To prevent a climate emergency, throw out the old habits in construction,writes R. RAMABHADRAN PILLAI
Concrete structures are so indispensable to life that a world without them is unimaginable. Modernisation and development, along with the burgeoning population, have led to frenzied construction, burning up natural resources, such as water, sand and wood, as if there is no tomorrow.
Rising temperatures and diminishing access to potable water have become a global concern.
The building sector consumes about 40 per cent of the total energy, generates over 30 per cent of solid waste and 25-40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the next 20 years, the sector in India is expected to grow much higher than the growth witnessed in the past 65-70 years, estimates of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) say.
But is there a middle path that allows us to live ensconced in concrete buildings created without violating nature? Green buildings offer hope. The built-up area in the green building sector is expected to reach 100 billion sq. ft by 2030, registering a 400 per cent growth.
The council has embarked on a mission to make India one of the world leaders in green buildings by 2015, R. Parasuraman, its founding chairman, says.
India has 1,795 green building projects coming up with a footprint of over 1.26 billion sq. ft. The council has drafted a vision for 2015 to enable a sustainable built environment for all stakeholders.
The green movement started on a small scale in the country a decade ago. The green building rating system was launched for commercial buildings and subsequently extended to other building types, such as residential buildings, townships and special economic zones.
IGBC Green Homes is the first rating programme developed in India exclusively for the residential sector. The rating programme has evoked good response. Today, over 3,50,000 dwelling units with a built-up area of 555 million sq. ft are being designed as green homes.
The rating systems are voluntary and on consensus-based building programmes. They are intended to incorporate the five elements of nature and are applicable to all the five climatic zones of the country.
“The interesting thing that is happening is that we did over 200 million sq. ft in just the past year. For us, it is an exhilarating time because what we could not achieve in the first five years, we are achieving in one year. Seventy per cent of what we are now doing is residential footprint and not commercial. It is because people are beginning to be concerned about health factors, internal air quality and issues of water. In Kochi, where you are receiving 2,600 mm of annual rainfall, it is a travesty that you have got shortage of water for the past 10 years,” Mr. Parasuraman says. The green building footprint is slowly and steadily growing in Kerala.
Several buildings of information technology companies and banks have been built to IGBC norms, and some of them have received ratings.
More to be done
The country has done well in the green building arena in the past decade, but there is much more to be done, S. Raghupathy, Director of Green Business Centre, Hyderabad, the hub of IGBC activities in the country, says.
Since 75 per cent of the buildings that will exist in 2030 are yet to be built, there exist huge opportunities in design and construction of green buildings.
The green building movement is getting ready to face challenges thrown up by a developing world. One of the key issues pertains to extending the green building concept to Tier-II and -III cities.
The IGBC is tracking down ways to sustain energy and water savings throughout the life of the green buildings. There is a need to establish green building standards and codes in certain areas such as indoor air quality, indoor thermal comfort and material testing. A green building agenda should be extended to all communities in the building sector and made inclusive.
Implementation of the concept is easier if the construction workforce is trained in green construction practices. Infrastructure will be required to achieve the objective.
One of the major challenges facing the green building movement is finding affordable technologies. Strategies need to be worked out to attain cost-effective solutions. An impediment is that financial institutions do not have an easy and quick assessment tool to evaluate the benefits of green buildings.
Many of the green buildings have started reaping good benefits. Performance data from over 40 IGBC-rated buildings have been compiled. The average energy savings over conventional buildings varied from 27 per cent to 47 per cent and water savings ranged from 36 per cent to 60 per cent.