Tall Towers: Saigon’s Race to the Clouds

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

Saigon’s skyline is defined by a few standout tall towers concentrated in District 1. Peering over Ho Tung Mau street is the city’s third tallest tower, the 40-storey Saigon Times Square. Nearby at the half-moon of road around the Tran Hung Dao warrior statue is the Vietcombank Tower Saigon, the second tallest tower in the city and the seventh tallest tower in the nation.

At 258 metres, Bitexco Financial Tower comes in first. It is about 100 metres taller than third place and about 50 metres taller than Vietcombank Tower Saigon.

Though, all that may soon change.

Even accounting for all the planned towers in Ho Chi Minh City, Bitexco Financial Tower will still remain among the tallest structures in the city, but the incoming Ben Thanh Towers at 235 metres and the 195 metre-high Saigon One Tower are formidable competitors. The city’s iconic lotus-shaped tower will eventually be dethroned for tallest tower by the 461-metre Landmark 81.

Not only will it be the tallest tower in Vietnam, but the tallest in Asia by a petty amount: the development that currently holds that title is Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers, which will be a mere 20 centimetres shorter than Landmark 81.

But when will these towers be finished? What exactly will the skyline look like when it’s done?

Let’s dive deep into Saigon’s towers and gaze into the future.

Ben Thanh Twin Towers

The Ben Thanh Twin Towers project—not to be confused with the Ben Thanh Tower Condo, which has the Air 360 Sky Lounge at the top—will one day be two daring spires designed like a pair of postmodern sculptures overlooking the roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market.

For now, however, it’s a walled off plot of half-laid foundation and dirt.

Bitexco Group began the Ben Thanh Twin Towers in 2012. They were planned as a 55-storey mixed-use development: the majority of the space would be dedicated to condominiums, but the tower would also be the home of office and retail space.

towersImage source: images.millenin.com

Total investment at the time was about $400 million. The project was expected to be completed in 2015.

The conceptual design seems a little haphazard, but the building’s planners have actually designed it with intentional symbolism.

The project’s two towers symbolise the popular Vietnamese symbol of two dragons. This well-known iconography depicts a pair of entwined dragons circling towards a sun. It’s a common image at pagodas and other prominent cultural locations, like the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural. The dragon is frequently associated with flight, ascendance and progress.

Similarly, important Vietnamese sites like Ha Long Bay have incorporated the word dragon into their names (the Vietnamese word long means “Dragon” in English).

A popular Vietnamese saying: Rồng gặp mây translates to “Dragon meets the clouds,” meaning something is in a favourable condition.

The project’s two towers will reach 235 metres and 225 metres—touching the clouds, indeed.

When Will It Be Finished?

The project is now expected to be completed in 2020, according to Bitexco Group’s website.

A Bitexco group representative confirmed the new timetable for #iAMHCMC in a phone interview, but wouldn’t go into more details on why the project has been delayed for as long as it has. They noted that builders have nearly finished the basement portion of the Ben Thanh Towers.

Empire City

Also arriving in 2020 is the Empire City project. This 14.5-hectare city-within-a-city development features a shopping mall, an office campus and a 5-Star hotel. The crown jewel of the development is an 88-storey building that will lord over the new development named Empire 88.

towersImage source: lonelyplanetwpnews.imgix.net

For now, the building’s planned height will make it taller than the in-progress skyscraper that’s also vying for the title of tallest tower, Landmark 81. However, the Empire 88 will top out at 333 metres, significantly less than the 461-metre Landmark 81.

It’s not only height that defines this tower, but also a groundbreaking design that brings green elements into the project. And we’re not talking about solar panels or sustainable materials.

The name “Sky Forest” comes from the buildings’ use of actual trees and plants about two-thirds of the way up the Empire 88 building. At this height, the building will have five square-ish platform shaped floors jutting out of the building that will be covered with living plants and trees.

