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New rating system can boost green buildings
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Environmentally friendly buildings present China with a unique opportunity to make concrete progress in the country's efforts to clean up.

In a recent report titled Is China Ready to Take the LEED? international real estate money management and services firm Jones Lang LaSalle highlighted that as sustainable buildings become more prevalent in China, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is emerging as the preferred method for certifying these innovative, market-moving developments.

China's cities are in the midst of a massive building boom, creating intense competition in major markets and dramatically increasing energy consumption. Sustainable buildings offer a significant solution - both in terms of the need for market differentiation and greater energy efficiency.

In light of this, LEED has emerged as the preferred rating system, because it is flexible enough to be applied to a diverse variety of markets and also because it enjoys the greatest recognition of various international rating systems.

This recognition is especially important when one considers that a prime motivator for developers to create a certified sustainable building is to differentiate their projects from the competition.

"It is important that builders and occupiers develop an understanding of LEED and the overall sustainable building movement, as it has significant business implications and is an opportunity to make a real contribution in the effort to improve China's environment," said Benjamin Christensen, research manager of Jones Lang LaSalle Beijing, one of the authors of the report.

In the past, companies in China would only focus on increasing sustainability levels in their individual tenancy. But as more and more certified sustainable buildings enter the market, the sustainability of these buildings will be a significant draw for demanding tenants.

"This will be the case not only because this type of office space satisfies corporate social responsibility (CSR) demands, but also because sustainable buildings are proven to increase productivity, decrease employee turnover and, very importantly, save energy costs," added Christensen.

For developers, the emergence of LEED-certified buildings means the China office market is reaching a new level of sophistication and that sustainable design will increasingly be a prerequisite for top projects. This, in turn, implies that the technology and expertise necessary to design and build a sustainable building will be more accessible and established in the country.

LEED's emergence also means the public and the government would be more aware of sustainable buildings and rating systems, such as LEED, thus providing developers with a new opportunity to enhance their public image and launch a platform for marketing new projects.

For tenants, the increase in LEED-certified office space means they will have office options that better satisfy global CSR requirements. Those who choose to occupy sustainable buildings will likely save money on energy and increase staff productivity because of improved internal office environment.

Prosper Centre, a 148,000-sq-m office and retail complex in Beijing CBD (central business district), is setting an important precedent as it will be the first LEED-certified office project to be completed in the capital, the report said.

Hong Kong developer Henderson Land aims to make its new project, World Financial Centre, a pre-eminent Grade A office building in Beijing. The developer has stated that the market demands that a building of this caliber must be highly sustainable. The World Financial Centre is currently pre-certified for LEED and is aiming for LEED Platinum upon completion.

The report also highlighted that the push toward more sustainable construction in China is being led by both the market and the government.

The government has created a framework of minimum requirements for energy efficiency on all new construction. The requirements are based on the average energy efficiency of Chinese buildings in 1980 and aim to decrease energy use on all new construction by 50 percent before 2010 and by 65 percent before 2020.

The current requirement across China is 50 percent, but in both Shanghai and Beijing, the local governments have already increased the minimum requirement to 65 percent.

(China Daily November 23, 2007)

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