High expectations for green building’s next phase in Latin America

Nicolette Mueller
October 21, 2016

This article was originally published by Sherwin-Williams in Spanish in the magazine "Esencial" in July 2016, and is reproduced here with permission.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, the majority of people living in Latin America believe that climate change is a serious problem. In fact, many people believe their lives, health and economies are already being impacted by a changing climate patterns. So it’s no wonder that Latin America is becoming one of the leading lights in the global green building and sustainability movement.

By the end of this year, there will be more than 1,000 LEED-certified projects in the region across 20 countries and territories in Latin America. There are 2,500 projects more in the pipeline. There are more than 1,550 green building accredited professionals, all connected by a strong network of 17 national green building councils.

Although LEED® has seen strong and steady growth across the region since the very first project was certified in 2005, it’s not the only tool for market transformation. The year 2016 saw the first WELL Building Standard projects and accredited professionals in Latin America, along with the first EDGE projects and auditors from Mexico to Argentina. By early 2017, we should have the first SITES® and Parksmart projects for Latin America too.

There are challenges to the growth of green building in Latin America. The World Green Building Trends SmartMarket report earlier this year identified specific challenges in Latin America, including the lack of public awareness of green building and the lack of political support or initiatives for it. Top LEED project teams also report that the perceived higher cost of LEED certification and the current exchange rate is often a barrier. 

Though these barriers are real, and can inhibit the rate of progress, the forces driving change in Latin America are simply too strong: the widespread acceptance of climate change; the pressure of urban density, with over 80 percent of the population living in cities; the natural drive to compete locally, regionally and globally; and a strong community dedicated to market transformation.

Examples of success can be found across Latin America.

The majority of the projects are commercial offices, new construction, core and shell buildings, or LEED for Commercial Interiors, such as Sherwin Williams Centro America, the first LEED Gold project in El Salvador.

LEED can be used for a range of building types and across the lifespan of building where we live, work, learn and play—from the oldest certified building in the Americas to the new Academic Innovation complex at PUCP in Peru. LEED can be applied to neighborhood developments such as Chile’s Barrio Las Salinas, public buildings like BCR-Centro de Negocios Nicoya in Costa Rica and retail locations similar to the Homecenter in Cajica, Colombia, and the Baltra Airport terminal in Ecuador.

Finally, gorgeous residential projects such as the Dormitorios Ciudad del Saber in Panama and Guatemala’s Terra Esperanza demonstrate that there is clearly an appetite for green buildings and the host of benefits they bring. 

Early adopters of green building have already made the investment in the technical knowledge necessary to design, build and operate a better building. Owners who were willing to be the first to market with a LEED building have invested in systems that may have incurred higher up-front costs, but that have saved time and money and generated a significant return on investment.

Manufacturers who have watched the green building market boom around the world are producing products that help buildings meet their performance goals, and many times, these very products are being produced in an efficient, high-performance industrial building.

To these early adopters, pioneers, and risk-takers—we say "thank you." And to those who have been carefully waiting to see whether green building is a fad or a growing trend—the time is right to join us. There are green building councils, experts and stellar examples of sustainable buildings everywhere you look in Latin America. Our expectations are high, and with your help, we will exceed them.