Dubbed the “Sky Forest” by the architecture firm leading the design Büro Ole Scheeren, the international architecture firm unveiled the proposed design last November.

towersImage source: cdn.wallpaper.com

Concept drawings show the Empire 88 tower along with a group of three towers arranged around the terraced public space rich with plants and trees. The architects said they wanted to capture the feel of Sapa’s iconic, terraced rice paddies. The architects have planned a multi-tier, stacked park with graduated platforms. Viewed from above, the space might mirror something like a fingerprint with the platforms’ edges creating continuous lines that wind through the three Empire City towers.

When will it be finished?

The Keppel Land-led project expects to open its first residential properties in the second quarter of 2020.

The 88-storey tower should not be too far behind.

Keppel Land reports that 680 units within the Empire City project have already been sold to prospective residents.

Landmark 81

The Landmark 81 tower had been scheduled to “top out”—the phrase used in skyscraper construction where the highest element has been constructed—in May. But builder Coteccons hit that landmark 45 days ahead of schedule by giving Ho Chi Minh City an architectural asset now taller than the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. With the 61-metre spire at the top of the building, Landmark 81 stands at 461 metres, about 10 metres taller than the Malaysian towers.

The 81-storey tower is the centrepiece of the Vinhomes Central Park project in Binh Thanh District.

While it remains under construction, developers have been quick to point out that this will not only be the tallest building in Vietnam but the 23rd tallest in the world.

towersImage source: en.vinhomestancang.co

The Vingroup-owned, US$1.5-billion tower is being built with a cinema, indoor skating rink, gym and clubhouse for residents, including a pool, gym, spa and outdoor lounge. Residents will be able to choose from apartments with up to four bedrooms.

The architectural design appears like a cluster of bars consolidated around a tall steeple. The result is a building of staggered heights facing towards the Saigon River. On their website, Atkins, the British architecture firm who designed the project calls it “modern and unusual,” a symbol of the rapid ascendance of Ho Chi Minh City. Retail developments will be the base of the building.

towersImage source: ccr.vn

Even before the building is completed, the development had already amassed awards. Landmark 81 garnered the “best residential high-rise development Asia Pacific” at the Asian Pacific Property Awards 2016. “Atkins is proud to be involved in this award-winning project for Vingroup, as it represents a new benchmark in high-quality, sustainable, high-density, vertical living. This building type will be particularly important as Asia moves forward,” said in remarks reported in a press release created concurrently with the award.

Video source: DC Film

When will it be finished?

The project appears to be on track to finish construction by this year. When completed, it will be only one metre shorter than the Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, the 22nd tallest tower in the world. It will be less than 10 metres taller than the 24th placeholder, the Changsha IFS Tower T1 in Changsha, China.

Banner Image source: lonelyplanetwpnews.imgix.net


Gateway Thao Dien: Raising the Bar for Luxury

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Gateway Thao Dien is Ho Chi Minh City’s answer to high-end, exclusive living

Investors may be surprised by the level of commitment Gateway Thao Dien has shown. It seems delays and misinformation are common complaints for anyone investing in property in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, Gateway Thao Dien has delivered on its word, and even provided added value for its investors - something rarely seen in the local real estate market. There are four ways Gateway Thao Dien has kept its commitment to its demanding home buyers.

On Point and On Time

To date, Gateway Thao Dien has reached all of its milestones on time. Construction has been carried out in a timely manner. From the beginning of October, the status of the project has been going along smoothly: Tower A (The Aspen) and Tower B (The Madison) are expected to complete level 20 and 22, respectively, this November. This means the projects is on track for its expected completion of date of the last quarter of 2017.

World-Class Partners

Backing Gateway Thao Dien are a number of highly reputable contractors and suppliers. These companies all have outstanding track records, and were carefully chosen for their professionalism. Gateway Thao Dien put much effort into acquiring the support of these partners - and buyers can clearly see the results in the quality of the residential complexes, the timely execution, and the customer support given throughout.

Cofico: Since 1975, Cofico has been renowned as one of the leading contractors for both civil and industrial projects in Vietnam. Honored to be appointed as the main contractor for Gateway Thao Dien, the team at Cofico is making every endeavor to satisfy the developer’s requirements for progress, quality and safety. The company’s brand name will act as a guarantor for the construction quality of the project.

