Photo of two men and a woman sitting at a table in a conference room

From left to right: Professor Tran Ngoc Chan, Professor Pham Duc Nguyen (ACEE), Dr. To Thi Loi

January 2016

The Vietnam Clean Energy-Energy Efficiency Program (VCEP)—led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—has partnered with the government of Vietnam to update its Green Building Code and to promote high-performance, energy efficient buildings throughout the country’s major cities. Through this combination, preliminary research projects these cities by 2040 could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Vietnam by approximately 19 million tonnes.

On par with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Vietnam's energy use has significantly accelerated over the past decade, and 20 percent of the national energy consumption is a direct product of the country's building sector.

Technical Assistance to Update Building Codes

The VCEP effort to update Vietnam’s outdated building codes started in 2012 when Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) lent technical assistance to the Ministry of Construction.

“PNNL provided a technical report to update the code,” said Dr. Nguyen, president of Vietnam’s Association of Civil Engineering and Environment (ACEE). “This was incredibly valuable; it was the most comprehensive, technical contribution we received. We took their comments into the code revision and adapted them to Vietnam’s conditions.”

A mandatory updated building code is the lynch pin of Vietnam’s next phase of efficiency, but experts hope it is only the first step in the process. While donors—including the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation as well as the Danish government—lead the charge to promote training on the new building code, the VCEP and the Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC) are moving beyond the building code to promote high-performance, energy-efficient buildings.

Building Assessment to Identify Energy Efficiency Opportunities

The VCEP defines high-performance buildings as 30 to 50 percent more efficient than the current building standards. To identify energy efficiency opportunities in Vietnam’s building sector, the first step is to create an inventory of building stock. The inventory measures the energy performance of large buildings (those greater than 2,500 square-meters) in Vietnam’s five major cities: Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh, and Can Tho. These cities represent three typical climate zones and territories of the country’s north, south, and central regions.

“You can’t save what you can’t measure,” said Joseph Deringer, Senior Advisor of VCEP’s implementing partner, Winrock International. “The building stock assessment tells us exactly how much energy is being used by the building sector, which is the basis for projecting impacts. This information is vital for successful implementation of Vietnam’s Green Growth Strategy. Last year, we didn’t even know how many large buildings existed in Vietnam; now we know there are over 5,000 [buildings] with 120 new buildings coming online every year.”

This is a significant achievement for VCEP and the EC-LEDS program. To date, such a database has never existed in Vietnam making it virtually impossible for policymakers to identify energy efficiency opportunities in the building sector. But with the new building code and the success of the Building Stock database, key building trends can now be pinpointed in Vietnam’s major cities, allowing experts to project GHG emissions and potential energy savings with much greater reliability.

Model Buildings to Showcase High-Performance Buildings

VCEP also works to demonstrate the potential of high-performance, energy efficient buildings using model buildings to showcase proven energy savings and efficiency. For example, VCEP proved that if Hanoi’s Energy Training Center implemented efficiency standards similar to those of U.S. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications, it would be 50 percent more efficient compared to its original design. This includes a projected reduction of 180 megawatt-hours per year.

Training to Ensure Implementation of New Building Codes

Finally, ensuring local expertise and capacity to implement these new design and construction requirements is key to successful uptake of the new codes. The code now entails a comprehensive suite of technical standards to be applied in the design and construction or retrofit of civil engineering buildings (offices, hotels, hospitals, retails, services, and residential) with a gross floor area of 2,500 square-meters or larger. To that end, VCEP has a highly successful training component. By September 2015, more than 1,700 people received training from VCEP on various topics relating to clean energy promotion and building efficiency.

“Vietnam faces real challenges to keep up with new technologies in engineering and architecture,” said Dr. Pham Loan, Deputy Director of Vietnam’s Institute of Architecture.  “But with USAID’s help, students are being exposed to green building training at the university level. That is new, and education is key. We are now moving forward and gaining necessary expertise, and we hope that progress will continue.”

Download success story fact sheet.

Learn more about EC-LEDS program activities in Vietnam.