Luzviminda Capin, a housewife in the Philippines, never got used to the high utility bills for the small home she rented for much of her adult life. “I would be shocked to see my electricity bill. It never fell below 2,500 (Philippine Pesos, or about $50) a month,” she recalls. That was higher than what she paid for water, cable, and Internet combined.
For Luzviminda Capin, solar energy means more money for groceries.
Capin was far from being the only one suffering from the high cost of electricity: the Philippines has one of the highest household and commercial electricity rates in Southeast Asia, fueled by its dependence on expensive, imported fuel.
But that’s changing as energy-efficient communities like Via Verde Homes, developed by Imperial Homes Corporation (IHC), gain ground in the housing market. IHC is the first developer to receive IFC’s EDGE green building certification in the Philippines for two of its Via Verde communities.
IFC created EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) to identify sustainable practices and solutions in construction, increase efficiency in the use of resources, and reduce impacts on the environment. Compared to conventionally built houses, Via Verde houses consume about 40 percent less energy, 25 percent less water, and up to 38 percent less energy in the making of building materials. Via Verde homes that run on solar power, like Capin’s, eliminate 1,200 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year—the equivalent of taking a vehicle off the streets for a period of three months.
Appealing to Lower-Income Homeowners
IHC’s Via Verde is unusual because solar-powered homes are typically seen as a high-end market. By contrast, Via Verde built the country’s first grid-connected, solar-powered community of low-cost houses. Every house in Via Verde has a built-in 500-watt rooftop solar panel with a battery that powers basic household utilities during the day and stores energy for use at night.
This is helpful to Capin, who uses solar power to cook, watch TV, and wash clothes during the day. The lights and two electric fans can be turned on at the same time—which was not possible in her traditionally powered home.
IHC has been building homes for the middle- and lower-income market for the last 30 years. The company first went into business to provide solutions to the Philippines’ acute housing shortage—currently estimated by the government at almost 4 million. To meet growing demand, 6.2 million houses will have to be built by 2034.
By using EDGE as a guide for green building principles, IHC made additional design decisions compatible with Via Verde’s solar power features, including the use of raw materials to minimize the homes’ carbon footprint.
When Blueprints Go Green
EDGE, an innovation of IFC, has helped companies in nearly 140 countries design and construct green buildings. IHC began using EDGE in 2014 to create its Via Verde homes. The company recorded a 300 percent increase in sales after Via Verde was launched, in 2015.
As IHC becomes known as a property developer that advocates sustainable urban development, it is gaining international attention: The company was awarded the prestigious ASEAN Business Award for Green Technology in late 2017. Within the Philippines, its 1,000 units of Via Verde row houses and two-story townhomes are sold out. It is building more communities that low- and middle-income Filipinos can afford in Greater Metro Manila. These will also offer 24-hour solar power and energy-efficient features.
For Capin, the money she saves is just a part of the overall relief she feels since moving into Via Verde. “My monthly electricity bill has gone down to only 500 (Philippine Pesos, or about $10). I use the extra savings of 2,000 (Philippine Pesos) to either buy food and groceries, or to pay off the mortgage on the house,” she says. “As long as we live here, even if electricity rates go up 10 years from now, our monthly costs will be at a minimum because of solar.”