The need for further promoting building energy regulations in Asian countries

Energy consumption in Asian countries has been increasing rapidly due to recent economic growth and development. This energy consumption has led to a number of environmental problems such as global warming, climate change, air pollution, acid rain (Iwaro and Mwasha, 2010), and raised concerns over problems of energy supply and exhaustion of energy resources. In most of Asian countries, the number of new buildings is growing rapidly in the recent years and building sector is one of the biggest single contributors to total national energy consumption. The current low electricity prices in some Asian countries, however, often do not encourage energy savings practices in these buildings. For promoting building energy efficiency, there is an increasing use of building energy regulations to address the energy use of an entire building or building systems. Energy regulation is one of the most frequently used instruments for energy efficiency improvements in buildings and plays an important role in enhancing energy efficiency in building sector.

Construction of new buildings in Hanoi (Photo By author)
Construction of new buildings in Hanoi (Photo By author)

While building energy regulations exist in almost all developed countries, there is an increase in the number of Asian developing countries introducing such regulations. Generally, there are two main types of energy regulation: building energy standards and building energy code. Building energy standards can be further divided into two types: prescriptive standards that set separate performance levels for major envelope and equipment components and overall performance-based standards, prescribing only an annual energy consumption level of buildings (Iwaro and Mwasha, 2010). Building energy efficiency standards can be either mandatory or voluntary. For examples, countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam have mixed standards (both mandatory and voluntary), while Singapore and Thailand (Chirarattananon et al., 2010) have adopted mandatory building energy performance requirements as parts of laws on building control on energy conservation.

The effectiveness in implementation of building energy regulations varies significantly from country to country in Asia. For instance, Singapore has set high environmental targets to improve its energy efficiency by 35% by 2030. In response to this target, Singapore has adopted the approach of green buildings. Introduced in January 2005, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA)’s Green Mark Scheme (GMS) serves as the national assessment criteria system to recognize both new and existing buildings locally which adopts environmentally friendly features such as increasing green cover, use of energy efficient technologies to reduce consumption, etc. Since April 2008, under statutory requirements, all new or existing buildings above 2,000 m2 in area undergoing major retrofitting have to attain at least a Green Mark Certification. As of 1 September 2010, a total of 524 buildings (existing and new) have been at least certified under the GMS (Kua and Wong, 2012).

In Malaysia, the green building rating system – Green Building Index (GBI) was launched in May 2009 to promote sustainability in the built-environment and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst developers, architects, engineers, planners, designers, contractors, and the public. GBI is developed specifically for the Malaysian-tropical climate, environmental and developmental context, cultural and social needs (Shaza and Rozana, 2014). The GBI is not made mandatory to comply. Until March 2013, 61 buildings have obtained the GBI provisional certification (Mona et al., 2013). The Malaysian Government has tried to promote green government building initiatives for new and existing buildings. The approach for new buildings includes of Energy Efficiency Programmes focusing on designing, constructing or retrofitting, operating and maintaining in a manner that reduces the use of energy. For existing buildings, efforts has been done especially through energy audit on selected government buildings all over Malaysia, energy saving programmes, energy performance contract, and retrofitting works (Yong et al., 2011).

In Thailand, the Energy Conservation Promotion Act (ECP Act) was promulgated in 1992. Ministerial Regulations detailing requirements in accordance with building energy code (BEC) for large commercial buildings, and a fund created to support energy conservation activities (ENCON Fund) became operational in 1995. However, energy conservation effort for commercial buildings in Thailand had been considered to achieve limited success at that time. As part of the effort to improve the situation, a project was launched in 2002 initially with the assistance of Danish International Development Agency and later through funding from the ENCON Fund to revise the BEC. The new code is now scheduled to apply in full to large and very large new commercial buildings. Particularly, a new building with floor area exceeding 10,000 m2 designated as a very large building, and a new building with floor area exceeding 2,000 m2 designated as a large building under Building Control Act, must comply with requirements of the new BEC for its design to be approved. These are consistent with the present bye-law of the Building Control Act requiring that building design and electrical and mechanical designs of a large building be submitted to obtain a construction permit. In the enforcement of the past bye-laws of the ECP Act, heavy focus was made on existing buildings and no effective mechanism for enforcement of energy conservation requirements for new buildings was implemented. It is expected that the designs of most buildings constructed during 1995 to 2010 might not comply with the code (Chirarattananon et al., 2010).

