Foreign Tools to Judge Local Sustainability

Aiman Elahi

LEED certification is the most popular green building certification opted for by Bangladeshi Industries and commercial buildings. It was introduced by the US Green building council-USGBC and arrived in Bangladesh in around 2002. With the booming garment industry, buyers were being attracted by certifications such as LEED. The certification thus started being adopted voluntarily by various export-oriented industries in Bangladesh. Then gradually towards 2016, commercial high-end buildings in the capital started acquiring LEED certification to raise buyer standards and asset value.

Till now there have been over 500 LEED-registered buildings in Bangladesh under specific categories, of which about two-thirds are under the LEED new construction category.

In addition, The Sustainable Built Environment Initiative was founded in Bangladesh in 2008, which is now called the Bangladesh Green Building Council. The organization works in unity with all relevant stakeholders. Currently, they have been working to form a board under which LEED certification could be monitored and awarded in Bangladesh.

Moreover, Bangladesh is on its way to producing its rating system as well called BEEER (Building Energy Efficiency & Environment Rating), by SREDA (Sustainable and renewable energy Authority). Contrary to the many possible advantages of LEED, it may be mainly used to increase value, despite associated costs. This increased value and the bonus of tax incentives usually drive owners towards acquiring such certifications.

Even though the certifications are being popularly adopted due to these incentives, it still needs to be analyzed how much it is actually contributing to socioeconomic and environmental factors in our country or if they are indeed bringing sustainable changes in our context. If so then these certifications could be the key to influencing mass voluntary movement towards sustainability.

On the other hand adoption of LEED has been considered a CSR responsibility by many companies. But while LEED-certified buildings are claimed to be having cleaner air and better psychological and physical health of occupants, they also have steep registration fees. This fee excludes costs associated with the installation of specific green products and the costs of hiring an audit staff.

Furthermore, any site with an average EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), could achieve a LEED certification, giving the project a green badge of approval, which is good for marketing. Consequently, as large companies may afford this badge, other smaller companies may not be able to afford the costs of LEED certification.

Moreover, LEED specifically grants buildings and their operations the appropriate guidelines to achieve sustainable building design or construction and maintenance solutions. But After the construction phase, maintenance and operation guidelines are often not considered and the certification is often not renewed after its validity period ends. In addition, certain points listed in LEED may not serve to be sustainable in the context of Bangladesh.

When acquiring a LEED certification the fees paid, are to USGBC (US Green Building Council). Even when earning a LEED credential of expertise, by an individual, via passing the LEED professional exams, registration fees are paid to USGBC.

As well as LEED, there are other certifications in the Garment sector, focused on the environment and health of workers, which become mandatory to meet compliance standards set by foreign buyers. Now while an industry or factory has already obtained certification for LEED, a new client may require another certification. Here it is important to consider that each certification is costly and requires hiring an audit staff.

On the contrary, this has led to the development of many audit companies in Bangladesh. These companies in turn each have their audit staff trained specifically for each certification.

Moreover, industries in Bangladesh usually acquire specialized certifications to meet buyer requirements, unlike LEED which is voluntary and is usually opted to increase the value of property assets. Also, LEED does not cover all the factors included in specific Social and Environmental audits. Auditors working in Bangladesh, helping companies to achieve the required compliance factors include TÜV, Control Union, and Bureau Veritas. Certifications are usually used as tools by these companies. A few such tools used to validate social factors include BSCI, ICS, SEDEX, WRAP, and SLCP.

Some tools used by the auditors to validate environmental factors include HIGG, ICS, BEPI, DETOX, and Blue Sign. Likewise, Materials sustainability is validated by OCS, GOTS, RCS, GRS, and others. Each of these tools addresses very specific sustainability concerns.

Furthermore, LEED is not one of a kind, but one of the most popular green building certifications, being used across the world. These certifications, such as LEED are most effective if made more climate or context-specific. Thus many countries around the world have developed their green building rating systems such as GBI in Malaysia, Green Mark in Singapore, and GRIHA in India.

Overall certifications for sustainability are of many types, but those being adopted in Bangladesh are all foreign and we urgently need to institutionalize these certifications and also introduce our national rating system at the earliest. On the other hand from a global perspective for certifications covering similar issues, a point waiver system could be introduced for companies needing to acquire more than one certification.

Author; Architect, Member of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (E-015), B.Arch (BRACU), Masters of Environmental Science and Management (NSU), Masters of Science in Disaster Management (Dhaka University)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: