council in 1997 for projects in the US, but later it became more common in different countries including Vietnam. LEED was first applied in Vietnam in 2008. Since then, thirty mainly foreign-invested projects have applied this certification. 

LOTUS

LOTUS is a green building system developed and certified by Vietnam Green Building Council, or VGBC. This rating tool was released around five years ago. There are now three different tools named LOTUS for Non-Residential, LOTUS for Residential and LOTUS for Buildings in Operation (BIO). Of which LOTUS for Non-Residential has been widely applied for retail and office projects. Up to 10 projects in Vietnam applied LOTUS and almost all LOTUS projects are from foreign investors. “This is a good sign for LOTUS as it is trusted by foreign investors, but it also shows local developers remain behind the global trend,” Quang said.

LEED vs. LOTUS

LEED and LOTUS both have five key categories, including sustainable sites, energy and water efficiency, sustainable materials and indoor environment quality. Although there are discrepancies in thresholds or names and categories slightly different but both LEED and LOTUS guide projects towards best practices for all stake holders, including owners, occupants, community and environment. A significant difference between LEED and LOTUS is certification level. While LEED has four levels ranging from Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum, however LOTUS ranks Gold the highest with three certification levels only. That’s why projects pursuing dual certificates normally get LEED Gold but LOTUS Silver.

But how do you pick the right green building system in a situation where you only have one option? According to Quang the answer is obviously driven by the targeted customer base that the project will serve after it is put into operation. Most LEED projects in Vietnam are made by FDI investors in the manufacturing sector. This is mainly because environmental issues are far higher up the agenda in the US and EU. High grade office buildings are another example. President Place in HCM CBD, the first LEED Gold office building in Vietnam is mainly home to multinational corporations and LEED is well recognised as a standard to aspire to. As a result, the building was quickly occupied by giant corporations like Canon, Diageo and Microsoft.

LOTUS is increasingly recognised and applied because of its suitability to  Vietnam context. BigC has now begun applying LOTUS to their hypermarket chain after initially applying both LEED and LOTUS to their first hypermarket in Di An, Binh Duong. An American-invested factory in Dong Nai also chose LOTUS after fully considering both systems.

However, there are several projects pursuing both LEED and LOTUS simultaneously, including BigC Di An in Binh Duong, Vietnam Moc Bai shoes factory in Tay Ninh and VietinBank Tower in Hanoi. This strongly emphasises the fact that both LEED and LOTUS can be incorporated into projects despite the minor differences between the two systems.     

How to get green building certificate?

Making a decision to design and build a project udner LEED or LOTUS criteria is one thing. But seeing the project through to the end and achieving certification is another. This is a very challenging journey for all parties involved, especially the owner or client. Completing a project to budget, meeting quality standards and getting green building certification is not an easy task. So how to achieve these goals and secure a ‘green building’ status? The critical factor to success lies in a competent and experienced consultant.

There are few options for clients when it comes to selecting a one-stop consultant. Instead, clients can get a green building specialist on board to chair the green building aspects of a project as early in the process as possible. This specialist will navigate the whole design team from day one as well as monitor construction activities to ensure the target is met in the end. Getting such a specialist on board early will ultimately make the consultancy fee worth every penny due to the improved cost benefits provided by green building status.

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