In Vietnam, in November 2005 the Ministry of Construction (MOC)’s Decision No.40/2005/QĐ-BXD promulgated the Energy Efficiency Building Code – QCXDVN 09:2005 aiming for the reduction of energy losses and improvement of living conditions in buildings. The QCXDVN 09:2005 was then replaced by the National Technical Regulation on Energy Efficiency Buildings – QCVN 09:2013 with its implementation is guided by the Circular No. 15/2013/TT-BXD of MOC dated September 26, 2013 that regulating mandatory technical requirements during the processes of design, construction, or upgrading for buildings (offices, hotels, hospitals, schools, commercial centers, and apartments) with the total floor areas of greater than 2,500 m2. However, in order to evaluate the effectiveness in implementation of this regulation in reality, more data on building energy consumption is needed. Currently, several organizations are performing data collection for evaluating building energy consumption and energy saving practices in the country. Similar to other Asian countries, the Vietnamese Government is also helping to promote green buildings in the country. There are three popular green building certifications in Vietnam namely LEED issued by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), Green Mark recognized by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA), and LOTUS issued by Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC). At present, there are more LEED-certified buildings in Vietnam. LOTUS is based on the same principles as other green buildings ratings tools but it is developed to fit Vietnam’s climate, infrastructure, regulations, and level of economic development in order to increase its relevance to the local market. The first pilot set of criteria for LOTUS was introduced in 2010. With the strong support from VGBC and due to its local relevance, LOTUS is expected to gain prominence in the coming years in Vietnam.

In Indonesia, greenship is green building ratings introduced in 2010 by Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI), a non-government and non-profit council. However, since the advisory and steering boards of GBCI are of government-officers, this council is also considered as semi-government council. To a certain extent, this council is the only council to certify green buildings in Indonesia. However, green certification in Indonesia is not automatic, gets no incentive from the government, and needs a long and complicated process. From 2010 up to now, GBCI has only certified 5 newly built buildings, 4 existing buildings and 1 interior space. At present, 12 new buildings are entering the first stage of certification process and several others are on the waiting list to proceed to their self-assessment stage before being assessed by GBCI (Christina and Karen, 2015).

From some of the cases above, it can be seen that the development and adoption of building energy regulations in most of ASEAN countries are generally still at the infant level. With the implementation of building energy regulations, some countries have achieved the initial success; however, some are still on the way. Surely, the energy demand for buildings will be increasing due to the growth in population, rapid urbanization, and economic development in Asia in the coming years. In order to ensure effective implementation of building energy regulations, continuous efforts of relevant stakeholders are clearly needed. More studies on evaluation of the implementation status in reality as well as identification of the major barriers (technical, financial, and institutional barriers) to the implementation and suggestions for possible improvements will be much helpful for policy- and decision-makers in promoting building energy regulations further, towards improved energy efficiency and energy saving for building sector in Asian countries.

Being an ASEAN-U.S. fellow, I am reviewing the existing “National Technical Regulation on Energy Efficiency Buildings – QCVN 09:2013/BXD” in Vietnam and building energy regulations in other Asian countries . Hopefully, through my work with the good lessons/practices learnt from other Asian countries, I could suggest the possible improvements on the existing building energy regulation in Vietnam to relevant stakeholders, for promoting building energy efficiency in my country.


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About the author: Nguyen Duc Luong received his engineer degree in the field of environmental engineering in 2005 from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering, National University of Civil Engineering (NUCE), Vietnam. In 2007, he obtained the master degree in the field of Urban Environmental Management from Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. He later got doctoral degree in the field of Environmental Engineering in 2011 from Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Korea. His major research areas are energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmental technology and management, and climate change. Currently, he is working as an ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow under National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies (NISTPASS), Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam. His fellowship work is focused on reviewing and proposing improvements on the existing energy efficiency regulations for building sector in Vietnam.