Sustainability has often been related to environmental and climate change issues. But, the 21st-century definition of sustainability goes far beyond these definitions. Presently, it refers to the balancing act we thrive to create by complimenting the environment through our activities that essentially meets the need of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations. Coming to today’s context, growing climate vulnerability, especially by rising temperatures is adding woe to the sustainability principle of industrial establishments. To be more precise, rising temperatures add further stress on the building sector resulting in higher energy demand and consumption in private and public buildings, as well as in increasing emission of GHG.
Studies revealed that about 40% of the energy of the total production in Bangladesh and 30% worldwide is consumed by the buildings. Considering this rising percentage, policymakers are stressing on adopting the green building principle to safeguard energy efficiency. It is worth mentioning that the push toward sustainable design increased with the launch in 1990 of the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), the first green building rating system in the world. In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) followed suit and developed and released criteria also aimed at improving the environmental performance of buildings through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new construction.
In Bangladesh, the green rating of buildings is still in a nascent stage due to the absence of a specific standard/scheme that could help in promoting a wide-ranging application. The developers who want to go for green buildings are applying for LEED Certification from US Green Building Council (USGBC) which is an America based organization. In India, it is known as IGBC. We also have this as BGBC but it is not active enough.
Therefore, USGBC LEED certification is becoming a popular rating system for high-end commercial and compliance textile factory buildings. More than 100 buildings are already registered under USGBC LEED certification. Attesting to the utility of the green industry, GoB has taken a few steps. Most notable of them are, that Bangladesh Bank is promoting energy efficiency in buildings with soft loan facilities under their refinancing scheme.
Single-digit loan (maximum 9%) facilities are available for LEED-certified factories, The Housing and Building Research Institute developed a Recommendation for Green Building Code in 2012 with the technical assistance of IFC, SREDA is working to develop the rating system for buildings and will act as the implementation and execution body for the Building Energy & Environment Rating (BEER) and Bangladesh’s Ministry of Housing and Public Works is drafting Green Buildings Guidelines.
Encouragingly, in recent years a silent revolution has taken place in the RMG industry of Bangladesh. The world’s highest-rated LEED Platinum Denim factory, Knit factory, Washing Plant and Textile mill all are situated in Bangladesh. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Bangladesh now has 157 green garment buildings those have received LEED certificates. Among them, 47 are platinum rated, 96 gold rated, 10 silver, and 4 have no rating. Of the certified establishments, lion’s share is from the garment and textile sector. However, the idea of a “green eco-factory” (with maximum eco-friendly facilities for workers) should cover factories not only in the country’s RMG sector but also in other sectors.
However, provided Bangladesh’s nascent nature relating to the green rating of buildings, there are numerous areas ranging from the absence of a specific standard/ scheme to the required capacity of key stakeholders are holding back the advent of the green building concept. For example, the introduction of the green building concept is hampered by the fact that the financial advantages of using more sustainable building practices and materials become only visible in the long run due to high investment costs. Conveying the immediate benefits and establishing a demand for green buildings thus requires a multi-dimensional approach. Additionally, BNBC was modelled following the 30-year-old American Concrete Institute (ACI) Code 1989.
As a result, the safety requirements of the BNBC are 30 years old. Although the ACI Code has been updated, those changes have not been incorporated into the building code. Moreover, the document is prepared following the standards of other countries. Ideally, our building codes and related documents should be based on research considering the Bangladeshi perspective.
To ensure a comprehensive “greening” of Bangladesh’s building sector, there are myriad interventions needed to be surfaced at the possible earliest time. Experts/researchers in this domain identified several avenues to speed up the mainstreaming of the green building concept:
- In the absence of a national monitoring system, companies should set up their own monitoring system considering green approaches. The monitoring system should be multi-layered (if possible) to avoid blind spots at any layer and ensure 100 percent compliance on sites. Companies need to get regular feedback from sites, as green policies may need to be revised according to experience on-site.
- DIFE has their hands full with the garments sector, but it should look towards the construction industry as well. In the garments sector, due to the pressure from international buyers the company owners are now abiding by the same safety rules, which the ministry could not make them follow for years. A similar type of pressure is needed in the construction sector from the consumers.
- This is the time to transform the compliance departments of Textile & Garment factories into the sustainability department. Whatever they do, they must have a sustainability department, and they must have separate manpower responsible for sustainability. These people should have the tools, capacity, and authority to make a change. Then the innovation cycle towards greening the factories will move.
- In experiences from neighbouring countries, such as India, rating or labeling systems for green buildings are an effective tool for incentivizing the construction sector and material suppliers to become greener by applying more sustainable building practices.
- Provide access to soft and subsidize loan facilities for green building developer and consumers.
In essence, there is no alternative way without energy-efficient building to ensure greater sustainability. And it should be ranging from land use plan to building completion. Like the way – installing a water-saving shower tap at your home could be a start to ensure optimum water discharge from the water pump ensuring energy efficiency in the long run. Before concluding, I would like to echo a research finding – “if we follow green building policy, we can save electricity which is equal to a small power plant”.