Like everywhere else in the world, people in Latin America are becoming aware of climate change and the importance of preserving the environment. They are beginning to understand that buildings are energy hogs and detrimental to their quality of life. Green building is coming to the surface as the solution.
Architects and municipalities want to reduce energy use, water use, and waste while ensuring there is minimal environmental impact. Natural light and ventilation means less air conditioning and artificial lighting, for example. This cuts costs as well as emissions.
LEED standards in Latin American countries
Many countries in Latin America have new or pending Green Building Councils. They are using LEED standards and creating their own according to specific climates, materials, settings and customs. They are looking to renewable energy to cut costs and emissions, natural and local materials to reduce toxicity, and efficient toilets and gray water recycling systems to reduce water consumption. Green spaces in cities are created to reduce the heat island effect, which drives up cooling costs.
Each country is developing its own rating system based on the USGBC’s LEED certification system. There are also many LEED certified buildings throughout the region.
Brazilian green building
More than one third of Latin America’s population resides in Brazil, and energy efficiency is in high demand. This is a great area for growth, green building and retrofits. The cost of electricity is high, so there would be a long payback time, but renewable energy would be a good solution. Other opportunities for green building are in public housing, the World Soccer Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Green floor space is expected to double by 2015.
The Brazil Green Building Council was formed in 2007. It works with the public and private sectors to educate property owners, designers, builders and the government on green building. It has also written a Sustainable Construction Manual for public authorities to implement green building. Awareness and education are key in countries where environmental awareness and green building are fairly new ideas.
Green building in Mexico
The vernacular architecture of Mexico is made of local materials (adobe) and cooled with fountains – very environmentally friendly. Still, a green building council was created in 2007, the first in Latin America. As energy costs rose, it became obvious sustainable building would cut emissions and have economic benefits as well. It is helping create policy with the government.
The Mexican LEED type rating system is SICES, which is climate specific. Categories for rating include materials, site management, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water conservation. Commercial buildings are sporting green roofs, renewable energy and water catchment systems. Wind and solar are big players.
Cities are writing stricter building codes and offering green building programs. The goal is for socially conscious rural and urban development, considering people and customs as well as building. As in Brazil, awareness and education are important for green building to become mainstream.
LEED projects in Argentina
Argentina has been embracing green building in the last few years by requiring energy efficient lighting by banning incandescent light bulbs, thermal insulation in Buenos Aires and environmentally friendly air conditioning. Energy efficiency and sustainable concepts are also being taught in schools. The idea of green building is new, but much progress has been made already.
There is research into energy generation from solar PV, wind and tides. This energy could be purchased by small-scale LEED projects.
The Argentina Green Building Council was created in 2009. Its intention is to educate people about green building and bring it into the construction industry. Argentina is up and coming in the green building arena!
Chilean green building
That said, South America’s tallest building in Santiago, Chile, is aiming for LEED Gold certification. The Costanera Center is a mixed-use complex, including residences, which means walkability for occupants.
Green building an emerging idea in Latin America
Green building strategies will be used to cut emissions and energy costs. Green roofs will control interior temperatures, and recycled steel will be used. Water will be drawn from a nearby canal to cool the building. It will then be filtered and cleaned before being returned to the canal. Recycle!
Green building in Latin America is a fairly new idea, but with the various green building councils making policy with their respective governments, I’m sure it is an idea that will take off.