Global market watch: Mexico—A rising leader in green building and sustainability

Published on: 
20 Aug 2015
Author: 
Nicolette Mueller

Mexico City: It’s a place famous for its pre-Colombian civilizations, its cuisine and culture, and as the megacity once ranked as the #1 most polluted city in the world.

Today the city is a rising leader in sustainability and urban innovation, with aggressive work to decrease pollution, promote public health and wellness, and the highest concentration of LEED buildings in Mexico. Of course, the cities of Zapopan, Monterrey, Guadalajara and Queretaro are not far behind in the race to be the national leader in green building, and these cities have helped to make Mexico the largest market for green building in the Spanish-speaking world. 

Last month, USGBC released the latest in the series of LEED in Motion reports with a special focus on Mexico. USGBC and our partners at Sustentabilidad para México (SUMe) hosted an Executive Forum and reception with special support from Johnson Controls, Lend Lease, Mundo HVACR, and hosted in the LEED Gold CIEC-World Trade Center’s—an impressive illustration of sustainability in practice and the perfect locale to celebrate and recognize the organizations and professionals who have made Mexico a regional leader in green building. A daylong technical meeting with over 60 Mexican LEED professionals followed the Executive Forum, as this dedicated group of professionals discussed LEED v4 application in Mexico and ways to make LEED even stronger in Mexico.  

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the very first LEED certified project in a market that continues to set the pace for Latin America. Mexico’s first LEED AP and first LEED Fellow, Cesar Ulises Trevino, and his company BEA can now claim to be the first LEED v4 project (Platinum certified, no less) for Mexico. Mexico is also setting trends when it comes to health and wellness. The WELL Building Standard, the first building standard to focus on human health and well-being which launched in October 2014, is making inroads in Mexico as the first projects begin pursuing WELL Certification in the region. Going for LEED certification is important for achieving the best possible outcomes for environmental sustainability, and WELL maximizes the potential for supporting human health and wellness. 

Iconic projects along Paseo de la Reforma like Torre HSBC (LEED Gold for New Construction, 2007 and LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings, 2012) and Torre Mayor (LEED Gold for Existing Buildings, 2013) are powerful examples of global investment in LEED and in Mexico City. Torre Mayor’s Director of Operations, Felipe Flores noted that his company’s investment in sustainable design has helped the company distinguish itself in a highly competitive market, with lease agreement periods doubling from five to ten year contracts since Torre Mayor achieved LEED certification for its buildings.

But new buildings and global companies aren’t the only ones pursuing LEED: Mexico City’s Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento, located in the heart of the Zócalo, houses the Office of the Mayor, the nation’s oldest library, will soon erect a new stand in the main lobby to showcase their LEED Gold plaque. Not only is the Antiguo Palacio considered the first modern building in Mexico City (built in 1527), it is now the oldest building in the world to achieve LEED Gold for Existing Buildings. According to the LEED project administrator, Alicia Silva of Revitaliza Consultores, the Antiguo Palacio was able to achieve LEED Gold with considerable ease thanks to a series of investments in energy efficiency measures that, combined with the building’s new LEED certification, make this historic building the poster child for the energy efficiency and retrofit work taking place all across the city. 

Privately owned Mexican companies are also ramping up their commitment to LEED and green building. Alejandro Bátiz of CIVITA, another leading green building consulting firm in Mexico, noted that a wide range of companies are expressing interest in owning and operating a LEED building, from small, family owned and operated child care centers to university campuses and family-owned conglomerates. Instituto Thomas Jefferson is the first school to partner with USGBC’s Center for Green Schools on an ambitious plan for whole school sustainability. 

It’s a trend confirmed by Cushman & Wakefield’s Africa Rubio, whose growing team of sustainability professionals in Mexico City are responding to inquiries from the hospitality and retail sectors. Both sectors are predicted to be major areas of growth for the new construction and retrofit markets, as Mexico becomes the new headquarters for global business. 

All of this is great news for Mexico, the first developing nation to formally announce its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in the run up to the U.N.’s COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris this December. Mexico drew international applause from major environmental organizations and NGOs for its ambitious proposal of cutting green house gas (GHG) emissions by 22% from the business as usual baseline by 2030.

Buildings in Mexico City contribute at least 20 percent of GHG emissions according to the World Resources Institute, and so Mexican leaders have good news to share in Paris this December about Mexico’s rising leadership in green building and their positive steps toward the 2030 goal. 

Thanks to the collative efforts of public and private sector leaders who are committed to a greener, more sustainable future for their country, Mexico is becoming a world leader in sustainable building.  It’s a global market to watch, and one that will surely continue to raise the bar for LEED and green building in the Americas.

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