Energy-efficient buildings are not exclusive to new developments. Old office buildings can be renovated to become green buildings as long as the owners are genuinely committed to it.
Mr Pramote shows off the Platinum LEED plaque that SCG was awarded in front of one of the renovated buildings.
The latest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum award for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance provided proof of that, as it was given to Siam Cement Group (SCG), Thailand's top industrial conglomerate, for the renovation of its three-decade-old office.
SCG spent 110 million baht over 18 months to make Buildings 1, 2 and 5 environmentally friendly at its headquarters in Bang Sue.
It is the first company in Asean to receive the award, which is the highest level of recognition for green construction certified by the US-based Green Building Council, an independent environmental rating agency.
Pramote Techasupatkul, president of SCG Cement and chairman of SCG Sustainable Development Committee, said while it would have cost 80 million baht less and taken much less time to construct a new environmentally friendly office, the company wanted to work on its existing buildings to show green renovation is feasible.
"After the renovation, energy usage in the three buildings is down by 20%, while water usage has dropped 30%," he said.
Apart from utilising better insulation to prevent penetration of heat into the building, the entire air-conditioning and lighting systems as well as sanitary ware units were completely changed.
For instance, old chillers were replaced with units that do not use refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which cause global warming. Old lights that were still usable were donated to charity, while the spent ones were sent to Toshiba for recycling.
Tiles and ceramics were recycled at the company's own plant.
The company is committed to renovating the other buildings in its compound in the future, said Mr Pramote. SCG plans to construct a new Building 3 in a green manner to obtain LEED Platinum certification for new buildings.
The company expects it will take 10 years to break even from this investment.
"Although it will take several years before we see financial returns on this investment, it is equally important to think about environmental and social returns," said Mr Pramote.
SCG has developed a wide range of eco-friendly construction materials and services as part of its commitment to green business but also to cater to increasing demand for eco-friendly products in the construction industry.
The company can provide up to 80% of all products used in green construction.
Suphin Mechuchep, managing director of property consultant Jones Lang Lasalle (Thailand) Ltd, said in the long term, more property owners are expected to place greater importance on green buildings.
"The requirements by American and European tenants to rent offices that care for the environment will certainly push the owners of offices to develop green buildings," she said, adding that large global firms often enquire if buildings have received green points or environmental awards before deciding to rent office space.
While several countries have their own green building standards, Thailand's Green Building Institute is about to launch the country's first green certification this year based on LEED standards.
Associate Professor Atch Sreshthaputra, a board member responsible for drafting the criteria for the country's green building standard, said office buildings are starting to become more environmentally friendly in anticipation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 and an influx of foreign investors setting up offices in Bangkok.
He said there are different levels at which buildings can become more energy efficient.
"It is not possible for all buildings to do everything SCG did, especially old office buildings, as it might not be cost effective," said Dr Atch.
While building owners in America charge a premium for being green, such rates do not apply in Thailand.
The lowest and most cost-effective green building technique is to reduce energy usage on lighting and air conditioning and cut water consumption, he said, adding the challenge is for office buildings to become green but maintain reasonable rents.
The capability of designers and their knowledge about green materials is also very important to maintain cost effectiveness, said Dr Atch.
While costs for construction of a green building are on average 5% more than non-green buildings, a less knowledgeable architect can increase the price for building owners by as much as 20%.
Some 15 companies including office buildings, hotels, and car showrooms have registered for the Thai green building award, set to be announced next month. Award levels are certified, silver, gold and platinum.
About the author
- Writer: Soonya Vanichkorn