Mace: In charge of construction management and supervision of the Gateway Thao Dien project, the Mace Group is a global consulting and construction firm employing 4,600 people across 70 countries. Their management and supervisory team are actively ensuring that the high quality products selected by Gateway Thao Dien are given the proper level of treatment during installation.

Searefico: This company is responsible for providing Gateway Thao Dien with integrated mechanical and electric solutions, as well as equipping the project with modern, high quality products and utilities. Lifts have been installed from world-renowned Swiss elevator company, Schneider; Daikin air-conditioners and Mitsubishi generators have also been added to ensure quality airflow and uninterrupted power. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM), SEAREFICO helps minimise problems in the construction process, ensuring quality installation and quicker progress.

Arup: Known for their intelligent, sustainable structural design, among other high-quality services, Arup is an international firm with 13,000 staff across 42 countries. They have been responsible for some of the world’s most famous structures. They have assisted Gateway Thao Dien with the tower blocks’ structural design, as well as the project’s penthouse floors. Gateway Thao Dien is one of the tallest residential buildings in HCMC, and Arup ensures all the buyers this will be one of the safest places to stay, in terms of structure.

Eurowindow: High-end windows are supplied by Eurowindow. The high-tempered glass is soundproofed up to 40bB, with powder-coated aluminum frames. Complying with AAMA2604 standards, Eurowindow will offer a 20 year warranty for all of its products.

A Surprise Upgrade

Buyers will be delighted to know Gateway Thao Dien’s developers have upgraded many of the appliances that were initially agreed upon. In particular, most bathroom appliances from Kohler and Toto have been promoted to Duravit and Hansgrohe. Teka kitchen appliances have been upgraded to the German Bosch brand. Digital door locks have been changed from Samsung/Yale to Häfele from Germany. Entrance and internal doors will be provided by Sunwood, with the same specifications as for their Marina One project, one of the most luxurious multi-purpose high-rises being built in Singapore.

Steep Rise in Property Value

Metro Line 1 (Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien) is the first metro line in HCMC, with a total span 19.7km and a budget of US$2.49 billion. After the development of Line 1’s master plan, numerous projects began to spring up in the vicinity of the train line. As Line 1’s construction nears completion, property values will rise for anything in the line’s vicinity - that includes Gateway Thao Dien, which is right by the metro.

Contact information:

Website: www.gatewaythaodien.com.vn

Hotline: +84 9 3205 7979

Addresss: Gateway Thao Dien Sales Gallery, 53 - 55 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3


Ibis Saigon Airport: A New Flagship for AccorHotels in Vietnam

By: Arik Jahn

The First International Brand to Open an Airport Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — With an electrifying event, ibis Saigon Airport, AccorHotels’ brand-new hotel sitting right next to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, celebrated its grand opening on 24 March 2017. Ibis Saigon Airport is the latest addition to AccorHotels’ vast hospitality network in Vietnam.

Ibis hotel

Over a hundred guests, including Ho Chi Minh City officials, representatives from AccorHotels and the hotel’s owner company Hado Group attended the event, which paid tribute to ibis Saigon Airport with an opulent buffet, contemporary dance performances and a rooftop party.

“A Milestone for the ibis Brand”

The ibis Saigon Airport’s major asset is its strategic position: a mere 500 metres from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City and all of Vietnam. Xavier Cappelut, Accor’s regional Director of Operations for Middle Scale & Economic Brand Hotels, praised the hotel as “a significant milestone for the ibis brand” thanks to its one-of-a-kind location.

Ibis Saigon Airport is a haven of hospitality tailored to corporate travellers and all those looking for “Value for Money”. With its functional and stylish travel-themed design and an outstanding 24-hour food and beverage service at the in-house Oopen restaurant, this hotel truly honours ibis’ slogan, “Well-being at the best price”.

ibis

As the first international airport hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, ibis Saigon Airport goes beyond the usual amenities of the economy sector. Its room typology – standard rooms, family rooms, studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments – is unrivalled in the budget segment, catering to the individual needs of each and every guest, from corporate clients to travelling families, from short-stay to long-stay visitors.

