Issue 3, 2013. June-July

   

BUILDING GREEN: NEW TRENDS IN GEORGIAN CONSTRUCTION

As part of the ongoing series about the Georgian real estate sector, Investor.ge spoke with Giorgi Abulashvili, the director of the Energy Efficiency Centre in Georgia, about the state of eco-friendly construction in the country today.

Construction increased in 2012, the latest figures available, with a production value - an indication of the monthly value added - of 3.8 million lari ($2.33 million), up from 3.3 million lari ($2.02 million), according to official statistics.

The competitive market for developers is driving a growing interest in building energy efficient new apartments and homes, noted Giorgi Abulashvili, the director of the Energy Efficiency Centre and one of Georgia's strongest activists for the efficient use of natural resources.

Tbilisi, and the rest of the country, has long struggled with homes and offices built during the Soviet Union, when natural resources were plentiful and inexpensive. A 2008 report by World Experience for Georgia (WEP), an energy efficiency think tank, found that energy efficiency in homes could save the country 30-35 percent of the country's energy consumption.

Abulashvili said that enterprising developers are starting to tap into the pull of potential energy bill savings.

"At the last there are some good cases or good examples in Georgian new construction. We can find energy efficiency technology in buildings being constructed," he said. "[S]ome two or three years ago that was almost impossible to mention such a building but now you have around ten new buildings, new residential constructed buildings around Tbilisi having insulated building envelopes and some energy efficient equipment..."

There are no standards for energy efficiency in the current construction code - or energy efficiency provisions in the procurement laws, Abulashvili said, which makes it difficult to motivate government contractors to build using energy efficient building materials.

It also makes it difficult to track how Georgians are using the energy efficient construction materials that are already available in the country. Abulashvili said that based on the availability of incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs - as well as the extensive sales of double glazed windows - Georgians are increasingly interested in energy efficiency.

The WEP report indicated that changing the type of light bulbs is the "most profitable and easy-to-implement energy efficiency measure, on a large scale."

Changing six million bulbs could mean a $85.6 million saving for Georgia's external trade balance. WEP analysts found that if all light bulbs were changed, it could save the energy sector $26 million a year.

"[D]ue to awareness raising campaigns, the population is becoming more aware... [W]e are seeing an increased trend of energy efficient goods entering the Georgian market and that is a good indicator that the demand is increasing," Abulashvili said.

There is also an increase in the use of insulation in building residential homes and replacing roofs, he noted. The biggest problem, however, is that even with a new building code that requires energy efficient building materials - the existing stock will still exist, and will still consume more energy than necessary.

Basic misconceptions also still exist, Abulashvili noted. For instance, the belief persists that concrete walls do not require insulation although they are less energy efficient than brick walls.
"The awareness level is slowly raising but the realization of the knowledge, I would say, remains that the same level," he said.