Is the market in Brazil ready for green buildings?

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Andrea Assis
Jones Lang LaSalle, Brazil

Sustainable buildings are already a reality in most developed countries and are starting to have space in the Brazilian market as well.

At a time when the future role of sustainability in the domestic real estate market and the position of Brazil in the global economy context are being established, it is essential for professionals in the segment of property and facility management to make it their concern all issues regarding environmental preservation and sustainable management practices.

The civil construction market uses more than one-third of all natural resources in the planet – 12% of all fresh water – and produces 40% of all solid waste in the world. Such figures are part of the problem property and facility managers have to deal with. Since the budgets for most projects and purchases, as well as for building renovation and improvements, are approved by them, they are granted the chance to define guidelines that generate more sustainable results.

There are several laws, decrees and regulations now in force in the country which already attest the existing concerns about the environmental impact and the welfare of people. Some examples of these initiatives are the Anti-smoking Law – in force in some of the most important Brazilian cities –   and the National Solid Waste Policies. However, in terms of the activities conducted in condominiums there is still a lot to be done; things that go far beyond the laws in force.

One of the major challenges we have to face daily is to “separate the tares from the wheat”, not to be influenced by badly formulated concepts that are used only as greenwashing (marketing strategies used to convey an environmentally responsible public image that in fact does not exist) strategies. It is true that the Brazilian real estate market has made major advancements towards sustainable practices, such as the programs for selective waste collection and rational use of energy and water, which have already become common practices in the country’s corporate buildings. Yet, reality still proves there are professionals working on sustainability projects at their own discretion and many times without having the required qualifications to do so. In addition, it is still hard to find arguments to justify decision-making or the use of sustainable practices based on quantitative data, economic advantages and performance.

As an architect and urbanist I believe in green buildings, and as a facility and property manager I am aware of the responsibility we have together with decision-makers and occupants. After all, it is the task of the facility manager to act like a replicator of sustainable practices in the properties’ everyday activities.   

Green buildings have been a reality in developed countries for years, and are now are also staring to be constructed in countries like Brazil. This poses a challenge to property developers, owners, architects and engineers: now they have to worry about complying with sustainable standards from scratch in their projects.  

In Brazil there are already 32 certified sustainable buildings according to LEED® Seal (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings that is most-widely used in the Brazilian market. There is also a total of 302 requests for registration at USGBC (United States Green Building Council), the certifying organization. In Brazil 8 million square meters are already certified by LEED, and in the world this number amounts to 786 million square meters.

On the other hand, we also have a large number of buildings in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that were built more than twenty years ago, and therefore, will need to be renovated in order to minimize the impact they have on the environment. This will have to be done by creating initiatives to both diminish their consumption of energy and enable them to use renewable energy sources.

It is true that there are many obstacles to be overcome regarding the implementation of green buildings, such as lack of information and cultural barriers, in addition to the many previously conceived concepts that will have to be put down. However, some of our clients are already asking us to provide them with data to be included in their Sustainability Reports, what shows that the market is adopting a new approach when establishing and conducting their operations. It means that companies are now aware that their business success also depends on the social and environmental impacts they cause. And this is a major advancement on our way towards sustainable practices.

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