New building codes support green development

Thailand’s concrete jungles are set to go greener this year as Thai authorities prepare to implement a new building energy code that should reduce power consumption through requirements for green and eco-friendly materials and systems, while a green building consultant said that Thai developers vastly overestimate the costs of green construction and underestimate the savings.

Officials at the Energy Policy and Planning Office downplayed any negative effect the new regulations would have on developers. Thailand’s real estate market has been resurgent in recent years, particularly in Bangkok, where construction of new shopping centers, condominiums and other buildings continues unabated.

“We believe that the new building energy code (BEC) will not impact property developers, because building operators will enjoy reduced power bills when the buildings are completed and the operators themselves can create more value-added buildings using green or eco-friendly designs to attract buyers and tenants,” said Twarath Sutabutr, director-general of the Office.

Thailand is one of the countries that have been most affected by climate change, according to the United Nations. The Kingdom has adopted a goal of sourcing 25 percent of all its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Twarath said that renewable energy accounts for 7 percent of power generation in the country right now. The new building energy code demonstrates, however, that policymakers are taking a broader approach to mitigating climate change and creating a greener Kingdom, by including conservation and efficiency in their strategy.

Enforcement of the new code will be staggered in three stages. New buildings with a total area greater than 10,000 square meters must comply this year. New buildings with an area between 5,000 and 10,000 square meters will have to abide by the code in 2019. New buildings of 2,000 to 5,000 square metersmust meet the code’s requirements in 2020.

Under the new codes several aspects of new building must meet the green standards. They include building materials, air-conditioning systems, lighting, hot water, renewable energy and the building’s structure. The Energy Policy  and Planning Office believes this would result in cutting electricity consumption by 10 percent.

Armelle Le Bihan, founder of Thailand-based Green Building Consulting & Engineering, said some developers are under a misconception in believing that adopting the necessary materials and systems to construct green buildings will drive costs substantially higher.

She said that the additional cost, on average, is less than 2 percent, according to the United Nations and the World Green Building Council.

“Stating costs as a no-go argument is clearly an uninformed decision and a missed opportunity,” she said.“In addition, green buildings translate into added value as they benefit from a minimum 21 percent lower operational costs, enjoy a 7 percent increased asset value, 30 percent higher occupancy rate, see their return on investment jump to 14 percent and in Asia, are paid back for in less than seven years.”