Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) is leading the industry in so-called green buildings with higher certifications from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Bank executives on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to operate more efficiently using less energy and resources, with the promise to make all their branches LEED-certified with the latest version.
At the launch of weeklong celebrations of Earth Day on April 22, UnionBank Chairman and CEO Justo A. Ortiz explained the bank’s reward from its green initiatives to preserve the planet.
“We need purpose to build an enduring bank of greatness. The reason we get to live beyond 35 years is because we innovate, reinvent and have a purpose,” Ortiz said at the UnionBank Plaza headquarters in Ortigas, Pasig City.
UnionBank received this year the first gold and platinum certifications in the country for its Tacloban and Olangpo branches, respectively, from the LEED—a third-party verification and guidelines system founded by the US Green Building Council for environment-friendly buildings.
The council evaluates the building’s site, energy, atmosphere, indoor-air quality, materials, resources and innovation in design.
Compared to the 2009 version used in the two branches, LEED Version 4, the latest guideline introduced last year, requires higher ratings for certification and environmental product declaration.
“The first time I heard LEED, I thought this was just another expense problem. But I realized there are savings if you do it,” UnionBank President and COO Edwin R. Bautista said.
The Olangpo branch saves water through rainwater catchment for flushing toilets and watering its vegetable roofdeck, which reduces heat, along with the open-grid pavements.
The Tacloban branch, on the other hand, also has solar panels for saving energy, plumbing fixtures for conserving 20 percent of water and low-level volatile, organic compound (VOC) materials—found in paint and furnishings—for ensuring safer indoor air.
Despite the material costs of acquiring LEED certification and the $1,500 registration fee for new members, Carmelito A. Tatlonghari, the bank LEED consultant, said long-term benefits outweigh them.
“At the beginning you have to invest a premium, but it will be less for the maintenance and operations. Maybe 20-percent less because it uses energy-efficient equipment. So, less on electricity expenses and also protects the health of your people,” Tatlonghari said.
The low-level VOC materials prevent “sick building” syndrome in employees who may feel ill from the chemical emissions of paint, coatings, adhesives and sealants floating around the structure.
They may experience cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and nosebleeds.
“The productivity of your employees will be enhanced because of fewer absences. You could just imagine the loss of the bank if there are sick people because of the sick building syndrome,” the LEED consultant elaborated.
Tatlonghari added these green initiatives for LEED certification can be achieved with less cost by orienting buildings toward the sun and wind direction to utilize free and natural light and ventilation.
Besides the materials composition, the council also encourages the use of locally sourced materials within 800 kilometers in considering the welfare of the community surrounding the commercial buildings.
“We are also transforming the market because the bank dictates what it needs. You are giving incentives to the suppliers to produce green materials. So it is important that we also develop the surrounding communities in the branches,” Tatlonghari said.
In expanding its corporate social responsibility, UnionBank will also unveil on April 19 a marker for its adoption of Cleanergy—renewable-energy brand of its mother company Aboitiz—for its headquarters for six years.
Through these green initiatives, the UnionBank executives promote among businesses the importance of three P’s consisting of planet, people and purpose for social responsibility to their stakeholders.
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