GREEN BUILDINGS

Costa Rica 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: GREEN HOUSING

The construction sector is one of the key sectors in a country focused on sustainability and carbon neutrality. Green buildings are in the spotlight for current and future real estate developments. A sustainable building is one that achieves a balance of financial, social, and environmental requirements.

Advances in sustainability have come a long way in Europe and Asia. Within Latin America, Colombia, Peru, and Chile are the best, but in Central America there is no doubt that Costa Rica leads the way. To be sure, each market has different standards certifying which buildings meet central sustainability requirements in their design and construction.

There are a number of different standards. AThefirst is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED); the second is Excellence in Design to Promote Efficiency (EDGE); and the third is Requirements for Sustainable Buildings in the Tropics (RESET), which Costa Rica particularly excels at given its climate and geography.
The RESET standard analyzes real estate projects at each stage of construction, whether in design, construction, or operations and evaluates seven areas: socio-economic impact, environment and transport, quality, soil and landscaping, materials and resources, water efficiency, and energy optimization.
Despite being the regional leader, many note that Central America is still lagging in the implementation of green construction policies. One of these is the “sustainable cities" development. Unlike some other places in the world, Central America is far from developing fully sustainable cities. According to the Green Building Council of Costa Rica, there is a rising awareness of the issue, but implementation has been rather slow.
This is why it is so encouraging that San José is hosting the fourth ever International Conference on Sustainable Construction in San José in May 2017. Organized by the Green Building Council of Costa Rica (GBC -CR), it will be called "Habitats and Sustainable Cities."

Throughout Central America accreditations in LEED have been increasing. In 2015, there were 35 certifications in Costa Rica, followed by 25 in Panama. 12 in Guatemala, and four in El Salvador, with these looking set to double by the beginning of 2017.

Costa Rica has seen a sizeable influx of large, sustainable construction projects in the past year. Schneider Electric opened its 1,400sqm corporate center for USD1.8 million and Roche opened its new 5,000sqm Distribution and Services Center for Central America and the Caribbean for USD5.5 million. Both of these megaprojects were developed according to the guidelines of sustainable construction. The reality is that a greater number of firms are attracted by the benefits of sustainable construction, despite some initially higher costs.

One of the reasons is that green buildings increase the productivity of their occupants. Designed to be quality living spaces with large amounts of natural lighting, appropriate noise levels, temperature control, and other features, they not only improve the general quality of life but also their inhabitants' health.
Costa Rica has a promising future in these areas. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the country is not only on the right path, but has important partners in the Ministry of Housing, the Green Building Council, and the College of Engineers. To become a pioneer in sustainable construction, Costa Rica must first dislodge the myth that sustainability is synonymous with high costs. To be sure, a great deal depends on implementation. Yet, if done intelligently, sustainable construction will bring much more than mere savings in the long term.