Retrofitting cuts construction cost, opens door to ‘green structures’

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Monday, July 14, 2014


TO CUT down the costs of building structures, a green architecture advocate is encouraging developers and businesses to consider retrofitting old or unfinished buildings.

Green Architecture Advocacy Philippines chairman Miguel Guerrero said in an interview during a seminar on Sustainable Construction last week that retrofitting can cut 40 percent of the construction cost.

He said that in building structures, 40 percent of the cost goes to construction, 40 percent to finishing, 10 percent to plumbing and 10 percent to electrical installations.

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But more than the decrease in construction cost, Guerrero said retrofitting also opens doors to “green” structures by adopting energy efficient technologies. Guerrero calls this kind of retrofitting as “greenovation.”

Allowing natural light to penetrate the building, adopting natural ventilation, using efficient fixtures, among many others are forms of creating a green and sustainable structure.

Guerrero, quoting a US study, said residential and commercial buildings cover almost 50 percent of energy consumption, side by side with “transportation” and “industry.”

The “cost of turning green” poses a zero to 6.5 percent increase in the building cost.

However, operating cost can be reduced by 30 percent to 50 percent, he said.

In downtown Cebu City, a six-story retrofitted building will be turned into a culinary school, the Asian School for Hospitality Arts, which is targeted to open in the last quarter of this year.

The building was formerly occupied by a motorcycle parts seller.

The architect said that before the procedure was done, an audit was made to check the structural integrity of the building. He said that for those who have plans to retrofit old or abandoned buildings, they should also do the same.

Guerrero said that even old buildings in the country’s oldest street, Colon, can be retrofitted in a way that its historical and cultural prints will be preserved while at the same time make it look better and sustainable.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has been pushing for his Downtown Revitalization Project. Part of the project includes the leveling of sidewalks, drainage and flooding mitigation and improvement of structural layout in the area.

There are still business activities in the area but some structures are abandoned or damaged.

“Even a hundred year old building can still be retrofitted,” Guerrero said.

Although retrofitting old or abandoned buildings for commercial or residential use can be unattractive to potential tenants or buyers, Guerrero said it is important that the purpose of retrofitting explained to them.

“Tell them that it has been checked and it is safe and ensures energy efficiency,” Guerrero said.

Retrofitting has not been widely practiced in the country today, but with the “finite” land resources that we have, the procedure will be increasingly becoming important.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 15, 2014.

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