The Future of Smart, Green Buildings is Here

More than a buzzword, sustainability is all about living on earth in a better shape for the next generations. Opening the recent Lamudi Outlook Roundtable Discussion, Markus Nisula, Managing Director at KONE, emphasized the core of building green, producing less waste and using more sustainable sources. 

The virtual talk titled Building Green Homes: Sustainability and Technology in Real Estate featured two more revered thought leaders in the industry, Roy Golez, Director for Research and Consultancy at Leechiu Property Consultants, and Jess Kabigting, VP Operations and SBU Head of Visayas at Cebu Landmasters, Inc.

Environmental Impact of Property Development

The real estate industry plays a critical role in taking care of the environment and making sure that the generations to come will be able to enjoy the earth. According to Kabigting, property developers must be conscious of their project’s multi-factor environmental impact.  Developments affect the biodiversity in a certain area, which includes flora and fauna, the quality of air and water, and the well-being of the existing community, among others.

“At the end of the day, we have to realize that the project always has a social impact. Longevity and sustainability mean that a developer must look at the community itself, which it is serving. It has to ensure that the project contributes to their well-being,” Kabigting noted.

The preferences of today’s property seekers compel property developers to build green, according to Nisula. In particular, the millennials and Gen Z want to invest in sustainable solutions. He said, “If sustainability is not on the agenda of property developers, they will deliberately leave some of the potential investors out from their future developments.”

In the same way, the older generations are concerned about long-term investments, favoring sustainable assets that last for years. 

The Green Normal in Real Estate

More local developments are adopting sustainability standards in the property industry. In fact, according to Golez, it’s already the barest minimum to be a green building.

Reiterating the definition of sustainability, which is to create value with the least resources for the best quality of life, he said that real estate companies are recognizing the appeal of green buildings to customers who are willing to pay more upfront and reap the lower costs later.

“All big developers are looking at sustainability and exploring technologies to push forward,” Golez mentioned.

He added that the benefits to going green include economic pay-offs in the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and rain capture. Industry players can likewise take advantage of the better efficiency in operations, made possible by elevators that use less energy, as well as intelligent lights and motion sensors that automatically switch on and off depending on detected movements.

Highlighting further the financial benefits of adopting sustainability in developments, Kabigting debunked the notion that you spend more to construct a green building. He noted, “The additional upfront costs that you might spend in going green are offset by the savings in operating expenses or the added value to the building.”

The life cycle mindset matters in sustainability decisions, according to Nisula. Aside from the starting costs involved, one must take into account the maintenance costs over the entire life cycle of the asset. For this reason, when developing elevator solutions at KONE, Nisula shared that they prioritize materials that are made to last.

“Both the developers and unit owners know that when there’s a KONE elevator, a well-maintained elevator, it’s a safe choice,” he said.

On top of the economic benefits, the panelists agreed that adopting green building standards results in efficiency. Nisula emphasized that sustainability is the most efficient way to use resources and raw materials. While producing less waste, green buildings perform better.  

Best Sustainability Practices

Acknowledging these benefits, Kabigting said that as a developer, they strive to incorporate environmental responsibility. He mentioned, “We try to embed principles of sustainability in all phases of the project, from planning to construction to operations.”

In planning, Cebu Landmasters prioritizes open spaces in developments, as well as the application for BERDE certification. For construction, they use the best materials, locally sourced as much as possible. Finally, in operations, they ensure that the materials recovery facility (MRF) is properly maximized, and the airconditioning systems are well maintained.

Overseas, there are plenty of best green building practices. Singapore, according to Golez, is one of the frontrunners in real estate sustainability strategies. The “Guardian City” was able to build a containment facility in the marina project, which produced freshwater for communities.

As advice for operators of existing buildings who want to transition to greener operations, Nisula recommends data automation. He said that when amenities are digitally connected, whether it be elevators or airconditioning systems, that’s when property managers can collect data and make decisions on what to change in the building. 

Role of Technology in Green Building

Since the pandemic, almost every business underwent technology transformation. The real estate sector wasn’t exempted from the digital movement. In fact, it changed its environment drastically.

For Cebu Landmasters, it compelled them to revisit and improve their value proposition, Kabigting said. Adapting to the new normal, they maximized teleconferencing platforms, created their own online sales reservation tool, and invested in customer relationship management software. The real estate company introduced an application to their brokers to help them oversee the sales pipeline. Moving forward, Cebu Landmasters foresees their tech platform going into the cloud.

In the same way, technology plays a vital, direct role in the efficiency of sustainable development. Golez, for instance, highlighted the million peso savings generated by the automation of street lights in the Bonifacio Global City. He said that if the same sustainability practice were applied in buildings, operators can reap financial benefits.

Harping on the importance of data automation, Nisula said that the application of artificial intelligence in green buildings is crucial as well. As connected amenities learn the behaviors of occupants, operators can manage the property better and lessen the environmental impact of the development.

Moreover, upgrading services for building occupants is possible with smart amenities. Nisula said that they developed their connected elevators in a way that third-party service providers can increase the functionality of the amenity. Service robots, for one, are featured in their elevators.

“Imagination is the limit,” he said, emphasizing the benefits of smart features in green buildings.

For Golez, the adoption of these advanced technologies is slowly becoming the norm in modern buildings. There’s a widespread recognition of the principle that sustainability means better quality of life for the buyer or end-user. 

“This translates to better reputation for the developer, and better pricing. As the user [experiences] convenience, the developer benefits from the halo effect,” Golez added.

Put simply, the future of smart, green buildings is here. 

Watch the entire Lamudi Roundtable Discussion through this link. 

Photo via DepositPhotos

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