INTERVIEW WITH ORESTE TRAETTO, GENERAL MANAGER, IBIS SAIGON AIRPORT

Question: What makes ibis Saigon Airport the first choice for business travellers in Ho Chi Minh City?

Mr. Traetto: Our hotel is strategically tailored to business travellers. Our Oopen restaurant is open 24 hours and we are the only international hotel chain offering a breakfast service from 4 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock [in the afternoon]. So if you have an early flight to catch, you will be able to grab some food, get a coffee, hop on our free shuttle to the airport and you’ll be there in five minutes.

ibis oopen

Or imagine you are a businessperson, and had a hard working day. At ibis Saigon Airport, we provide you with all the facilities to truly reenergise you. What is very important to us is the ibis ‘sweet bed’ that can give you a really good rest. We have incredibly good feedback from our clients about it. And all that, I believe, shows how we really cater to the customers’ needs.

Question: You are very proud of ibis Saigon Airport’s in-house venues. Can you tell me a bit more about them?

Mr. Traetto: Today, travellers, even though they stay for a short amount of time, they want to optimise their stay. Now, with The Hub, ibis Saigon Airport has the only rooftop bar in  Tan Binh District. When you finish your work, you go upstairs, get a beer and enjoy the view of landing airplanes. We have a pool, we have a steam bath, we have a sauna, we have a gym – this is definitely what gives us the opportunity to attract a specific segment of clients. We provide our guests with a place to relax.

We are, if I may say so, part of the new generation of ibis hotels.

ibis hotel view

INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER CAPPELUT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR MIDDLE SCALE & ECONOMIC BRAND HOTELS, ACCORHOTELS

Question: AccorHotels is home to many brands. Why did you choose the ibis brand for this particular project?

Mr. Cappelut: I think this is a very unique location. The guests who choose to stay close to the airport have very specific needs. They might be in transit for a few hours, they might be spending their last night in Vietnam after a trip. We believe the level of comfort provided by ibis is just the right amount for these specific customers.

And the beauty of a brand like ibis is: you can travel anywhere in the world, you will find the same layout, the same service, the same comfort. Guests choose ibis because they know exactly what they can expect. That’s a guarantee that we provide to our customers. And they appreciate it.

Question: Vietnam is a country with an immense potential for tourism. How does ibis Saigon Airport serve this very particular market?

Mr. Cappelut: Vietnam is very important to us as a group. We, AccorHotels, have been in Vietnam since 1991. Back then, we were the only international hospitality company in Vietnam. That shows how committed we are to Vietnam as a business location.

And today, this country is developing at a dizzying pace. Last year, there was a 26% increase of international visitors and a 9% growth in the domestic market in Vietnam.These are incredible numbers.

And of course, we try to attract Vietnam’s domestic guests. The ibis brand perfectly caters to them because it is a functional, but full-service product that offers “Value for Money”.

Ibis Saigon Airport is quite simply the right product in the right place at the right time. And it is highly visible. In fact, we couldn’t be more visible than here at the airport. In that sense, ibis Saigon Airport is Accor’s flagship in Vietnam.

ibis hotel room

AccorHotels’ journey in Vietnam is far from over. In the next two years, the group plans to open another 12 hotels all over the country, which will bring its total portfolio to 36. But thanks to its eminent location next to one of Vietnam’s most important travel hubs and its many amenities, ibis Saigon Airport is undoubtedly a go-to for all Ho Chi Minh City-bound travellers.

 


Hong Kong and Singapore Investors Seek Opportunities in Vietnam

By: Timo Schmidt

Vietnam’s new laws for foreigners, released in July 2015, have already had great impact on the local housing market in the country.

Particularly, investors from within the region are amongst the first ones to actively seek investment opportunities in the country. Savills Vietnam has seen great interest and real demand from foreign buyers based in Singapore and Hong Kong. To better understand the reasons for their aggressive moves it is important to look at the local housing market in these respective countries.

Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade due to ever-increasing demand from local and foreign investors. While Singapore is a preferred investment destination for buyers from Malaysia, Indonesia and mainland China, the market in Hong Kong has seen tremendous investment from the latter.

“Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade”

To react to the social problems caused by the price increases - such as lack of affordability for first-home buyers - governments in both destinations have put cooling measures in place. These are now showing effect with a considerable drop in transactions, and prices are expected to drop in both countries.

In Singapore and Hong Kong the governments reacted as early as 2009 with a variety of cooling measures, which included:

  • Increase of Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) for purchases of multiple properties of up to 15% in Singapore and 8.5% in Hong Kong respectively, particularly for non-resident foreigners and entities.
  • Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) on resale of properties with short holding periods in Singapore for periods of less than one year, which was later increased to three years. And in Hong Kong from two to three years.
  • Limits on loan-to-value for multiple unit purchases, meaning that buyers could not leverage purchases by using bank loans. Especially relative to foreign buyers or those who purchased multiple units.

These measures were specifically introduced to curb property investment and speculation - particularly by foreign investors - rather than preventing irsthome buyers from purchasing units. The effects are finally starting to show with transactions and prices decreasing in both markets, and talks of a property market crises making the rounds. More importantly, the yield potential in these markets has declined due to the additional purchasing costs.

Photo by: Tri Nguyen

Taking into consideration that Hong Kong and Singapore investors are amongst the most active in the region, Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia. With excellent yield potential and prices at a fraction of those in Hong Kong and Singapore, investors can purchase multiple units at the value of one property in their home markets.

“Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia”

Savills Vietnam was among the first real estate agencies to take advantage of this by creating an international sales department to actively promote Vietnam’s properties in these key markets; in collaboration with Savills regional offices.

“We have seen great interest of local developers to market their projects abroad, and have scheduled a series of sales events in Hong Kong and Singapore over the year 2016. Our offices in both countries are excited to promote Vietnam’s properties given that the easing of restrictions allows foreign investors to take advantage of low prices and excellent yields in comparison to their local markets,” says the head of International Residential Sales for Savills Vietnam. “Since inception of the department we’ve transacted nearly US$20 million in sales to foreigners without bringing projects abroad. We are confident that this number will increase dramatically over the coming months.”

The opening of the Vietnamese property market to foreign investors is expected to draw more foreign investment into Vietnam from private and institutional investors.


Can Vietnam Ever Become Green?

By: Michael Sieburg

Citypassguide.com met with Solidiance’s Michael Sieburg to determine whether Vietnam, and in particular HCMC, can ever become truly green. Here is the transcript of Michael’s comments:

Solidiance is a consulting firm that works with clients across industries. There are three industries we focus on. One is simply called industrial, which includes construction, chemicals, and all that. That’s the core of what we do. Then there is healthcare, especially in Vietnam. And what we call technology. In total we have 12 offices across Asia.

Within the industrial stuff we do, our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going. We think Southeast Asian countries will be using these technologies more and more - green cities, clean cities, however you want to describe them. Our CEO is personally interested in this. He’s doing an online course with Harvard University to learn more about this subject. I don’t know when he sleeps. “When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there”

We are also a consulting company - we have clients who want to be where our other clients are - large multi-nationals. These companies are at the forefront of developing more efficient air conditioners, elevators, eco-friendly paint, smart grid technology, electric cars and batteries. Our clients are often innovating and making these technologies, and part of these projects involves green building output. They want to sell their products and part of their line is more energy efficient stuff.

School of The Art - Singapore

Most of the certified green buildings in Vietnam have been factories. And it’s not like there are thousands of green factories, but they are the biggest component, and I think part of it is that when you’re a company developing a factory, you’re also using that factory and they consume a lot of energy. It makes sense to find ways to save on that, even though electricity prices are low here, for now. A lot of these companies also have global standards that they must adhere to. “Our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going”

One of the biggest factors in pushing green building practices is electricty prices. The government is currently subsidizing, which won’t go on forever. I think it needs to be balanced with low-income residents. For example, energy prices in Cambodia and the Philippines are high. And that hurts manufacturing investment there. Once electricty prices rise, there is a point when wind power become profitable, and at some point (economists figure out this point) you see further adoption of energy efficient machinery.

