Thinking green: Are green developments the norm rather than the exception?

In Photo: Italpinas’s Primavera Residences

IN the time of the new normal, property developers are becoming more and more open to the idea of building green developments to help address business and social concerns.

Italpinas’s Sydney-based Filipino lawyer Jojo Leviste and Italian green Arch. Romolo Nati
Italpinas’s Sydney-based Filipino lawyer Jojo Leviste and Italian green Arch. Romolo Nati

The worsening natural disasters that hit the country in recent years—attributed both to human activity and the effects of climate change—has crippled not just the landscape of the areas affected, but also development efforts that aim to sustain the growth of local economies. Apart from this, the fact that we’ve just been through the hottest year in recent decades speaks volumes.

In response to the immense challenge we all face in this day and age, we are very thankful to see a greater number of property developers, who devote a significant chunk of their resources to promote green and sustainable-building initiatives.

I spoke to a few key players in the industry and asked them: Is sustainable building a worthy investment for real-estate developers? Is it becoming more of a standard practice rather than just a mere value-adding initiative?

Sustainability as a profitable business model

“The reality of climate change is inevitable and we know that we have to do something about it.” This was the insight shared by Arthaland President and CEO Angie de Villa Lacson.” As a company, we do not claim that what we do will save the planet. What we want to do is to enable our customers to practice an ecologically conscious lifestyle: using energy efficiently, consuming water efficiently, using nontoxic materials, and many others more.”

Arthaland President and CEO Angie de Villa Lacson
Arthaland President and CEO Angie de Villa Lacson

A solid case in point is Arthaland’s flagship residential condominium in Bonifacio Global City, Arya Residences. The twin-tower property, according to Lacson, is the country’s first and only top-end residential condominium development that is registered under the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  Apart from this, Arya Residences also stands as the benchmark vertical residential development in the Philippine Green Building Council’s Berde (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence), the country’s National Voluntary Green Building Rating System.

The two towers of the said property are uniquely shaped and architecturally designed to work with nature, thus, reflecting Arthaland’s philosophy of enlightened  luxury.

“We designed and built Arya Residences to seamlessly meld luxury and sustainability,” Lacson noted. “In contrast to the other popularly known office or commercial buildings that are LEED certified in the country today, Arya Residences has to go through tougher standard to be able to receive the certification.” Such an initiative was greatly appreciated by Arya Residences’s market, with Arthaland selling out almost 90 percent of the project’s 507 total units during the past year. “Taking the sustainability route makes potent sense. Our buyers appreciate our product as giving them the most value by creating a sound and livable environment,” she added.

column-amor maclangBeyond just going ‘trendy’

Another developer that has championed the idea of green building, long before the rest of the local industry has gone the same route, is Vista Land.

This vision has empowered Vista Land to come up with its “Greenviron” initiative. Aside from helping the company promote sustainable and environment-friendly communities, the Greenviron campaign also aims to instill eco-friendly practices into the daily routines of homeowners in its communities. Among the many elements integrated into the campaign include: 1) the promotion of waste segregation and recycling practices in all Vista Land developments; 2) using woven coco-coir nets to prevent soil erosion; 3) the use of pine trees—one million of which have already been planted in Vista Land communities during the last five years—to create green zones that purify the air, hold the soil and soothe the spirit; and last, 4) promoting vermiculture to nurture the land that hosts its communities. Not only did the campaign effectively strengthen Vista Land’s reputation as a responsible developer, it also reinforced the idea that the company’s methods of community development were both advanced and perfectly sustainable.

Making a difference

For the men behind Italpinas Euroasian Design and Eco-Development Corp. (ITPI), championing the ideals of green, sustainable development is all about a sincere desire to make a difference.

Italpinas President lawyer Jojo Leviste III carries an unparalleled passion about environmental design and urban planning. As one of the companies that he leads, ITPI is built upon the philosophy of making a difference in property development in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. Together with his partner, multiawarded green architect, designer and ITPI CEO and Executive Chairman Romolo Nati, the two developed a unique and innovative design, development strategy and business model that they believe will influence what Filipinos should come to expect of our living environments.

“As the designer-developer, we use passive green architecture. This means that we integrate the green features in the design so they don’t cost additional money,” Leviste noted. “We are not talking about very high technological features which cost money to buy, meaning higher price for clients and also higher maintenance cost. Instead, we build structures where the design performs better.”

This concept is evident in the way Italpinas designed Primavera Residences, the company’s 10-story, twin-tower, mixed-use eco-friendly condominium community in Cagayan de Oro. The development features the best principles of passive cooling technology: shadow and sunlight control, wind cooling, and shape performance—features which, if combined with renewable energy that will be produced from solar panels on the roof deck of the towers, will help reduce the overall energy consumption of the buildings and bring long-term savings to its residents to make Primavera Residences even more desirable as an investment.

Aside from this, the towers were also designed to be disaster-proof, able to withstand strong typhoons and earthquakes.

“In the longer term, I would like our ways of thinking in relation to design, efficiency, and quality of life to spill over and influence what Filipinos should come to expect of our living environments in a wider sense,” Nati shared. “We don’t necessarily want to be bigger than everyone else. We don’t want to quickly supply more than anyone else. We would rather be thought leaders.

We would rather change the way that the role of real estate is perceived.”

All these being said, I can say that the local real-estate sector is truly facing a very promising future. With innovators and emerging industry leaders making a monumental shift toward a more sustainable way of doing business, the Philippine real-estate market can truly emerge as a global leader for developmental initiatives that promote the welfare of its surrounding landscape and beyond.

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