As awareness of climate change, diminishing natural resources and energy costs increases, the demand for sustainable design and construction is increasing. We are in a very important time where new, fundamental changes in design and construction are being made that has an impact on our future success. Studies show that the building sector accounts for [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Building a sustainable future – ‘Greener buildings, better places, healthier people’


As awareness of climate change, diminishing natural resources and energy costs increases, the demand for sustainable design and construction is increasing. We are in a very important time where new, fundamental changes in design and construction are being made that has an impact on our future success. Studies show that the building sector accounts for more than 40 per cent of world’s energy requirements. While being a part of this global issues, the building sector can be an even bigger part of the solution, providing some of the most cost effective and expedient ways to tackle the problem.

Energy consumption in construction

The present energy consumption and carbon dioxide generation could be significantly reduced by adopting effective and sustainable building principles. With proven and commercially available technologies, energy consumption in both new and existing buildings could be cut by an estimated 30 per cent to 50 per cent without significantly increasing investment costs. The impact of sustainable

Prof. Priyan Mendis

green buildings is being felt everywhere, from commercial buildings to homes that adds value to investment and therefore becoming common practice. There is a momentum that is sweeping across the entire design, development and construction industry and companies have to prepare for sustainable construction to avoid competitive disadvantage.

What is a green building?

1. A building that significantly reduces or eliminates the negative impact of buildings on the environment and occupants.
2. A high-performance property that reduces its impact on the environment and human health.
3. It is designed to use less energy and water, improve indoor air quality and reduce the life-cycle environmental impacts of the materials used.

All the above is achieved through various ways such as the selection of a proper site, better and efficient design, material selection, construction, operation, maintenance, removal, and possible reuse.

Sri Lanka and green buildings

In the wake of sustainable construction entering the mainstream, Sri Lanka is pursuing green building guidelines or is planning to pursue them in the near future. Integrated building design optimises overall energy performance and also focuses on all the aspects of sustainability and how all the key building systems synchronise to maximise benefits. The professional bodies and builders in Sri Lanka representing the construction sector are increasingly seeking to design and implement green practices, additionally, companies seeking to enhance their market share will also find that green buildings provide a unique avenue to meet the expectations of their environmental conscious clients.

It is noteworthy that the President of Sri Lanka and other key Government Ministers have shown keen interest in climate change issues and green building concepts. Therefore, significant legislative influence that requires businesses to comply with green building standards will surely be guaranteed.

Sri Lanka has a long history in implementing green concepts. In March 2000 the Kandalama Hotel was recognized by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) as a LEED certified Green Building and subsequently awarded the LEED Bronze Rating. This resulted in the first LEED Green Hotel in the World. Kandalama Hotel from concept to completion was truly a sustainable development and is owned and operated likewise. Recently, under the auspices of Marks & Spencer’s eco-initiative, one of the leading companies in Sri Lanka, MAS Holdings built “Thurulie” the world’s first purpose-built green factory for apparel manufacturing. It received LEED platinum status. Brandix Ltd. has also built a LEED platinum rated apparel factory in Seeduwa.

World Green Building Council

The World GBC was formed in 1999 by David Gottfried, who was also a co-founder of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and incorporated in 2002. The World Green Building Council (World GBC) is a union of national councils with a mission to accelerate the transformation of the global built environment towards sustainability. Current membership of Green Building Councils (GBCs) represents over 50 per cent of global construction activities, involving more than 10,000 companies and organizations worldwide. The countries with full member status with GBC include US, Canada, UK, India, Australia etc. Singapore received the full member status last year.

Green Building Council of Sri Lanka

The Green Building Council of Sri Lanka (GBCSL) is established as a consensus-based not for profit organisation with cross-functional representation from all sectors of the property industry, environment and academia. The vision of the GBCSL is to transform the built environment in Sri Lanka to be sustainable as the means by which our natural environment flourishes, economy prospers and society grows to ensure the future wellbeing of Sri Lanka. The GBCSL membership is open to all those who are involved in the construction industry individuals concerned with or interested in transforming Sri Lanka’s built environment towards a sustainable future. The council has already received support from public and private sectors which will create viable economic opportunities in the field. The Green Environmental Rating System developed for Sri Lanka by the Council is a ‘home grown system.’

Green Building rating

A local certification system is less expensive and can attract more local developers. Green rating tools use various methods to assess the potential, or performance, of a building in relation to specific sustainability criteria, usually including energy use as one of the central criteria. A building with a high green rating uses significantly lower volume of energy (can be around 70-80 per cent) than an “average” building – a significant saving over the life of the building. Owners of green rated buildings will have a competitive advantage securing a head start on other competitors by demonstrating the green credentials to their clients and partners. A building which has obtained a green rating can then advertise its rating to tenants or buyers interested in sustainable buildings. This allows developers of sustainable buildings to capitalise on their investment, and increase the awareness of building performance in the property market – and hence improving the demand for high-performing buildings. Green rating tools have an advantage over mandatory building standards (though standards remain important) in that they give building developers and owners an incentive to build more efficient buildings. The demand for green-rated buildings around the world is growing exponentially, and although these tools have been usually designed for voluntary use, governments and other agencies are, increasingly, requiring certain ratings for the buildings they occupy.

(The writer is Chairman of the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka and attached to the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia)

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