JEG Tower leads Cebu in LEED-certified buildings

JEG Development Corporation goes LEED-green to raise the quality of premium spaces in Cebu City to be at par with both national and international standards.

Against Cebu’s pulsating skyline will soon rise the city’s first local LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), green building. Green is most certainly in, an added jewel to the crown of the Queen City of the South. And taking the lead in Cebu’s real estate LEED development is JEG Development Corporation (JDC), which is building a 22-story BPO-ready office tower and adopting a refreshingly green approach to raise the bar in the quality of premium spaces in Cebu in order to measure up to both national and international standards.

It’s an oft-repeated adage that the first generation builds the business, the second generation harvests and maintains it, and the third generation blows it. Well, the latter is not likely to happen with the Cebu-based JDC of the Jose E. Garcia family business, which is now in the perfectly competent hands of young, driven, hardworking third-generation cousins Marko Sarmiento, JDC chief operating officer; Ayla Gomez, brand manager; and Stefan Garcia, estate manager and business development manager.

“We’re a young group of leaders and initially, some might think of it as a disadvantage,” Marko Sarmiento introduces his team in an informal round-table discussion at Makati Shangri-La. “But we choose to look at this as more of an asset of the team as we’re able to give new, innovative ideas in deciding and creating the projects that we develop. Secondly, JDC is committed;  we decided to go in the direction of developing green buildings through green initiatives, which is really driven by our core value, a family value that’s been carried on to the business, and that’s integrity. My grandfather was a very soft-spoken person who valued integrity the most. So, with that, we’ve become very mindful of what we build.”


Stefan Garcia tells us how it all happened, “It was just Marko and myself when we started planning and developing the building (JEG Tower) four years ago. The board was actually very interested in developing a green building because we were quite aware of the carbon footprint of the other businesses. Also, as a family, we grew up amid nature, spending our summers in Bukidnon riding horses and camping. We wanted to be really responsible when we develop an environment in Cebu, and since we’re gonna build a big building, we know there can be a lot of pollution related to that. We’re like, ‘Hey, we can afford it, why don’t we make this go green?’ At that point, none of the local developers had built a green building. Ayala had built one, but none of the local ones in Cebu, because it was a bit of a scary concept back then. But at that time, a lot of green buildings were coming up in Manila; green was becoming a standard, especially at Bonifacio Global City. So, we said let’s give this a go and so we did our research, brought in some consultants. We found out it’s actually not as expensive as we expected it to be. Technology has become a lot cheaper and there’s a lot more knowhow in the industry to build green these days. We’re trying to build a grade-A building and make the city more livable in terms of pollution. And since we live in the city, we’re actually the ones who’ll benefit from it.”

Green dream team: Cebu’s young entrepreneurs Stefan Garcia, Ayla Gomez, and Marko Sarmiento of JEG Development Corporation are flanked by Gerold Fernando, KMC executive director for tenant representation (left) and Michael McCullough, KMC managing director.

Marko asserts, “We were right about doing it in Cebu because nobody was doing it. It was time for it to happen and true enough, other local developers are now looking into the green aspect. So, to be one of the first is important for us, especially since we’re coming into the game a bit later than other developers.”

Ayla Gomez, who’s currently studying to get her accredition as a LEED green associate, adds, “One thing our grandfather valued or was known for was being a man of the community, a man of the people, which is something we’ve also established in our business. We’re building not just for us but for the community, for the greater good of Cebu. Another thing that’s important is the family dynamic or the relationship which we definitely learned from the second generation. We’re fortunate enough that our family is close-knit and open, and that our parents sort of already entrusted the business to us, giving us full rein so we could project the vision we had in mind not just for the family business but for the community as well.”


According to Stefan, in terms of carbon emissions, green buildings can save as much as 35 percent better than other buildings. “It’s not just the building running but how we built it. It means there are less toxic fumes because we have to be careful as to what adhesives we use in the building. It’s also better for the people around us, not just for the employees in the building. Green is mostly about energy efficiency, water use efficiency. It’s a nice environment to work with because we’re mindful of things like the amount of sunlight the workers get as well as their accessibility to outside views because that’s known to increase productivity.”

Ayla is quick to note, “Ours is a premium-quality building and we were part of the design process because we wanted to make sure we were putting out quality materials to benefit the tenants who will stay there. A green building has several benefits, the main thing being the energy cost that you save, definitely a come-on for businesses. We have one of the best aircons, so you’re using less energy but at the same time, you’re using energy better.”

If there’s one word to describe the JEG Tower which will rise in the business park of the city, it is inarguably efficiency. “It’s the one word our clients say about our building,” says Marko with a hint of pride. “Since we’re not located in the business park where there are restrictions, we’re able to build a bit higher — the 22-story JEG Tower (designed by Manila-based Casas + Architects) is already quite high in Cebu, unlike in Manila. The cost is very comparable with your grade-A buildings in Manila but three to five percent more because it’s a LEED-certified building.”

Keeping it green and clean: JEG Tower is a grade-A building using only premium-quality materials. It will also have a green roof to make up for the lack of park developments in Cebu.

The enterprising cousins can’t stress enough how efficiently green their green building is as they field questions from Manila’s curious media. “We’re buying from power companies that have green energy as part of their portfolio,” Stefan discloses. “Because of open access, you can actually purchase power directly from generators, not just from distribution companies. We can actually outsource our power from renewable generators. That’s something we’re looking into.”

Ayla explains it clearly, “Our glass is glazed so it does deflect a lot of heat and you end up using less aircon energy in your space, thus less energy cost. We also use a rainwater-catching system to flush the toilets. Even our bathroom fixtures have to abide by the LEED requirements so we’re consuming less water.”

How earthquake-proof or resilient is the JEG Tower?

“It should withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake,” comes Marko’s quick reply.

“We spent a lot of money on the foundation, which goes down 50 meters deep,” says Stefan. “We made sure we have a very sturdy building. For instance, we’re the only ones who implemented bored piles into our structure, which makes a very big difference because there are certain areas in Cebu where the soil is soft.”

Ayla adds, “There’s actually a system that will alarm the tenants and staff when the building is not structurally safe anymore, which is an added security measure.”

So, what mistakes have these third-generation children learned from the past generations and would certainly not repeat?

Bursting into laughter, the happy trio agrees, “Lack of discipline! The second generation is more complacent, which we saw while we were growing up. They’re very content already. They know our mindset is different from theirs, and they’ve noticed that, that’s why they entrusted the business to us. They support us, our parents invested more in the education of their children.”


Stefan informs us, “We’re LEED silver, but we’re pushing for gold for our building. We think we’re going to get points for gold. Once we said we were going to build a green building in Cebu, other local developers said they were building green buildings, too. You just need one person to take the lead and everybody follows.”

Marko declares, “It’s good timing for green buildings to come in. It will also invite investors to Cebu, where there are a lot of opportunities. We also want to be known as a smart developer who also looks at the well-being of our users.”

JEG Tower @ One Acacia is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year, with a topping off by October. Pressed for a ballpark figure of how much the JEG Tower will cost to build, Marko estimates, “We’re looking at P40,000 per sqm.”

So, shall we all follow Cebu’s LEED-er