Sustainable construction has gained prominence in the country as a factor in transforming people’s quality of life, since it is part of a sustainable vision aimed at satisfying the needs of the market and achieving, in a balanced manner, economic and social development, as well as protection of the environment.
For Víctor Ramírez Orozco, sustainability manager at Construcciones Sustentables Orendain (CSO), in the field of architecture and construction, sustainability is an agent of change for city planning, where priority is given to the reuse of resources, renewable natural resources and social integrity.
“For example, in the care of water, how can we make the new developments require less drinking water? How are we going to reduce that? With rainwater collection, but at the city level.”
In addition to water, another major aspect of the reuse of resources to consider in sustainable constructions (and demanded by regulations and certifications) is reducing energy consumption, which is determined by the architectural design of the project.
“That is, if the largest facade faces west, I know that I will get more heat and, therefore, the air conditioning will work harder, translating into higher energy consumption. So, a well-executed architectural design requires less energy.”
Ramírez says that sustainability depends not only on how the building is used, but also on how it is planned and constructed. During these stages, a large interdisciplinary team focuses on specific areas that help to minimize execution times, avoid planning errors and improve action plans.
“The issue of sustainability has to be considered before drawing the first lines of the project. The ideal design method for a sustainable building is the integrative process, an interdisciplinary exercise where everyone participates. If you include the air-conditioning specialist when the design is already very advanced, you cannot contribute the same as if you had involved him from the beginning.”
The sustainability manager of CSO, a consultancy firm and developer of sustainable projects in the Guadalajara city, notes that these teams are made up of contractors, architects and suppliers, among others, who, together with technology, have found a niche of opportunity to facilitate and improve construction processes (such as energy modelers, who calculate, using a computer, the energy consumption a building must have in order to be sustainable).
“Previously, the architect was an autonomous entity who said, ‘I am going to make you a sustainable design.’ However, 20 years ago, specialized offices began to be formed to advise exclusively on the subject of sustainability.”
The Practice Gains Strength
Although it is true that sustainable construction is not a new practice, it has gained strength at the local and national levels over the last seven years due to various factors, among them society’s demand for eco-friendly spaces and economic payback from multiple fiscal incentives.
“A fiscal incentive can be obtained when you collect rainwater or reuse the water in your building. With this you can get a 10 percent reduction. Another incentive is when you reduce the consumption of energy.”
Ramírez says that, based on these incentives, the number of projects seeking sustainability has multiplied. “Although it is a significant capital outlay at the beginning, in the long run it brings greater benefits. Some see the opportunity in making a larger investment at first, because they know that by investing now, significant savings will be obtained in the future. There will be solar cells and bathroom fixtures that will reduce water consumption. It is true that at the beginning you will spend more, but you will recoup it in operation and maintenance.”
For Ramírez, sustainable construction is a reality that, although it began to be seen in other countries in the 1960s, in Mexico has grown strongly in recent years, evolving from the need to take care of the environment and meet the needs of society, the creation of public regulations by the government and the implementation of international certifications, as well as the implementation of sustainable practices by the construction industry.
He says that sustainable construction in Mexico has been refined and practices improved with the formation of civic organizations that provide guidance, such as Sustentabilidad México (SUME), as well as the creation of public regulations and international certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), a system that analyzes the sustainability of buildings.