As is the case with its larger northern neighbour, Vietnam is not only quickly developing its economy but is also embracing another concept of developed nations – that of green building and sustainable architecture and construction.
The VietinBank Business Centre, a landmark in Hanoi which towers over other buildings in the nation’s capital is noted for such sustainable qualities as an extravagant exterior that acts as a shading device and a low energy desiccant wheel system, stands as arguably the most pertinent example thus far.
In a recent report, Vietnam News canvassed the views of a significant number of leading architects and construction professionals throughout the country about the move toward sustainable building and several key themes emerged.
The first is the sentiment that green building is worth it. Architect Vo Trong Nghia, for example, says that green building is becoming essential as the world’s population continues to grow while energy resources to power industry and housing are ‘rapidly declining.’
Nghia says every architect, building engineer, construction professional and investor has a responsibility to learn about sustainable building.
“Green buildings are a vital feature in the fight against climate change” he says. “Building them is not a fashion statement, but as vital as eating and drinking well.”
Architects and construction professionals are convinced that sustainable building will yield significant benefits within the country for a range of key stakeholders, including building occupiers, owners, the building industry as a whole and the country overall.
For building owners, green buildings will both save money through reduced energy costs and help attract higher paying tenants, says Melisa Merryweather, director of Green Conult-Asia and southern regional coordinator of the Vietnam Green Building Council.
Aside from that, Merryweather says, sustainable buildings have other benefits as well, such as greater flood resistance.
For the building industry, environmentally-friendly buildings will make it easier to meet new energy guidelines being introduced by the government. Green buildings are also becoming increasingly necessary to meet client expectations.
For the nation as a whole, with all its issues regarding energy, climate change, pollution and storm water management, Merryweather says, ‘we need buildings that are resilient, energy-conscious and use fewer resources.’
There was also overall agreement about the need for government involvement.
Many were encouraged by recent government efforts regarding a new energy efficient law, but there is a general belief that the government should go beyond this. Some believe the government should encourage green building through incentives, such as low-interest loans for developers. Others believe the government should set the example by applying green building standards to its own new buildings. Others still say energy prices must be permitted to reach a market rate for any incentive to be sufficient.
Whatever happens, commentators are confident about the future for sustainable building in the country.
Pieter Keppens, technical marketing manager for Holcim Viet Nam Ltd, points to a number of positive signs over recent years, including the introduction of solar water heating systems in houses, the introduction of energy labelling washing machines, refrigerators and power saving lamps.
“The development of green architecture is similar in all countries,” Keppens says. “First, show-case projects are built, and then step-by-step, more and more projects adopt the principles. Even in Singapore, the number of green projects was limited at first, but now it has really taken off.”