By Somluck Srimalee
The trend is also one that is expected to enable owners, of office buildings in particular, to recoup their investment within a shorter timescale.
Pearl Bangkok, a newly launched Bt3-billion office building by Pruksa Real Eastate at Soi Aree, Phaholyothin Road, is one such building that will be completed in 2018.
The project is owned by TCT, a firm that is wholly owned by Thongma Vijitphongpun, who is also a major shareholder in Pruksa Real Estate.
"The idea in designing this building is that we want it to be iconic; its shape is that of an oval pearl because we want the building to be a landmark of Bangkok, which is one of the pearl cities of Asia," Thongma told The Nation.
In line with the goal of giving the city an iconic building, Pearl Bangkok has also been designed under the energy-saving building concept of Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), which is the standard of the US Green Building Council. The company has applied for Gold LEED certification for the building’s core and shell.
Meanwhile, the so-called "Super Tower", which will be the tallest building in Asean when it is completed in 2019 by Grand Canal Land (G Land), has also been designed as environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
The project – designed by Thai company Architect 49 – has been developed in line with the requirements for Platinum certification of the LEED programme.
Aliwassa Pattanathabut, managing director of CB Richard Ellis (Thailand), said office tenants now increasingly preferred LEED-certified buildings, especially if they have a policy to undertake LEED-certified interior fit-outs, which more companies are doing.
Multinationals such as Citibank, Unilever and L’Oreal have all completed LEED fit-outs in their Bangkok offices, and all new Starbucks stores will have LEED-certified interiors.
Thai companies have also undertaken LEED-certified fit-outs, and Kasikornbank achieved LEED CI v2.0 Gold certification in 2011 for its Phaholyothin headquarters project.
People are most familiar with LEED for New Construction or Core and Shell certification applying to new building projects, the latter being intended for buildings that will be rented to multiple tenants that will conduct their own interior fit-outs.
A number of office buildings with LEED Core and Shell certification already exist in Bangkok. Park Ventures and Energy Complex have achieved LEED Platinum status, and Sathorn Square recently completed AIA Capital Centre have both secured LEED Gold certification, she said.
Energy efficiency, low CO2
Pearl Bangkok’s floor plan is designed as an oval, and the building will use insulated low-E and low-iron glass, which comprises a ceramic-frit silk screen, to stop heat from entering the interior while allowing natural light to enter the work space. This concept reduces the amount of electricity required for both lighting and air-conditioning.
Meanwhile, lighting around the building will be LED (light-emitting diode) with a daylight sensor system, Thongma said, adding that this reduces electricity consumption by about 60 per cent compared compared to fluorescent lamps.
Under the energy-saving programme, Pearl Bangkok will reduce overall electricity usage by about 1 million units a year, or 18 per cent. It will also use a chiller air-conditioning system, reducing electricity consumption and the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
It will also comprise a CO2-detector system that creates fresh air from CO2, accounting for up to 30 per cent of the building’s air usage.
The electrical and chiller air-con systems combine to reduce net CO2 emissions by 592 tonnes per year when compared with a standard office building of the same size.
The building will also comprise a water-recycling and treatment system, thus reducing net water usage, which ties in with the building designers’ environment-friendly goals, Thongma said.
According to the plan, the building will reduce water usage by an average of 4,686 cubic metres a year, or 40 per cent, compared with a normal building of the same size, he added.
Meanwhile, the Super Tower will use insulated glass to cover the exterior. Inside, a highly efficient air-conditioning system will use variable air volume to ensure a constant temperature. Energy-efficient materials will be used, and solar cells will be installed to generate some of the electricity.
Moreover, bicycle parking will be available, as well as bathrooms for cyclists clean up, further encouraging them to choose this energy-saving transport mode, said G Land’s chairman, Yotin Boondicharern.
G Land has recruited Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world’s top experts in tall buildings, as the consulting firm for its Super Tower.
Meanwhile, Golden Land Property Development president Thanapol Sirithanachai, who was formerly president of Univentures, which developed Park Ventures, said when an office building is developed under the LEED concept, and is certified as such, multinationals and larger Thai-based tenants faced a cost challenge to select such a project over a normal office building, as the owners can charge rents that are 10-20 per cent above normal, depending on the location.
The cost of constructing a green building under LEED is also higher than normal – some 10-20 per cent so – depending on whether Silver, Gold or Platinum certification is being sought, he said.
At present, most multinational firms expanding investment overseas, including in Thailand, have a policy to find a green office building from which to operate, rather than a building of traditional design and construction, despite the fact that they have to pay more for the privilege.
This is because a green building offers a work and surrounding environment that leads to greater efficiency and well-being among their employees than if they were housed in a normal building, he explained.
Following this trend, G Land’s new office building, the Bt5-billion FYI Centre, has been designed under the green-building theme and is subject to an application for Gold certification from LEED, said Thanapol.
Older buildings can become ‘green’
Aliwassa added that it was not only new buildings that could be certified as green, as older buildings could be updated and renovated to achieve green-building status, as well.
This would offer yet more opportunities for office tenants to rent space at a time when the country is targeting being a headquarters hub for the region when the Asean Economic Community comes into effect at the end of this year, she said.
"Most multinationals that expand their investment in the region have a policy to rent green office space as the first priority. When office owners are interested in new green building or renovating their office space as a green building, that will open up business opportunities to get these tenants and also generate higher income over the long term," she added.
She said Thailand was well-placed to attract multinationals seeking an HQ in Asean, as green building costs "don’t have to be too high".
According to CB Richard Ellis research, most green buildings in the US charge rents that are 5-10 per cent higher than for normal buildings. Nonetheless, green buildings enjoy higher occupancy rates.
Research also shows that existing buildings renovated under the green concept will recoup their investment after between six and 10 years. That is because they will save 30-50 per cent on electricity bills, depending on the building size, compared with the bills prior to renovation.
Green office buildings also mean staff will work in a better environment, which in turn results in better performance, research found.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom has also established its own green building standard to match the environment. The Thai Green Building Institute’s TREES initiative is short for Thailand Rating of Energy and Environmental Sustainability.
Applications have been made for 17 buildings to receive TREES certification since the standard was launched last year.
Also, the new Bangkok city plan promotes green building by providing bonus points entitling a developer to increase the floor-area ratio by up to 20 per cent for a building that wins TREES certification. This is part of the plan to build Bangkok into a "green city" in the future.