Sefaira Customer Insights: Sustainability in Central America

MAP OF CENTRAL AMERICA

In the first of our Sustainability Around the World series, we speak to Mauro Zavala of Pear Constructor and Mauricio Chirinos of Green Building and Eco Solutions, an avid Sefaira user based in Honduras. Mauro is the designer of one of the tallest green residential buildings in Central America, the Igvanas Tara Apartments, located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The $13.6M project is breaking ground in April 2014. Our Q&A session with him sheds some light on sustainability in the Central American region.

Igvanas Tara

 1. Are certain aspects of sustainability & high performance more important in the Central American region?

The most important aspects of sustainability in Central America focus on daylighting and heat gain balance, given the high annual temperatures. Optimising the building envelope to reduce peak cooling demand, and then sizing ventilation and air conditioning systems correctly is critical to good performance.

2. How do construction stakeholders approach sustainability?

Historically, sustainability has been approached poorly — there has been very little awareness of sustainability — not only energy efficiency, but also the effects of rapid real estate development on Honduras’ fresh water and sewage systems. This is finally changing.

3. What drives sustainability in the region?

Owners initiative and escalating energy costs are driving sustainability in this region. Support from very enlightened owners helps drive sustainability results — without a visionary owner, the building will not be sustainable. From an energy perspective, the cost of electricity and fuel has risen 15% since November 2013 — which helps make the business case for energy consumption even stronger. The first governmental law regarding energy efficiency was only just passed in August 2013.

4. Is there a benchmark building that exemplifies sustainable architecture in the region? Are there notable architects that drive sustainability?

To date, there has been a lot of greenwashing. There are many who claim to be “green” or “eco” based on the implementation of some building systems or equipment, but these buildings are really quite far from efficient buildings. The ‘Green Tower’ in Tegucigalpa, Honduras has made a serious effort in terms of sustainability and has been a clear leader in driving sustainability goals in the region.

With the Igvanas Tara project, we are creating the first truly energy efficient apartment buildings in Honduras. With strategies such as photovoltaic power generation, solar water heating, a dedicated sewage treatment plant, and the replanting of existing trees in and around the building, up to the third floor and rooftop, Igvanas Tara will be a reference building for others to follow.

5. What aspects of building design do designers focus on?

The control of heat gains and balance with daylighting, in addition to reducing peak space cooling demands.

6. What strategies most interest designers in this region?

The most popular sustainability strategies are optimising the building envelope, orientation, brise soleil and shading systems, and ventilation as passive strategies, and solar PV generation as an active strategy.

7. What challenges do designers face when creating sustainable buildings?

The main challenge from a designer’s perspective is finding ways to persuade customers of the benefits and ROI of sustainable design strategies. Technical documentation on the pre-construction feasibility of sustainable strategies is also very important.