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Costa Rica launches new green building certification

Costa Rica is celebrated around the world for its “green,” pro-environment image. This week, the Green Building Council of Costa Rica is helping to launch a new certification system here that will help builders and homeowners manifest that reputation.

The Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies system allows builders and architects to calculate potential savings and carbon emissions reduction for green building projects. EDGE, a sustainable building certification from the International Finance Corporation, aims to make sustainable design accessible to developing world countries for free.

It makes its free recommendations based on a case study carried out in the country where the project takes place. The system is currently available in 100 developing world countries.

EDGE allows builders and designers to discover where they can best incorporate green cost savings for free, regardless of whether they choose to pursue full certification.

Friday, GBCCR will launch the EDGE certification system for the first time here in Costa Rica on the closing day of the council’s International Sustainable Construction Conference in San José.

José Cordero, technical director of the GBCCR, said one of the biggest problems for those interested in sustainability is “green washing,” the practice of claiming a product is sustainable without any supporting evidence. The technical director said that certification systems like EDGE allow clients and builders a way to prove that their project really is as green as they say.

The IFC’s decision to make the EDGE program free was not coincidental. Green building still suffers from the stigma of high costs.

“Costa Ricans really like the idea of sustainability and carbon neutrality, but when it comes to putting down an extra colón to make that happen, Ticos take a step back,” said Daniel Matamoros, technical adviser to GBCCR.

But financing for green building here is becoming increasingly accessible.

BAC Credomatic, Costa Rica’s first certified carbon neutral business, started offering 100 percent financing for green projects in May 2014 to help homeowners and businesses get over potential sticker shock.

“It’s not just about fashion or the environment; it’s about saving money,” said BAC’s Nathalie Hidalgo.

BAC finances projects up to $1 million for businesses that want to install solar panels, solar-powered water heaters, or wind turbines to reduce their electricity bill and carbon footprint. The bank will also finance smaller projects for homeowners.

Julio Esquivel, sales executive with Arte en Luz, a high efficiency light design company that had a booth at the conference, said that switching over to LED lights might cost more upfront than traditional fluorescent lights, for example, but the savings pay back in the short to medium term.

Esquivel said that LED lights coupled with a smart power management system could save a home or business as much as 70 percent on its electricity bill.

“The more control you have over how the lights are used, the more savings potential,” Esquivel said.

In the words of GBCCR’s José Cordero, “Small changes can have big impact.”

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