Is your favorite shopping mall green

#MakatiCondo January 27, 2011

SHOPPING AT the malls has become a lifestyle in the last 20 to 30 years. In the past, one would go downtown to do most of the shopping, braving the heat, dust, garbage along the streets and the noise of the city to get the cheapest prices for goods and services in Baclaran, Divisoria or Carriedo.

The only way to go downtown then was by public transport, or if you were bold enough, by private car, which caused parking problems. There was no mass public transport then. There was much less traffic but it was a very inconvenient way to do one’s shopping.

Today all that has dramatically changed with all the conveniences of the modern air-conditioned shopping malls found in many parts of the country.

This is specially true in Metro Manila with so many malls making it a shopper’s paradise. Manila’s new name is “Asia’s new shopping capital.”

The new shopping malls being built now are massive and gigantic structures that dominate the landscape. Their number is expected to increase in our country as the demand for consumer goods continues to increase, thanks to our healthy growing population.

This is in stark contrast to shopping malls in other countries that are closing down due to the recession and dwindling population.

The construction of shopping malls has a considerable impact on the environment in terms of land development, water conservation and energy, among others.

Indoor air quality

Fortunately, many of our malls are striving to take green initiatives to minimize their impact on the environment.

Is your favorite mall green?

First, ask if it has good indoor air quality or IAQ. Is there sufficient air exchange? Is the air you breathe pleasantly cool with no trace of stale air? Strictly speaking, the freshly brewed coffee that you smell in the lobby should only be confined to the coffee shop.

The restrooms are very good testing grounds for checking the quality of the indoor air. Are they stuffy or humid? Is the air foul especially during rush hours?

One area where many shopping malls fail with regard to indoor air quality is the parking areas. When you get out of your car after parking, do you feel nauseous due to car exhaust buildup? Modern buildings now have carbon monoxide sensors that bring in fresh air automatically to prevent people from getting sick from toxic air in basements and parking lots. Garbage collection and clean-up of parking areas are also very important to safeguard health.

Another area of concern in parking areas is security. If lighting and space planning are well done, a woman shopper going back alone to her car is not exposed to danger.

Mall parking entrances in big cities have automated systems with locators to tell motorists where empty parking slots may be found.

Is your favorite mall mostly dependent on artificial lighting? Or is heat buildup excessive because there are not enough sunshades to protect mall goers from too much sun and glare?

Natural ventilation

Incorporating natural, not artificial vegetation inside the malls is another easy way to spot if your mall is green. Plants reduce temperature and enhance indoor air quality. The leaves absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen; this regulates humidity indoors.

Another visible way to find out if your mall is green is in the way it uses precious water. Check out the lavatories in the toilets. Do they use electronic sensors or mechanical pop-up fixtures to limit water use? Do they have aerators to conserve water? Are water closets low-flush types and the urinals waterless models?

Energy use has probably the biggest impact on the environment, especially for our country that is still so dependent on fossil fuel for its energy needs.

Gigantic malls consume so much energy to power the air conditioning, lighting, elevators, escalators, appliances, pumps and other equipment so that mall patrons are comfortable. Energy consumption is closely monitored by a sophisticated computer system called Building Management System or BMS. They continually give the building engineers real-time feedback as to how the mall is using energy and making adjustments if needed. This is the best way to check if the building is energy efficient.

Loss of the local, particular

Shopping malls are dominant structures that can endanger the natural and social environment. They symbolize globalized capital and can erase cultural differences since malls everywhere contain the same products and brands.

Malls can contribute to fostering a consumer mentality in our materialistic society that looks at a person not so much for what he is but rather for what he has.

The greening of malls should very much include preserving local culture and positive values by promoting cultural shows, concerts and exhibits in the shopping malls.