Calling for a country to raise electricity prices where many people cannot afford it is a difficult thing to do, which is why the government treads slowly.

Green Building - France

The cost of making a building is a bit more expensive - how much? That depends on what you’re doing. I think the real issue in buildings going green is when property developers create buildings for somebody else. The developer’s incentive is to keep costs down and cut corners where they can, because operating costs are somebody else’s problem.

When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there. You can argue that there is an incentive that you price the units higher when you sell them - President’s Place proved that correct.

Vertical gardens at Parkroyal, located in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. Photo credit: Straits Times

At the moment there are not really well-defined mandates in Vietnam. In Singapore there are mandates - any new building must meet green standards. Everything here is left up to the developer, if they want to build green or not. If you talk to the architects around here, the younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels. What you do see here is that a building might not be certified green, but the water heaters are solar. There is a move towards that. A lot of hotels are doing that - they probably have some hybrid electric-solar water heater when it’s not a sunny day, but as a way to save electricity costs. “The younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels.”

So factories also have that. The biggest solar plant in Vietnam at the moment is Intel’s factory, which is saying something. Vietnam is a sunny place; you can’t run the whole country on solar, but is there a gap between what there is and what there could be? Definitely.

Green Building - China

Young people are interested in sustainable development, which is good to see. Saigon in some ways doesn’t have to follow the same practices as other countries - they have the luxury of learning from others’ mistakes, one would hope.


Meet the Expert: Charles Gallavardin on sustainable architecture in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

Today, the demand for more sustainable design in HCMC is steadily getting off the ground. Charles Gallavardin of T3 Architecture Asia sat down with Citypassguide.com to give his perspective on green buildings in Vietnam. Charles and his wife started T3 Architecture in France in 2007, specialising in green architecture. When Charles arrived in Vietnam in 2011 to begin T3 Architecture Asia, the demand for green building was low, although interest was growing. We spoke with Charles to determine what changes were taking place to catalyse this newfound interest.

What is the definition of a green building for you?

It’s a building well integrated into the place it’s set up at. It should take the landscape into consideration - the shape of the building is quite important, to be protected from the sun and allow for natural ventilation. The idea is to avoid direct light in a hot tropical climate; that’s why we design overhangs or balconies, to take the facade away from the sun, so you keep your main walls in the shadows.

Secondly, you have to take care of the roof, and make sure there is a double ventilated roof to keep the air flow and make the top floor always cool. Then, ideally, you try to use green building materials, sourced not too far from where you are.

Why does Saigon need such type of construction?

Saigon is one of the more polluted cities in Asia now. There is a huge issue concerning air pollution. The demand of energy is getting higher than what can be produced. What we can see for many years is that Vietnam is mainly doing a “copy-paste” of buildings they saw in Western countries with full glass facades but they didn’t realise that the climate is totally different and that they have to create their own style to make their building more appropriate to the climate, to save energy, save costs and make the building more comfortable.

Do you think one of the main challenges to building green buildings in Vietnam has to do with people’s perception?

Yes. I think when you discuss this with most Vietnamese, of course they want more parks and more green areas. But in reality, in urban development in Vietnam, this is still considered a quantity issue. Which means they try to plant vegetation to increase the number of green area per square meter per inhabitant, but without having in mind that it’s better to have many small parks than having long green areas along the highway. It is the same story with green buildings: a green roof doesnæt make your building green.

 

Do you think one of the main concerns for people who don’t understand green buildings too well is the fear of additional costs?

I don’t think so, because finally we can do green buildings quite cheap, depending on the material you use. But the green principles are very basic and you can find it everywhere in the traditional architecture of Vietnam. Traditionally you have your long and narrow plot, with the shop facing the street, the house on the backside and a courtyard in the middle. The air ventilation is efficient and you have natural light in your house and your shop. The house is far from the street so it’s far from the noise. For 20-30 years, Vietnamese have lost their knowledge of how to create a green house, but recently some young Vietnamese architecture firms take traditional building materials and traditional Vietnamese architecture and incorporate it in a more modern sense to make the house more green.

