By Naning Adiwoso

Globally, the construction and operation of buildings causes 40 percent of all CO2 emissions. In Indonesia, buildings currently account for 30 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, a number that is set to rise to nearly 40 percent by 2030 in a business-as-usual scenario. However up to one third of the energy and water consumption of Indonesia’s buildings can be easily reduced through better building design and operation. How can we take collective action to ensure that green buildings are the way of our future?

Today we are poised at a unique moment in the evolution of the Indonesian property sector. Strong capital investment, rising personal income and rapid urbanization continue to fuel construction growth at 5% annually, accounting for roughly a quarter of GDP. On the affordable end of the residential property sector alone, Vice President Kalla has set a target of building two million homes per year for low-income households, in order to catch up with demand. The time is right to ask ourselves if we ready to respond to this opportunity in a way that resonates with our business interests while fighting back at climate change.

In the past, our tendency in Asia has been to design buildings with western aspirations in mind. We didn’trecognize that our different culture and climate make us ill-suited to highly glassed exteriors with little protection from the sun. But some forward-thinking companies are starting to take advantage of the boom market to rethink how buildings can behave in the hands of their future owners. Their ambition is to create living spaces that deliver comfort and value while connecting at a deeper level to their customers’ desires to become more responsible stewards of the environment.

One example is PT Ciputra, a company that has designed resource-efficient middle-income homes through its Citra Lake Suites and Citra Towers Kemayoran projects. These living spaces shield their inhabitants against the intensity of the sun through simple but smart options such as reflective paint and smaller windows with outside shading. Both projects have earned the World Bank Group’s EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) certification, which rewards developers for cutting back on the resource intensity of their building designs. EDGE is an alternative way for green building assessment in addition to GBC Indonesia’s GREENSHIP  By using both GREENSHIP and/or EDGE, GBC Indonesia encourage building stakeholders  in Indonesia to join green building movement and implementation.

If we are to gain momentum, we must first dispel the myth that green buildings are expensive. By focusing on practical methods to curb energy and water use, developers are finding that 2-3% incremental costs are a profitable decision to make, as properties that perform well on the operational front command a higher value and move faster on the market. In a study of 60 emerging economies, McGraw-Hill reported that resource-efficient buildings have on average a 5% market premium compared to conventional buildings.

As decision-makers, developers are clearly the starting point for pushing the green building trend forward. But it will be essential to rally all those who can make a difference to act. On the policy side, governments at the municipal and national level can offer low or no-cost incentives to stimulate green growth, now that green building codes are falling into place in the country (KemenPU& PERA no. 02/PRT/M/2015) and Pergub DKI no. 38/2012). Jakarta Government even create Jakarta Grand  Design for Green Building to  meet their commitment on 30% energy, emission and water reduction by 2030. Bank scan offer better interest rates to divert conventional construction finance to green, and further convince home buyers through green mortgages. And each one of us can become a champion of green buildings by understanding their inherent value and seeking them in our own lives.

On December 2015, representatives from nearly 200 countries met at the COP21 in Paris to agree to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees in the most ambitious move yet to stop the advance of climate change. Indonesia went a step further in joining 15 other countries in the formation of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Financial institutions present at the meeting pledged to release hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment for clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

Clearly momentum is growing, and the time is right for us to lose our complacency and short-term thinking to determine how we can all win by working together for ourselves and the environment. We are the last generation that able to do a real action to combat climate change. The time is right for green buildings. Is now or never.

Naning Adiwoso is the Chairperson of the Green Building Council Indonesia (GBC Indonesia), an organization that provides leadership in encouraging green building growth in Indonesia through education, certification and awareness-building. To complement its GREENSHIP certification, GBC Indonesia  now offers a fast, easy and affordable way to build and brand green through EDGE, a software solution and green building certification system that is an innovation of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.