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Construction industry strives to achieve sustainable, eco-friendly growth

VIETNAM, February 15 - HÀ NỘI — The construction industry is one of the most chemically intensive, involving several persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and possible future POPs. This has substantial environmental and human health implications. However, in the context of the rising circular economy trend, as well as the digital and green transformation, the sector must continuously update its practices. Việt Nam News reporter Ly Ly Cao talked to Nguyễn Công Thịnh, Deputy Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment under the Ministry of Construction (MoC), to learn about the changes taking place in the Vietnamese construction sector.

What are the impacts of the green trend on the construction industry?

The commitment to net zero emissions and the global green transition is a driving force that impacts not only the construction industry but also all sectors, from production and distribution to trade and consumption of products and services. The construction industry is within this trend.

We have also recognised that the green transition and sustainable development are essential trends, aiming towards the common goal of net zero emissions. 

The green transition is being strongly implemented across various stages, starting with the principles of planning. There are updates in regulations, standards and economic-technical norms within the industry, as well as advancements in the production of construction materials and mechanical engineering. Investment in construction projects is also aligned with these green principles.

Currently, there are many changes in construction methods to minimise environmental impact. These include the management and operation of projects meeting the requirements for energy-efficient use and environmental protection.

Another promising area is waste management, particularly focusing on wastewater treatment and recycling. The responsibility for treating domestic wastewater lies with the Ministry of Construction, and we are also focusing on this field to increase the percentage of treated wastewater that meets environmental standards and can be reused in a circular manner. This allows us to use water efficiently and save resources for various purposes after wastewater treatment.

What tasks are the MoC and businesses in the sector implementing to meet the national roadmap in line with the commitments made by the Prime Minister at COP26?

The Minister of Construction issued Decision 385 dated May 12, 2022, outlining the action plan for the construction sector to meet pledges made at COP26. The decision includes numerous tasks and solutions for various areas.

For example, in the field of construction material production, solutions are provided for greenhouse gas inventory and transitioning to technologies that employ industrial waste suitable for producing construction materials. This aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the construction sector.

In terms of infrastructure, the ministry has established pathways for energy-efficient and resource-saving practices, as well as the development of green infrastructure to minimise energy consumption, resource usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding urban areas, efforts are being undertaken to encourage the development of green cities and sustainable urban growth. Planning and architectural design solutions are being applied to utilise materials more effectively, manage project usage, and strive for environmental protection, energy efficiency and low emissions, ultimately achieving the government's overall target of net zero by 2050.

Is there a strategy in place to renovate and invest in existing buildings to make them greener? How is this effort going?

Under the regulations of the 2010 Law on Energy Conservation and Efficiency, existing buildings are subject to certain requirements. Firstly, they must undergo energy consumption assessments through energy auditing tools. Secondly, they need to gradually replace outdated and energy-intensive technological equipment in the building with high-energy efficiency devices that comply with the energy labelling regulations set by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. These measures aim to modify and reduce the energy consumption levels of the building, ultimately promoting energy-saving and efficient practices.

Solutions, such as water usage and utilisation of alternative materials, also require strategies for recycling and reusing to enhance waste treatment and ensure that waste from wastewater, solid waste, and emissions from the construction site meet environmental protection requirements. This is part of the application of green building criteria for existing projects, and the certification assessment process for these criteria is currently being carried out by relevant organisations.

I believe that the renovation of existing buildings should go hand in hand with the application of criteria for new construction projects. There are already numerous funds and investment projects available for building renovations, including the participation of businesses through ESCO models to support the replacement of equipment and renovation of buildings. This includes architectural solutions, material solutions and equipment solutions to meet the requirements for energy-efficient use and efficient implementation in buildings, aiming towards green criteria.

Another crucial aspect, in my opinion, is the change in mindset among building managers and users. By enhancing awareness, the costs may be reduced to zero, while the benefits gained are significant in achieving the green objectives of the building.

Is it necessary to establish our own green building index?

In fact, we have been developing green buildings for over 10 years, there are 305 at present. The number of green buildings is relatively low, and there are currently four popular green building rating systems in Việt Nam. I think that the difficulty is not in the lack of tools and evaluation criteria. The Lotus certification system by the Vietnam Green Building Council has already been established and is operational. It has been localised and includes many climate-specific conditions suitable for the Vietnamese context, making it fully applicable.

I believe that at present and possibly in the coming years, there is no need to spend time and resources developing and maintaining a separate set of evaluation criteria. It is more practical to focus on implementing the existing rating systems for the time being. — VNS