Moderator Kevin M. Carroll, Representative Director, EA International LLC., and panelists (left to right) Professor Dana Buntrock, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley., Keith Boswell, Partner, SOM, George Kurumado, Architect, Managing Officer, Takenaka Corporation and Tom Miller, Regional Director, LaSalle Investment Management, Asia Pacific.,  during the concurrent session “Energy Use and Building Performance in Asia – Getting the Most out of your Professionals” at the ULI Asia Pacific Summit, in Tokyo, Japan., on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

From left: Kevin M. Carroll, representative director, EA International LLC.; professor Dana Buntrock, department of architecture, University of California, Berkeley; Keith Boswell, partner, SOM; George Kurumado, architect and managing officer, Takenaka Corporation; and Tom Miller, regional director, LaSalle Investment Management, Asia Pacific, speaking during a panel discussion at the ULI Asia Pacific Summit in Tokyo, Japan.

As tougher energy efficiency standards become the norm for new buildings, older buildings will be expected to keep up, said panelists at the ULI Asia Pacific Summit in Tokyo. In some markets, one expert added, reducing dependence on foreign energy is also an economic security issue that can be addressed relatively easily through energy efficiency.

Dana Buntrock, professor in the architecture department at the University of California, Berkeley, discussed the political context for energy use in Asia and also contrasted the region’s built environment with that in the United States and Europe, where energy efficiency and building performance are given greater emphasis.

She noted that Asian countries face much greater energy insecurity: countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan import much of their energy supplies, often via ships traveling in the dangerous waters between Asia and the Middle East. Tension among these nations over island groups such as the Senkaku Islands is a direct result of the natural gas fields below the ocean, she said.

However, Buntrock had good news for the Asia Pacific region, demonstrating how the United States had exceeded expectations for energy performance from buildings. She showed the gap between a 2005 U.S. Energy Information Administration projection of the country’s energy use and the substantially lower projections from more recent studies, indicating that energy efficiency efforts are working.

Use of available best-in-class techniques and technology in every building could save trillions of dollars in energy spending, she said.

Energy efficiency efforts in Asia are lagging those in the United States, and the combination of energy inefficiency and reliance on imported energy constitutes a risk, she said. For example, the Japanese building code has no provisions regarding energy efficiency, she said.

However, the solutions for Asian real estate are already available: “The technology can be imported,” she said. But Buntrock also noted that officials should consider local needs rather than just bring in a ready-made solutions from elsewhere.

Tom Miller, regional director at LaSalle Investment Management, said that on the one hand, his company’s perspective on energy efficiency is often constrained by the average seven-year life of its funds. “Our investor clients want sustainability, but they won’t accept measures that reduce their returns,” he said. “We have to decide how much sustainability we can afford.”

At the same time, Miller said easy wins are available for even the most cash-strapped developer or tenant. “You might not be able to afford [capital expenditures], but you can turn off the lights,” he said.

He also said developers will be forced to match the standards of their competitors, which could lead to a virtuous cycle of energy-saving measures. “It’s relative to the market,” he said. “If everyone is LEED Platinum, then you have to be, too.”

The panel agreed that very different approaches are taken by owner/occupiers and developers, the former being able to take a long-term view of recouping costs. George Kurumado, managing officer of architecture and construction services firm Takenaka Corporation, also noted that projects across Asia are affected by the variation among countries in climate and technologies. “Japan and India are very different,” he said.

Keith Boswell, partner at SOM, provided some pointers for energy efficiency plans. In order to drive the process, “You need to define a clear and memorable message and idea,” he said.

Developers and architects need first to understand the basics of energy efficiency and not try to run before they can walk, he said. “Start early; energy use needs to be considered right from the beginning of the process,” he said. Like Kuromado, Boswell argued that projects must address the local environment.

Metrics and analytics are important: “Show me the energy bills” is a good start, Boswell said. He also maintained that many best practices regarding energy use simply involve common sense. “I come from farming stock,” he said. Architects and developers should apply a little “farmer mentality” in considering energy use and building performance.