Georgian Green Construction Stumbles Between Demand And Law
15 March, 2012

Green construction stumbles on legislative and strategic gaps in Georgia while government expects market demand to boost environmental-friendly constructions.

 

EU official directives assure that the biggest energy-consumers are buildings today consuming 40% of all energy consumption however Georgian old infrastructure with heavy concrete exterior walls and single glaze windows built in line with the soviet standards - consume more than 60%.

Thermal resistance to heat losses within Tbilisi’s buildings are 3 to 4 times less than the EU energy efficiency standards recommended for Tbilisi climate zone that increases both pecuniary and ecological wastes: Georgia uses 40 to 50% more energy for heating per square meter of floor space than EU countries with the same climatic zone that translates to proportionally increased pecuniary, security  and ecological wastes for the country that by almost 100% depends on imported gas 70-80% of which goes on heating.

Figures bespeak of lack green construction standards and energy efficiency strategy as a whole in Georgia experts say and recommend to solve the problem by building international energy-efficient norms in law

On the other hand, sector pundits suggest insulating the already existed soviet residential house infrastructure that may cut down heating costs by approximately 40% per year, Karine Melikidze, Director of Sustainable Development and Policy Center, said.

But insulation old buildings require millions of investments, government claims and making green construction norms obligatory may kill the already stagnated construction industry that barely survived the double impact of global financial crisis and August war.

Energy-efficiency was built among key priorities of Georgian energy policy before 2008 but the war and financial crisis make the issue stagnated, Mariam Valishvili, Deputy Energy Minister, said and now only some pilot projects supported by foreign organizations like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and USAID are implemented.

EBRD opened the USD 35 million credit line to Georgian banks in 2008 and has already disbursed up to USD 20 million through its three partner local banks to both corporate and household beneficiaries. Household turned out less active and about 90% of credits were handed to industry mainly hydro power development projects rather than construction, Irakli Mekvabishvili, Senior Banker at EBRD, said.

Giorgi Abulashvili, Head of Energy Efficiency Center Georgia, operating for about 12 years as a consultant center to both business and households, also says construction companies appear less interested in consultancy for evaluation energy-efficiency of their projects.

Melikidze believes the reason construction companies are passive to focus on green construction is the legislative gap.

But government prefers to wait and allow the market to filter things gradually.

“Who constructs private houses they are interested to use green construction norms for they know of future benefits but construction sector will not survive this, we do not want to create demand forcefully,” Valishvili said in the interview Georgian Journal.

Goga Kapanadze, Head of Georgian Developers’ Association and Director General of Axis Construction Company, assures his company pursues green construction as much as possible and acknowledges that stronger standards are necessary but after the crisis wanes.

Another construction company Arci seems eager to make energy-efficient standards obligatory as soon as possible to make market healthier. Temur Megrelidze, Director of Arcitech responsible for technical standards of Arci constructions, claims that many companies take advantage out of legislative gaps on standards and save money thus affecting price-making of reputable companies.

“Market demand cannot help this problem, for consumer cares for potential benefits of green accommodation least of all unfortunately, it pays more attention on district and design when pays. And only law is supposed to solve this problem, for when there will be legal demand on strict that technical parameters things get better immediately,” he said.

Georgian non-governmental analysts believe market demand cannot be created for ages if the law does not lay ground to it. And till the law includes holes on standard sides the profit-oriented developers save money not only on overlooking extra green construction norms but on expense of general quality and buildings with much less thermal-resistant coefficients [than those of soviet time] mushroomed throughout country.

According to Melikidze, if old standards required walls  of 40 cm width made of two-line bricks new constructions frequently have half thinner walls and one can scarcely find a really green building in Georgia but few happy exceptions.  And the only recipe to this low- standard-plague is fixing firm standards in the law.

“Once the law will be stipulating strict norms everybody will obey, there will be no other way,” she elaborated. “All countries adopting green construction started from the law. Even developing post-soviet countries like Russia, Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan have already adopted these standards.”

Abulashvili agrees that insulation old soviet-infrastructure requires lots of money and it should be solved in long-term prospect through special complex strategy but it is worth of efforts.

“This kind of insulation will be very profitable for the household level as heating expenses shrink by at least 30%. At larger view the country’s entire energy balance, energy security and economy along with ecology stands behind this simple household profit that reduces entire energy consumption and outweighs expenses on insulation,” he said.

On the other hand Abulashvili disperses fears that green construction is as costly as painted by government and developers.

“Green norms may increase construction cost by just 10% or do not increase at all for energy-efficient materials are much lighter and the building framework requires less reinforcement coefficient and less expenses respectively, while such housing cuts energy costs down and has a long-term economic and ecological as well as social-political effect ultimately that cannot be put in figures. Even NATO included energy efficiency among its priority just recently so important it is,” He said.

According to Tamar Rukhadze, Head of Urbanization and Construction Department at Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development, rules on constriction sector are under vision at the moment and they will be green-oriented in line with the best international standards.  However, at the moment she cannot name even tentative timetables when the rules are supposed  be completed and active.