Sustainable construction and the generation of clean energies are key elements to achieving (or achieving an approach to) the objectives established in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Although in Mexico it is an issue that is increasingly on the minds of architects, energy companies, construction firms, urban planners and political figures; advances in this matter seem small glimmers against the opaque and complex panorama of the creation of the cities of tomorrow.
However, within the last decade, some sectors of public and private real estate investment have set their sights on a sustainable building system with a worldwide presence. This is the LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), established in 1993 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). To obtain it, projects are subject to design and construction verification that certifies optimal environmental performance.
In an interview with Vallarta Real Estate Guide, Mexican architect Milo Aguilar explained some points about LEED certification. Currently, he works with Sumac (a company based in Chicago, Illinois), where he offers consulting to architectural projects in Mexico that want to obtain this distinction.
“This certification promotes the efficient use of water and energy within the building, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, the use of building materials that are not harmful to health, recycling and other environmentally friendly aspects. It is valid for five years, is renewable, and applies both to new and existing buildings, regardless of their type. They can be condominiums, houses, residential complexes, hospitals, schools, commercial buildings, industrial buildings and more.”
LEED certification encompasses the following main areas: sustainable site, location and transportation, efficiency in water consumption, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, innovation in design and environmental quality in interiors. Aguilar explains that projects can reach four different levels of certification, depending on the number of credits or points they attain (in accordance with specific sustainable construction criteria): basic LEED certification (40 to 49 credits), Silver (50 to 59), Gold (60 to 79) and Platinum (80 or more).
“A building with basic LEED certification requires 30 percent less energy compared to traditional buildings, but there are buildings that can have a higher level of certification and completely dispense with electricity, thanks to the use of solar energy systems.”
In Puerto Vallarta, the AVIDA Residences development (currently under construction in the Romantic Zone) is in the process of obtaining LEED certification. This has been officially announced by the representatives of the property and its marketing materials. This fact could be the breakthrough that triggers a trend at the local level. In other Mexican cities, such as Mexico City and Guadalajara, competitiveness in the market has caused more and more buildings to seek accreditation. In addition, local developers could attest to the benefits of sustainable development (such as reducing expenses for services and an improving quality of life for those who inhabit the property).
Complexes in Mexico that hold this certification include the HSBC Tower, Torre Reforma and the Antiguo Palacio Virreinal, in Mexico City; Universidad del Arte, in Puebla; and Central Park, in Guadalajara.
Process to Obtain LEED Certification
Most of the developers and investors who want to be accredited with LEED in Mexico confer with specialized consulting companies, which accompany them in each of the stages. The whole process is done through the Internet and in English. According to Aguilar, the platform the US Green Building Council has created for sending documents and reports is very efficient.
The process begins with registration. Once the design of the project has been analyzed and evaluated, the documentation is sent for review (which takes approximately one month). The process continues with the preparation of reports on the different construction stages and processes; this allows verification that the requirements for the selected certification credits are being met. Finally, when the complex is finished, the documents are sent for a general construction review. When it is confirmed that everything is in order, the certification that allows announcing the project worldwide on the USGBC website is granted. It is important to note that there is a maximum period of three years to provide all the required documents.
“For those of us who offer this type of consultancy, it is very important to be involved from the design phase of the building. From my experience, I can say that obtaining LEED certification is affected when the project is not well defined and/or many changes are made on the fly. For this reason, I suggest that architects, investors and developers inform themselves about the requirements of this system and work together from the beginning to develop a project in accordance with these guidelines. If at the beginning of construction, 90 percent of the plan is defined, I am convinced that this will mean that not more than expected will be spent and that the entire development of the project will be fluid and successful.”
Aguilar concluded by emphasizing the role architects play in motivating their clients to use sustainable development systems. He also stressed the importance of training in this area, since knowledge is the strongest tool to promote this type of property and move toward models that have less impact on the environment.
For more information about LEED certification, see the new.usgbc.org/
· 1.6 million residential units are certified with LEED around the world.
· 305 certified projects in Mexico during 2017, which put it in 10th place internationally.