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FuturArc Monthly News Roundup

May 2015 News Roundup

Green building developments in the region

Australia: Carbon farming and the ERF

Despite criticism and reports of shady practices surrounding Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) there have been good land management projects under way for several years.

According to sustainable solutions consultancy Climate Friendly manager Josh Harris, the goal of the ERF is to avoid climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is a major way to achieve this. Fifteen successful ERF projects managed by Climate Friendly include several projects ensuring the regeneration of 175,000 hectares of formerly degraded agricultural land. ERF areas are to be protected for 100 years, with a 20-year active management phase and an 80-year period of maintenance.

Farmers’ perspectives are gradually changing and much potential remains for carbon abatement in future projects: it is expected that there will be transformations in the energy sector and greater energy efficiency across the economy. i

Brunei: Sultanate to get its own Green building rating tool

President of the Green Building Council, Brunei Darussalam (GBC Brunei) Dato Paduka Ar Haji Idris bin Haji Abas announced that it is currently working with the Ministry of Development on the Sultanate’s own version of a Green building rating tool.

Brunei has been using other rating tools such as Green Mark (Singapore), LEED (US) and Green Building Index (Malaysia) in marking Green buildings in the country, but it lacks a customised tool.

When complete, the customised Green building rating tool is expected to enhance the recently launched Energy Efficiency and Conservation Building Guidelines (EEC) for Brunei Darussalam—which GBC Brunei also helped formulate along with the Ministry of Development and Energy Department of the Prime Minister’s Office.

GBC Brunei was founded in 2013 as an initiative to address growing concerns about global warming. It hopes to achieve its goal of a sustainable environment by promoting sustainable building practices. Dato Idris said, “It is GBC Brunei’s hope that people will become more concerned about saving the environment and it is the responsibility of everyone to develop a sustainable environment and not just of the professionals.” ii

China: Official ‘lifelong accountability’ system to promote ecological protection

China’s central government announced that it will set up an official accountability system as it steps up efforts to promote ecological protection.

Officials who fail to meet requirements and contribute to environmental damage will be put on record and subject to a lifelong accountability system. They will not be appointed to other important positions or promoted, and will be held responsible for damages even if they have left office. 

Resource consumption, environmental damage and ecological benefits will be included in a comprehensive assessment system for economic and social development. An audit of natural resource assets and environmental responsibilities will also be implemented when officials leave their posts.

Sustainable development in China faces a bottleneck of limited resources, severe environmental pollution, ecosystem degradation, and conflicts between development and population, resources and environment.

China plans to give the utmost priority to the ecological environment, conserving resources and pursuing Green, sustainable and low-carbon development.  iii

China: Cities roll out measures to tackle air pollution

Photo by Nicolò Lazzati (Flickr/the-niki)

Beijing and Tianjin will give financial and technological support to four cities in Hebei Province to help them tackle air pollution. All six cities, which form the core area for regional efforts to control air pollution, are to build a unified system to forecast heavy smog and implement emergency response measures. The cities currently have their own emergency systems and impose different restrictions on the use of vehicles on smoggy days.

During the 2014 APEC meetings, the governments of Beijing and Tianjin, the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region jointly adopted tough measures to improve air quality. Residents saw a clear improvement as the concentration of airborne particles that can penetrate the lungs and harm health was reduced by 30 percent in Beijing. The coordinated efforts by the six core cities are expected to reduce air pollution in a similar way, according to the Beijing environmental bureau. iv

Hong Kong: Stricter building regulations in bid to cut energy consumption

The Hong Kong Green Building Council will begin stringent assessments of new buildings in 2017 as the city strives to cut energy consumption in line with an environment bureau blueprint—the city's first energy-saving blueprint, which aims to cut energy intensity from 2005 levels by 40 percent by 2025. This translates into a target of reducing consumption by 6 percent from the 2012 level in the next decade.

New assessment criteria will encourage Greener habits in buildings, such as cutting and recycling food waste. Rating standards for new buildings will become more stringent by 2017 to allow time to catch up with new technologies and updated regulations. Recognition schemes will also be launched for office and retail developments with outstanding energy-saving performance by the fourth quarter of this year and the second quarter of next year, respectively.

The exercise is harder in older buildings—which account for 90 percent of the city's electricity consumption—because of space constraints and multiple ownership, so owners will have three years to meet targets on areas such as energy, water and waste.

Vincent Ho Kui-yip, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, said the council's new measures would make it easier for older buildings to attain a green rating but he was not optimistic that many would be retrofitted in a short period of time. v

India: New milestone in Green building

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) announced in May that India has obtained a cumulative area of 3 billion square feet of buildings certified and registered Green.

According to an IGBC press release, India is now the second country in the world in terms of its Green building footprint.

Chairman of IGBC Dr Prem C Jain attributed the achievement to the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders of Indian construction industry. IGBC aspires to help India set new global standards in design, construction and operation, and hopes to reach 10 billion square feet of cumulative Green building area by 2022. vi

Malaysia: Universiti Teknologi MARA develops environmentally friendly green-mix concrete

Researchers from the faculty of civil engineering, Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia have successfully developed an environmentally friendly version of building concrete called green-mix concrete.

The breakthrough complements the Malaysian government’s efforts to encourage the use of environmentally friendly materials in the construction of Green buildings. In 2009, it launched the Green Building Index (GBI) to encourage the construction of buildings using green technology, and introduced incentives for owners to obtain the GBI certificate for new or existing buildings.

