PROP UP: IFC’s EDGE—An inclusive approach to sustainability

Sustainable properties have the perception of being expensive, exclusive, and out of reach for ordinary people. EDGE certification, an innovation of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is seeking to change that by simplifying the certification process with the help of technology and innovation. As we’ll see from Angelo Tan – Country Lead for the Philippines (Climate Business), IFC, World Bank Group – the future of green buildings is a lot broader and more inclusive than we may have thought. 

“EDGE was developed as a scalable, metrics-driven green building rating system,” said Tan. “It was initially designed for emerging markets but is now available in 170 countries.” 

The vision for EDGE to be a rating system for emerging markets gave rise to its simplicity. While other certifications may have seven or eight categories, EDGE defines green as 20 percent more efficient than baseline in three categories: energy, water, and embodied energy in materials. “The process has to be as straightforward as possible so that everyone can do it,” he added. 

Bluhomes affordable housing portfolio by Aztala Corporation is EDGE-certified.
Imperial Homes Corporation is an EDGE Champion for green affordable housing.

Prior to EDGE, most green certification systems were targeted at commercial buildings, which left a gap for a more inclusive system that could be deployed in a wider variety of property types and regions. “We wanted to be more inclusive, not just for office towers but also for other properties like residential. In the Philippines, EDGE-certified projects include properties not just in Metro Manila, but also in the provinces.”

All projects of Italpinas Development Corporation, including Miramonti Green Residences in Batangas, are certified green by EDGE.

One factor unique to EDGE is its integration with technology. “Our system is underpinned by the EDGE app, which is a free app that guides developers through all stages of certification,” said Tan. “It allows you to select sustainability measures for your project and determine the cost implications, expected savings, CO2 emissions reductions, payback periods, and efficiencies across energy, water, and materials that translate directly to utility savings for building owners, homebuyers, and locators.” 

The EDGE App allows developers to identify the most cost-effective sustainability measures, and reports cost and environmental impact data.

The EDGE app is designed to guide developers from the design phase through to completion and post-construction auditing.

“For a long time, developers found it challenging to comply with green building requirements. The software makes compliance easier, and allows developers to easily scale up, especially in emerging markets,” said Tan. It is this focus on simplifying requirements and streamlining the certification process through the software that has allowed EDGE to certify sustainable buildings outside the traditional office and commercial properties conventionally associated with green rating systems.

From a cost perspective, EDGE aims to dispel the perception that green ratings are prohibitively expensive to most properties. The EDGE software itself is free, which enables developers to quantify expected efficiencies as early as the planning phase and use these savings to “offset” the cost of certifying. The exact cost depends on the size of the project, but “from start to finish, developers can expect to pay a registration fee of US$200 to US$300 and between US$3,000 and US$10,000 for the certification depending on the total area of the property; significantly cheaper than other green rating systems.”

For all its ambitious objectives, the push for inclusivity has been working, at least here in the Philippines. Across the country, the footprint of EDGE is growing, with more than 30 properties certified, covering 752,000 square meters of gross floor area.

“Half of this total area is residential and located outside Metro Manila,” he said. More than 5,800 housing units have been EDGE-certified. Without EDGE, many of these properties would not have had the resources to get any sort of green certification.

Damosa Diamond Tower is the first EDGE-certified office building in Mindanao.

It’s not just developers that are taking note of the importance of sustainability. According to Tan, the transition to work from home brought about by the pandemic has made people seek more sustainable and energy efficient homes as they contend with higher electricity bills. 

Most importantly, in the Philippines, we have adopted an all-country approach to sustainability. “From the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 to the Green Energy Option Program (GEOP) that allows developers to choose renewable energy providers, the government has been supportive and created an enabling environment for net zero carbon buildings — a space where the Philippines is emerging as a leader,” said Tan. 

NEO’s portfolio of seven office buildings is the first EDGE Zero Carbon-certified portfolio in the world.

All this leads to the perfect confluence of enabling factors to support sustainable property development. “We are changing the narrative that green buildings are just for expensive high rises in Metro Manila,” said Tan. “We are making green more accessible to all.”