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The business behind sustainable construction and LEED

José Pablo Labbé

Leadership in Energy and Environmental design, or its acronym LEED, consists of a building certification established in 1994 by the U.S. Green Building Council. To this day, there are 22 LEED projects in Guatemala, 12 of which Studio Domus is behind.

Every construction has an environmental impact. When we discuss sustainable building, we consider five elements that determine said impact: first, the location of the building project. According to where the building is positioned, displacement needs of users vary, which generates an additional carbon footprint to the construction’s already existing one. In Guatemala City, for example, developing in a centric area, such as zone 10, holds a greater advantage than a more withdrawn area. Secondly, efficient water handling. How can we reduce our hydric footprint when it comes to efficiency and recollection? It is as simple as having low consumption toilets and urinals, sensor based sinks, automatic hand dryers, among other things. These tools can reduce unnecessary water consumption up to 50%.

The next element to consider is energy efficiency. We must focus on building projects that consume less energy. This implies considering every aspect that can reduce electric consumption since the construction phase of a project. Energy can be generated through paneling or photovoltaics, which reduce both energy consumption as well as overall spending. The fourth element to consider is the use of resources and materials. All materials used in a building have embedded energy. This means that if a plasterboard is manufactured in Guatemala it will probably look the same as one made in China, but the footprint required to bring that material is different. The origin of the material also has an impact. Different types of wood and the use of recycled materials is key to sustainable building. Lastly, indoor environmental quality needs to be considered. This focuses more directly on users and how they can access fresher, cleaner air. This way “sick building syndrome”, a drowsiness originating from a buildup of carbon dioxide when air circulates without an injection of freshness from outside, is avoided.

Ten years ago, the Guatemala Green Building Council was founded from Studio Domus to impulse sustainable building and raise awareness in the country. Despite its efforts, there is still a long journey towards eco-responsible construction, as only a small percentage of projects are guided by this criteria. The key to creating a change in the market is in shifting the perception that sustainable building is more expensive, which it is not, and convincing consumers to demand building companies to employ these measures. A basic principle when it comes to this is highlighting that the less is used, the less is spent.

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