Promoting "green" buildings is a challenge in Vietnam , given a lack of specific standards and procedures for construction and a lack of competent human resources, according to the HCM City Energy Saving Centre ( ECC-HCM City ).

Green architecture expert Thierry Roche said that to design a green building, many aspects, including ecological conditions, people's health and the surrounding environment must be considered.

According to architect Tran Hoang Kien from Vinaconex R&D Joint Stock Company, building investors are not well-informed on the effectiveness of energy saving.

He said that energy-saving designs enable investors to save costs in the long run, but they have to invest more at the start.

That is why investors are hesitant about investing in energy-saving methods."As businessmen, they want to get maximum profit with minimum investment," Kien said. "They want to break even in two to five years."

Kien said that promoting the green building concept is difficult because there are few suppliers of energy-saving equipment.

Tran Khanh Trung, director of Tam Trung Thong Design Joint Stock Company, said construction costs for an energy-saving building are 50 to 100 percent higher than for a normal building.

According to the US Green Building Council, a green building must be located in a stable position where traffic is easy, use water effectively, make full use of energy equipment, utilise energy-saving tools, take advantage of recycling methods and enable easy control over the use of energy inside.

While there are about 24 systems to assess green buildings, no green building standard has been officially issued in Vietnam .

Kien from Vinaconex R&D said that a building surrounded by many trees and utilising advanced technologies but consuming more energy than it really needs could not be considered green.

"Most architects in Vietnam are aware of the green building concept, but they are not equipped with the knowledge needed for the actual construction of a green building," said Kien.

He added that less than 100 architects in Vietnam are educated on the issue.

The ECC-HCM City reported that most new or recently renovated buildings don't have effective ways of reducing heat radiation, which reduces the quality of air conditioning.

But thanks to growing awareness, green techniques have been recently applied in a few buildings.

One example is The Landmark, the building that took third prize in the ASEAN Energy Efficient Buildings and Energy Management Competition in 2010.

It has renovated its air-conditioning and lighting systems and managed to reduce its energy costs by 30 percent, from 1 billion VND (47,600 USD) to only 300 million VND (14,300 USD) per month.

The Vietnam Green Building Council is developing a set of standards for energy conservation in buildings in Vietnam . /.