Anissa S. Febrina, The Jakarta Post, Singapore
The cities of Jakarta and Surabaya recently signed the Urban Environmental Accord -- an building and construction-related agreement which has already seen Surabaya win an ASEAN energy award for its environmentally friendly Wonokoyo building.
But experts agree Jakarta has a long way to go before it can claim all new buildings under construction in the city would comply with international standards for energy conservation or waste reduction.
"We have only recently implemented a requirement for building rooftops to have some sort of greenery," Jakarta urban architecture advisory board member Moh. Danisworo said.
"But, that is not the real concept of a sustainable building."
The award-winning Wonokoyo building in Surabaya is designed to annually consume 88 kilowatts per hour (kWh) per square meter (sq m) -- which is at a far lower rate than the Asean standard of 200 kWh/sq m/year.
Experts agree the environmentally friendly movement is often used by developers and builders as a marketing gimmick -- or something called "greenwashing".
"You cannot claim to have a green building if the only effort you make is to plant trees or use water-saving toilets," New Zealand architect Craig Price said.
"That is what's called greenwashing."
While Jakarta's office buildings and high-rises may be adorned with lush green plants and sometimes even draped in green attire, the city is yet to include environmentally friendly features into its building codes, leaving it well behind developed countries globally.
But Jakarta does have plans to green-rate its buildings, said a team member with the Urban Environmental Accord adoption, Andono Warih.
"Technical details for green rating will soon be included in Jakarta's currently revised building code ordinance," Andono said.
And Danisworo said new requirements would include an increased green space ratio and limited basement coverage for buildings occupying flood-prone areas.
Flood is an issue Jakarta needs to tackle immediately, but "going green" goes much further than that, he said.
Research by the US Department of Energy showed commercial and residential buildings consume close to 40 percent of total energy consumption.
They use 70 percent of electricity, 40 percent of raw materials, 12 percent of fresh water supplies and account for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, buildings generate 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste.
World Green Building Council said green buildings were potentially the most cost effective buildings and were a relatively quick way of reducing CO2 emissions.
For Jakarta, two of the most important enviro-targets included reducing the city's CO2 emissions and decreasing residential and commercial water wastage, experts said.
Because the city is a tropical metropolis where average temperatures range between 23 and 37 degrees Celsius, it's a well-known fact that office building managers are continually asked to ensure tenants are comfortable enough to work.
Experts agree that instead of making sure the structure itself enables a healthier microclimate, facility managements tend to rely on air-conditioning, which leads to massive energy consumption -- unless supported by eco-friendly architecture.
The total cost of air-conditioning could reach up to 60 percent of total electricity costs.
According to a research by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), only one in seven buildings in the city embraced thermal comfort with low energy consumption.
"It is costly to maintain conventional non-environmentally friendly buildings -- but cost is also our main concern in constructing eco-friendly buildings," Danisworo said.
"The level of awareness is just not there yet."
Indonesian Real Estate Association (REI) chairman Lukman Purnomosidi said it depends what perspective you use when it comes to weighing up the expenses associated with eco-friendly buildings.
According to Autodesk vice president Phillip Bernstein, a green building costs between 10 percent and 15 percent more during the design stage compared to conventional buildings.
They also cost between five and 10 percent more during the construction stage, Bernstein said.
"Some of the best green buildings reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent and water usage by up to 80 percent."
And Price said some buildings that fall under the category of cost premium buildings had their investment paid back in five to seven years."
For developers looking for a quick yield -- long term investment in enviro-friendly designs, materials or technology is not a priority.
Indonesian Society of Civil and Structural Engineers chairman Davy Sukamta said developers were mostly concerned about the upfront investment required.
"Current efforts are limited to choosing energy-saving air conditioning, integrated lighting and limited intelligent building systems," Davy said.
"Supposedly, we could also take into account building materials used and the energy consumed in manufacturing and transporting them to building site," he said.
But Davy said this was not likely to occur with out some much-needed support from Jakartans and their administration.
Because the building and construction industry is predominantly led by the private sector, Bernstein said Jakarta's effort to go green "must come from the bottom up".
Possible features for green buildings:
* Optimized use of daylight and controlled solar access
* Photocell external lighting controls
* Air purging system
* Variable outdoor air flow rates
* Non occupied AC set back modes
* Water saving fittings
* Environmentally preferable materials selection
* Pneumatic waste conveyance system
* Rainwater harvesting and recycling
Source: Singapore's Building and Construction Authority-Autodesk Sustainable Building Seminar