We have been hearing a lot recently of LEED Buildings in Bangladesh. Buildings been giving the credentials LEED Certified, LEED Gold, LEED Platinum. So what is it really? Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a third-party certification program which was developed by a non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC is a movement of community leaders, professionals, businesses, and innovators working to accomplish a single bold vision: healthy, efficient and equitable buildings and communities to all. To achieve such credentials, one must try to attain a certain number of points which are verified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) to achieve either LEED Certified, LEED Gold or LEED Platinum. These points are achieved by following a list of standards and criteria outlined by USGBC.
So with the basics cleared out, back to the question “LEED buildings in Bangladesh: Is it just a marketing and compliance gimmick? Or do they actual make a difference? To many working in the field will say, it is definitely a marketing and compliance gimmick. In fact to many architects in Bangladesh, they will also say the same and that LEED is BS. There may be many reasons as to why architects consider it to be BS, however, someone with engineering background, LEED is not BS. This is because, there is a lot more electrical and mechanical engineering involved. To the many industries or building owners who have had their buildings certified and actually implemented the systems defined by LEED, they are reaping the benefits.
From current trend, LEED certification in Bangladesh, is generally done in the RMG/Textile industries largely due to buyer’s requirement or as such a compliance issue. Some industries do not always have that issue, although because of owner’s planning to expand their businesses further , opting to use it as a marketing tool, or maybe even that they care and want to give back to the environment are converting their buildings green.
So from above you can imagine that yes LEED buildings in Bangladesh is just a marketing and compliance gimmick, although let me explain now why it is not just not a gimmick and that such buildings are actually saving the environment . As I mentioned earlier, industries that have implemented green systems are reaping the benefits? Cost savings in electricity bill, gas bill, less water usage, less diesel costs, less maintenance costs, overall system efficiency, increase in production capacity, are just a few to name. LEED certified buildings have an initial high cost of implementation and not just construction but the certification and consultation fee included. However payback periods of such buildings can start ranging from 3 to 5 years and considering a building life cycle of minimum 15 years, reaping the benefits would be an understatement. An example of a project that has been certified might give a slight idea. Before renovation of the factory floor about an area of 28,000 sqft to green, the building would consume about 200 kW of power per hour. After renovating the floor to LEED standards and when it was put to operations, its highest peak load was 120 kW at a given hour. This is when the factory floor is completely running with machines, ventilation systems, offices etc. Now this is not only because of the using of efficient machines but overall efficient system design and implementation. So there is clearly a difference of 80 kW. Now this is just for one floor, imagine this to be a 4-storied building or even higher, the amount of energy that can be saved.
This example is just on energy savings. In LEED buildings, other aspects are looked into such that not only energy is saved. Other resources like water, conservation of materials, reduction in solid waste, improved comfort and health for building occupants, regeneration of existing sites are some areas that are covered. According to a study done by USGBC, buildings account for about 39% of C02 emissions in the US. If it is possible to save 80 kW of energy from one floor, cascade that affect to all the buildings, the amount of C02 emissions contribution from buildings would be fairly reduced.
In recent times, a lot of commercial buildings in Dhaka are now attempting to get their buildings certified. For them, its definitely not a compliance issue, maybe a new way of marketing to improve business because with large businesses shifting to more environmental-friendly image, LEED buildings have slowly becoming a beacon for people and businesses who really want to give back to the environment. Corporate head offices can proudly say that the building they have bought or rented are environment-friendly and is helping the environment. it gives them good CSR image and saves them money in the long run.
As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, urban cities and buildings play an important role in achieving that target. With building construction continue to increase and with Climate Change being a threat, LEED buildings have made differences and will continue to do so. They are pushing the boundaries of sustainability, bringing innovation to newer fields. The recent trend for LEED buildings in Bangladesh is a positive sign. Instead of waiting for policies and regulations, action is being taken, for whatever reason people or businesses are constructing such buildings, they are showing the world that Bangladesh is leading the way for a sustainable future, with almost over 100 registered LEED projects, many of them already certified and many more in the pipeline. To do those who think it’s a marketing or compliance gimmick, yes there are some people who are doing it for that exact reason but like everything else, there will always be naysayers .The bottom line is we have only one home, and if we do not take action and lead the way for innovation in protecting the environment, we will not have a home.
The writer is an accredited LEED Green Associate. He has worked on 4 LEED Platinum projects and 1 LEED Gold project.