So green houses are one issue, but can you tell us about the problem of green urban areas? Is this something that can happen in Vietnam?

Yes, it could. But what we can see in the development in Vietnam, it’s always private investors who wield the city, and their model is a Singaporean one, but with a lower budget and less knowledge. There are really few alternatives for high-rise buildings and private houses. So when you have a private house, the plot is usually very small, and you have very few green areas. And for high-rises, you need to build these by large streets if you follow regulations, so then you have very narrow green areas.

One solution would be to make the city very dense, with apartment blocks lower with some streets more narrow, but keeping some spaces open for parks and public gardens, like we have in Europe.

Is the government aware and sensitive about the need to do something about that?

Yes, they are. There are many discussions about this. But if you’re a private investor and you finance infrastructure, the government cannot complain too much about what you do. You try to optimize your plot as much as possible.

Is it possible to bring more awareness to private investors by showing them the financial reward in doing so?

Yes. In America and Europe, the government pushes green building by giving a loan or some advantage. The government in Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of money, so they’ve let the private investors do the development. But private investors’ awareness is going up because they see people want more green spaces, nice areas around their apartments, so it’s starting to change.

Is it feasible to build a green house or building using only locally sourced material?

Yes, it’s possible. There are many materials available; less than Western countries or Singapore, but enough to build something green. The prices are the time.

What about reusing old material. Is that something that happens in Vietnam?

Yes, a bit. For example, many architects reuse wooden shutters for part of the facade to use as ventilation. But not so much, since the quality of the construction is not so good and when you destroy a house there’s not much you can use.

Some years ago I met with an architect and he told me something that surprised me. He said that Vietnam is one of the best countries in the world for recycling. When a house is being dismantled, the Vietnamese will often take every brick and every cable, to try and reuse it for some other purpose. Is this true?

This is partially true. They reuse material by placing it on natural soil to make it not porous anymore, and then they pour cement over it to make a concrete slab. But then you have the problem that you don’t have enough natural soil then to absorb the water during rainy season, and it makes flooding a very important issue in the near future.

Energy consumption is growing, meaning the price has to go up, which means it makes sense to have more energy efficient practices and buildings, correct?

Yes, this happens in every city. When energy prices go up, green houses and buildings become more and more normal. Of course, for Vietnam, electricity cost is very low, even compared to the standard of life. One issue, even though it’s never easy for government to say that they have to increase electricity costs, especially for poor people, it’s a real way to make developers and private investors more concerned about energy savings.

In 10 years from now, what do you think the state of green buildings will be in Vietnam?

Green construction has been developing more and more, first in hospitality projects; you have international guests, so five or six years ago in the private sector and even residential projects, Vietnamese started to be more concerned about energy and cost savings, and the quality of the environment. Thanks to Vietnamese architects and small agencies, we can do something more.

Almost none of the existing high-rises in Ho Chi Minh City are really environmentally friendly. If the price of energy rises, most of these building will have to be rebuilt or adapt to the new demands. And you provide this service?

Yes, full renovation to adapt an existing building and make it less costly in terms of energy, and most important of all we make it more comfortable for people!

How big of a project is it for someone who wants to make their home more green?

Usually, you have to touch up the facade and main structure, so it’s a bit costly, but you don’t have to demolish all. It can be from some very simple like adding shutters, to touching up the roof at VND 3 million per sq m, up to VND 10 million per sq m to redo something very properly and almost reconstruct the house.

Is the wiring in Vietnam efficient?

In terms of fire hazards and electric shock, no. 

And LEDs?

There is a huge market for LEDs. They are replacing halogens with LEDs everywhere, more and more in residential projects. But before thinking about advanced technology and costly equipment - which is important also - the first thing is to try and hire a good designer when you are creating a building. And if the design is well done you are sure to have very low consumption. And of course you put some LEDs and solar panels. One of the problems in Vietnam and in developing countries in general is people don’t think of the basics. Once you do this, then you can think of the high-tech equipment and energy efficiency.


  Thank you for Signing Up
Please correct the marked field(s) below.

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH