Vietnam is considered the country most affected by climate change and the construction sector is likely to be one of the hardest hit.
Vincent Tong, the regional managing director of AECOM - a leading US integrated design and engineering service provider, shares his thoughts on green technology and solution applications for Vietnam’s real estate development sector with VIR’s Song Ngoc.
Green construction is very familiar to many countries worldwide, but not Vietnam. How do you see this philosophy developing in Vietnam?
Since the first time I came to Vietnam in 1995, I have seen the rapid development of this country, and the appearance of more and more high-rise buildings. Understandably, this is the consequence of economic advancement and rapid urbanisation which results in greater demand for apartments and offices. Like citizens of other countries, Vietnamese citizens have increasingly expressed their concern about the community environment. This has put significant pressures on developers to lower their carbon footprint and maximise energy savings. So building skyscrapers is as much about art as it is about science and technology.
What are the core issues for local developers when they consider applying sustainable technology in their projects?
They are concerned with the costs and returns on investments. Typically, the upfront cost of having a sustainably designed project can be slightly more - about 6 per cent or so - than the usual. This is not considered a lot when you think of the long term cost savings in the relative ease of maintaining a greener and healthier building. But the slightly higher cost requires developers to remain committed to the cause of having a leaner, cleaner and greener building. We are not asking them to go from zero to full accreditation. It is a journey which cannot be done in a day. The earlier they start, the more costs saving they can enjoy down the road.
Are there any challenges and advantages for investors and planners in Vietnam who go green in their construction?
As mentioned earlier, Vietnam is one of the most dynamic economies in the region, and in the world, enticing many multinational companies. These multinational companies have very strong corporate social responsibility policies and are audited in this aspect too. It is to their benefit to operate in environmentally friendly buildings as this will result in benefits, whether in operating costs or increased productivity. Having a green building will help to attract these multinational companies as long term tenants. Perhaps, there are few things can be done to encourage the investors to take the bold step. Legislation is one. The issuance of green standard for local buildings will have the significant influence on the developers.
Which low-carbon and energy-saving solutions for high-rise buildings would meet Vietnam’s specific conditions?
Having an energy efficient and low carbon tall building starts with having a passive design which can harness the natural conditions of the surrounding to optimise envelope performance and sun shading. This will lay a strong foundation for other energy efficient technologies to be applied in the entire building. High-rise buildings face significant challenges in being energy efficient, because of high solar radiation and the energy required in transporting people up and down the building.
The trick is to turn these challenges to our advantage, which is by generating renewable energy. For example, solar panels can be used harness the high solar radiation and the lift system can make use of technology to convert energy (that is otherwise lost through heat) into other sources of energy. The industry has been calling for practical approach and specific studies by practitioners and researchers. More low-carbon and energy-saving solutions for tall buildings will be discussed in detail in the upcoming green building seminar on June 1 in Vietnam Architecture Exhibition 2011 at Ho Chi Minh City’s Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre.