Infrastructure and property developers are not always implementing sustainability as they should, according to Glenn Frommer, Chief Sustainable Development Manager, MTR Corporation Ltd in Hong Kong. They do not plan for five to seven generations ahead, nor give the social elements of sustainability the focus they require.
A speaker at the marcus evans Asian Infrastructure & Property Development Summit 2012, Frommer talks about sustainable development, what it encompasses and how the industry could go “greener”.
Many people in the industry believe they are developing sustainably. Are they? How do you define sustainability?
I use the definition that the Brundtland Commission published in the “Our Common Future” report in 1987, where sustainable development is considered to be development that meets society’s current needs without compromising the needs of future generations. We need to consider a broader and more robust future for our development. Whether anyone in the industry is truly doing that, is questionable.
Besides utilising more environmentally friendly construction materials, what else would this approach include?
Consider sustainable development as a three-legged stool, with Economic, Social and Environmental elements as its three parts. On the environmental side, it is about looking at how materials are sourced, used and recycled. The Corporation minimises energy and water consumption, and recycles all the used oil and steel that is created from the maintenance of our railway. On the economic side, it is about being able to cost in all the externalities.
Lastly, social is the element that most developers do not go into depth with. We make sure to involve our key stakeholders, staff, customers and suppliers in trying to develop products and services that we can rely on and support economically. The three legged stool is in balance.
Is developing sustainably costly? In today’s economy where costs need to be minimised, what can developers do?
It is a question of taking the externalities within the cost. In some areas, there could be an additional one to three per cent cost, but as people are becoming more aware of these issues, they are becoming a negligible addition to the initial capital cost.
What are some of the opportunities that property and infrastructure developers in Asia could take advantage of today?
Two key areas are energy and water use. It is possible to design a low energy use facility, that can be easily maintained and have systems replaced as new ones come in, for example using LEDs, newer ways of air conditioning and dehumidifying. With water, one way is to use services that would not need constant cleaning or that can clean themselves, such as the surfaces that dirt cannot adhere to.
Sustainable development is not only in the design of a facility, but in its construction, maintenance and future re-use.
About the Asian Infrastructure & Property Development Summit 2012
Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on evaluating public private partnerships, achieving environmental sustainability and speeding up project completion.