The phrase “Green Building” has become popular in not only professional circles but also in the national and foreign investment community and organizations. In Vietnam, although this concept has been emerging for several years, the real nature of Green Building is not new. Since hundreds of years ago, sustainability factors have been applied proficiently in design and construction.

Not a new concept

Taking folk houses as an example: this type of construction is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it is able to cope with erratic weather. The aerodynamic and ventilation factors are also applied reasonably to provide a comfortable living environment without using energy (simply because there is no electricity available).

Realizing the connection between the past and the present, a lecturer of the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Construction at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Ms. Le Thi Hong Na, finished her doctoral dissertation on studying the design of the Northern folk house to apply into the modern high-rise buildings, meeting the criteria of sustainability.

The proposed model of high-rise apartment according to “green” design from the Vietnamese folk house


A Malaysian folk house, structured similarly to the Vietnamese folk houses (Nhà Rông), received LEED Platinum certification is another example. Sustainable thinking in building design is obviously not new, however, the implementation techniques are increasingly complex, partly because of the increasing number of devices, solutions, expectation and demand.

A traditional house in Malaysia received LEED Platinum 


The green building movement only began more than two decades ago, since the foundation of the Green Building Council of America (USGBC) in 1993. The agency compiled a set of criteria including energy efficiency, water saving fixtures, environmental materials, etc. and then summarized into the standard abbreviated as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Since then, LEED standards have been widely applied not only in the United States but also in many countries around the world, including Vietnam. Statistically, there are about 50,000 constructions designed according to LEED in the US and about 100 in Thailand. In Vietnam, there is only a modest number of 30 projects.

In addition to the global LEED standard, most countries have their own National Green Building Councils, which are members of the World Green Building Council. These councils, beside promoting the development of green buildings, also do research and publish their own green building standards in accordance with their country’s natural and socio-economic conditions.

The Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC) was established in 2007, then issued the LOTUS standard in 2009. Since then, more than 10 construction projects in Vietnam have been applying this standard. Another popular certification applied widely in Vietnam is Singapore's GreenMark, which is already applied by over 10 projects in Vietnam. Thus, there are 50 Green Buildings in Vietnam so far (by the end of 2014).


The "Green Building" movement

Why does green building trend develop so strongly? I think that there are both macro and micro factors contributing to the development trend of green buildings in the world and in Southeast Asia in general, including Vietnam in particular.

Facing the global climate change and depletion of natural resources, affected nations and international organizations have been calling for action. At the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York last September, countries’ leaders made a series of pledges. France committed to invest $1 billion to the Green Fund to help developing countries cope with climate change. The United States and China had specific commitments towards reducing emissions and protecting the environment. Part of these funds would be disbursed through international organizations in the host country.

In Vietnam, USAID is funding and working with the Ministry of Construction to research and provide training on green building and environmental education. IFC, a member of the World Bank, sponsored the compilation and dissemination of the National Energy Conservation Standard, referred to as QCVN 09: 2013/BXD. These activities have contributed to raise awareness and provide the foundation about environment and green building for the society.

However, only these macro factors are not enough to appeal businesses to act for such a strong development of green building. The real reason is that businesses have seen the practical benefits they would receive when investing in green building

First, green buildings are designed according to strict energy- and water- saving criteria, which results in a significant reduction in operation costs. On average, a green building saves about 20% of electricity and 40% of clean water compared to ordinary buildings. In the long run, green buildings will reduce the risk of operation costs while the electricity and water prices have increased continuously.

The selling price and rental price of "green" civil and commercial buildings tend to be higher than ordinary buildings. Mr. Autif Sayyed, IFC representative, said at the recent Green Building Annual Meeting that the average price of a house certified as a green building in California was about 9% higher than ordinary houses, while in Singapore it was 4%.

President Place office building - the first green building in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


The Housing Act (amended) allowing foreigners to buy houses will also create "green" housing demand in the real estate market, as these customers always set high standards for the living conditions.

In the manufacturing sector, factories implemented green building solutions will usually be prioritized in business partnership. Nike, a shoe manufacturer, always chooses its partners based on four criteria: quality, unit price, delivery time, and sustainable production, all of which are equally weighted.

Nike manufacturing factory in Moc Bai, Vietnam, achieved both LEED & LOTUS certifications


In addition to the tangible benefits mentioned above, green buildings bring investors many long-term and intangible benefits. It can be said that the better working condition the employees have thanks to green building, the higher factory productivity.

If the total of the entire cost of a 50-year life cycle of a building and the construction cost is 1, the operating cost is five times higher and the cost to pay employees is 150 times. In addition, by investing in green building, investors will build a good brand image in the community.

Gradually, I believe that one day, green building will become a necessity and it must be so because we have no choice while the environment is increasingly deteriorated and the current competition among companies is becoming harder.  Thus, the only problem is time. Like many other races, the opportunity will be there for those who take advantage and actively take part in.

Đỗ Hữu Nhật Quang – Co-founder of GreenViet Company