Due to growing interest in sustainable development and various government-backed incentives, key players in the construction industry are motivated more than ever both to use materials that are sustainable and to use materials sustainably. Concrete is a pivotal material in the building industry—a significant amount of the world’s carbon emissions stem from cement and concrete production.

Green concrete that can be used in buildings and structures has been increasing in popularity and demand in recent years. Criteria defining concrete as ‘green’ include the use of sustainable rather than non-sustainable resources and use of recycled or waste materials—considered sustainable as they can lower costs and raw materials as well as reduce landfills.

The green-mix concrete developed at University Teknologi MARA is designed and manufactured by partially replacing conventional materials with suitable waste and recycled materials such as recycled concrete aggregates—reduces consumption of raw materials and minimises waste generated from demolishing concrete structures, aluminium cans—can be easily processed into chopped fibres and used as reinforcement in concrete, and fly ash—a waste product from coal power plants commonly disposed of in ponds and landfills­­. Through research it was discovered that fly ash has the potential to replace cement, a material with large environmental impact due to air pollution from cement plants. Researchers estimated that the new concrete can help achieve an increase in strength of up to 30 percent compared to normal concrete. vii

Sri Lanka: Pioneer government-backed scheme to protect mangrove forests

A scheme backed by the Sri Lankan government will provide comprehensive protection for all its mangrove forests. The government is a joint partner overseeing the measures, alongside global NGO Seacology, and Sri Lanka-based Sudeesa, which was formerly known as the Small Fishers Federation of Lanka.

The scheme, which will cost US$3.4m over five years, aims to protect all 8,800 hectares (21,800 acres) of existing mangrove forests by providing alternative job training, funding microloans to people in exchange for protecting local mangroves forests. It also involves a replanting project, which aims to replace 3,900 hectares of mangroves that had been felled.

Mangroves are evergreen trees that are found in more than 120 tropical and sub-tropical nations.They are able to grow in seawater, and their strong, stilt-like root systems allow them to thrive in swamps, deltas or coastal areas. The trees sequester the carbon in the top few metres of soil, which is primarily an anaerobic environment - without oxygen. As a result, the organisms that usually lead to the decomposition of organic material are not present, meaning the carbon remains locked in the environment for longer. Mangroves are considered to be one of the world's most at-risk habitats, with more than half being lost or destroyed in the past century. Conservationists hope other mangrove-rich nations will follow suit and adopt a similar protection model.

Commenting on the agreement, Sri Lanka President Maithreepala Sirisena said, "It is the responsibility and the necessity of all government institutions, private institutions, non-government organisations, researchers, intelligentsia and civil community to be united to protect the mangrove ecosystem."

Seacology executive director Duane Silverstein said the pioneering framework had "extreme importance as a model" that could be used throughout the world, and that no nation in history has ever protected all of its mangrove forests. “Sri Lanka is going to be the first one to do so," he said, adding that, "It is also very significant considering the importance of mangroves as a means of sequestering carbon.”

“It is not only that mangroves sequester an order of magnitude more carbon than other types of forest, but it is sequestered for so much longer. In the case of mangroves, it is forecast that this lasts millennia," he observed. viii

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City waste plants to generate electricity

Ho Chi Minh City plans to reduce environmental pollution by reducing the rate of buried waste to under 40 percent by the end of the year

The city produces the largest amount of urban waste in the country, up to 8,000 tonnes per day, and only 20 percent are treated by modern technology. Eighty percent of municipal waste is now buried in dumps.

"Waste is considered a resource for recycling, and the most common way now is to burn waste to make electricity," Nguyen Huy Hoan, deputy head of the Industry and Trade Ministry's Science and Technology Department, was quoted as saying in Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper. Burning waste to generate electricity would help limit underground water pollution by waste water leakage and reduce the need for large burial dump sites.

Many investors are ready to invest in modern waste treatment plants with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day. Each plant would need about US$150 to 180 million. "We are ready to invest, but the city must provide a certain amount of waste for us for at least 20 years of the project," Huynh Minh Nhut, director of the Urban Environment Limited Company, said.

More than 80 countries have applied modern technology to treat waste, but Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi and Hai Phong have used it only on a small scale.

The government has been encouraging investors to take part in projects that generate electricity, especially from waste. Under their proposal, investors would receive fees for the waste treatment. Selling prices for each kWh of electricity would be VND2,200 (US$0.10). Preferential taxes, cheap land rentals and low interest rate on loans would also be provided to investors. Investors may also receive 50 percent of expenditures for their equipment from the Japanese government if their equipment meets requirements of CO2 reduction and environmentally friendly conditions.

"The only problem now is how to ensure waste for plants. In the near future, the city also wants to prohibit the burying of waste," Le Manh Ha, deputy chairman of the municipal People's Committee, said. ix

Text by Lim Min Li

i. http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/politics/government/carbon-farming-special-report/74352

ii. http://borneobulletin.com.bn/sultanates-own-green-building-rating-tool-soon/

iii. http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2015-05/06/content_35501650.htm

iv. http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2015-05/28/content_35679260.htm

v. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1808958/hong-kong-set-adopt-stricter-building-regulations

vi. http://www.worldgbc.org/files/7714/3271/3468/IGBC_Press_Release__21_May_2015_.pdf

vii. http://www.eco-business.com/news/green-mix-concrete-an-environmentally-friendly-building-material/

viii. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32683798

ix. http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/environment/131085/hcm-city-waste-plants-to-generate-electricity.html




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