PROP UP: Emma Imperial—Bringing together PropTech and sustainability for a better quality of life

Published November 20, 2021, 4:35 AM

by Joseph C. Tay

Corporate social responsibility, innovation, advocacy—these terms take on new meaning with Emma Imperial as her company, Imperial Homes, sets out to build solutions to some of the biggest hurdles facing Philippine society today. In this week’s feature, we sit down with the country’s first PropTech developer, to find out how Imperial is tackling a housing crisis, environmental challenges, and a few more obstacles along the way. 

Imperial’s foray into sustainability began during her trips to Europe, where she noticed that solar-powered homes were common in places as far north as Scandinavia. “I saw a lot of houses using solar in Europe, so I thought, ‘Why not in the Philippines?’ because we have one of the highest solar irradiance in Southeast Asia,” recalled Imperial.

Imperial Homes spearheaded the concept of a solar net-metered community, where homeowners can sell the electricity they produce back to the grid.

This led Imperial to start her first sustainable affordable housing community in 2012, against the advice of friends and family who viewed solar as an expensive home accessory for the wealthy. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she said, but her desire to address a systemic housing shortage while providing a sustainable solution to mass housing led her to persevere. 

“We have a 6.5 million housing backlog,” said Imperial. “Add to that the most expensive electricity prices in Southeast Asia.” Imperial Homes spearheaded the concept of a solar net-metered community, where homeowners can sell the electricity they produce back to the grid.

All Imperial Homes properties are EDGE certified; the company has committed 8,000 more ongoing and future units for certification.

“Our homeowners are not just consumers of electricity, they are producers, and utilities companies pay them for that,” explained Imperial.

Overall, homeowners can expect to save 30 to 70 percent off their regular electricity bill, which Imperial noted, has been a welcome relief for the many working from home during the pandemic.

Emma Imperial has led sustainable affordable housing in the Philippines through her PropTech development company Imperial Homes.

For some savvy buyers, the savings can be even more. “Some of our buyers only use solar during the day and then the battery in the evening to maximize their savings.” A P300 to P400 electricity bill is common for an Imperial Homes resident, but she noted that some homeowners have had bills as low as P15 despite working from home.

But affordability does not have to come at the cost of quality. Imperial is quick to share that homeowners get the cutting edge in both solar and building technology, despite costing an average of P1.8 million to P2 million per unit. Imperial Homes’ solar panels use technology developed by Belgian manufacturer Enfinity Solar, including a battery that provides 24 hours of electricity even during power grid outages. 

The company also builds using Connovate high performance concrete from Denmark that is 20 times stronger than traditional hollow blocks. “Our concrete has a compressive strength of 14,000 psi that can withstand 8.4-magnitude earthquakes.” Due to its zero permeability, it is also a healthier option for people working from home because it is resistant to mold even in high humidity tropical environments.  

Imperial Homes builds its units using Connovate high performance concrete from Denmark that is 20 times stronger than traditional hollow blocks.

For buyers worried about maintenance, Imperial Homes takes care of the residential solar power systems through an in-house team. “We have a 25-year performance guarantee and 10-year product warranty on the solar panels,” said Imperial. The company also provides an orientation to buyers on how to increase their savings from solar to maximize the yield from their investment. 

For all her efforts in democratizing green properties, it comes as no surprise that Imperial has been a champion for EDGE certification in the Philippines—the affordable, innovative, and inclusive green rating system designed by the International Finance Corporation. “All our properties are EDGE certified, and we have committed 8,000 more ongoing and future units for certification,” said Imperial. 

Imperial Homes’ residents can expect to save 30 to 70 percent off their regular electricity bill through solar.

What’s next for the ambitious developer? What started out as a project to tackle a housing and sustainability crisis has turned into an all-out effort to make the Philippines a leader in PropTech and green innovation. If Imperial has learned anything from the pandemic, it is that society is only as strong as its weakest link, so she is seeking to leverage technology to elevate the quality of life of the most vulnerable.

This year, Imperial, together with other industry leaders, founded the PropTech Consortium of the Philippines—an organization of leaders and innovators in real estate that seeks to enhance the quality of life of average Filipinos by integrating “sustainable, resilient, and smart technologies” into properties.

“Our call to action is for industry leaders and government to adopt a whole of nation approach for innovative, sustainable, resilient, and globally competitive development so we can make the Philippines a model for the world.”

 
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