Green Building: Where Future Lives
Although the concept of the “Green Building” started almost two decades ago in India, the Movement is yet to catch the tempo and become a household name.
Except for those who are fairly educated or are directly involved with the innovative environmentally friendly building practices, it is highly likely that the phrase may mean something different for the rest of the population from what it actually implies.
World Green Building Council (WGBC) defines a green building as “a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and creates positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment.” Green building, also known as green construction or sustainable building, helps make homes healthier for people and the planet.
According to the Indian Green Building Council’s 2017 findings, roughly 4,500 registered projects have so far utilized green technology. Only about 5 per cent of India’s total buildings has applied green technologies in their houses today. It is, thus, high time that entire India is adequately informed about the Green Building Movement (GBM). And the reason for this urgency in education and action is plain and simple: India ambitiously aims to be ‘one of the global leaders in the ‘sustainable built environment by 2025’ and Indians rightfully deserve better living conditions.
Ever since Victor Olgyay and Ralph Knowles published “Design with Climate” and “Form and Stability” respectively focusing on “Green Building” in the 60s, the developed world accepted the concept as an inspiration for a move to suggest the future of living.
Green Building Movement is a motivated idea within the construction industry which aims at ‘using less water, optimizing energy efficiency, conserving natural resources, generating less waste and providing healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to the conventional buildings.’
At a time when India has been struggling to find enough water for agriculture and to also quench the thirst of its billion-plus population; produce enough energy for its industrialization need; generate less waste and provide healthy spaces; the GBM could never be less relevant.
Gone are the days when we had enough resources to use without any care of the world as we catered to the limited population. The challenges we face now are enormous. We have contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer. Desertification has taken the toll of our arable land. We have carelessly constructed the concrete buildings that kill us gradually instead of helping us preserve the natural environment and promote our health.
Green construction is an answer to the mistakes humans made in the past. Apart from the innumerable environmental benefits, the green buildings offer plenty of financial incentives to builders and the occupants. They are cost-efficient in a number of ways and levels. The optimized performance over time in green buildings influences lowered life-cycle and the operation and maintenance costs.
People who live or work in green buildings breathe healthy fresh air. They are less prone to calamitous accidents and they lead a healthy life. Harvard School of Public Health had found in 2015 that the people or workers in green, well-ventilated houses or offices recorded a 100 per cent increase in cognitive scores.
Although the idea of sustainable building has evolved over the decades, stakes are high when it comes to translating the idea into action in the developing nations of Asia. India is not immune to the challenges for the implementation of this measure.
A recently published WGBC report states that the lack of public awareness is among the first obstacles in developing the green building market in India.
While it is seeing an uptick in the number of buildings constructed every year in response to rapid urbanization, India is facing an uphill battle when it comes to regulating or even inspiring the builders about implementing energy efficiency practices.
As the green certificates require additional cost, many construction companies show their unwillingness to pay for the high cost that is related to green certification although its benefits are very high in the long run.
The good news is even the existing old buildings could benefit from GBM. Conventional buildings can take advantage of adopting energy efficient technologies and introducing energy efficient products that are available in the market. Such buildings can replace an existing roof with energy efficient roof, also known as ‘cool roof’ which is designed to reflect sunlight and absorb less heat.
Cool roofs help reduce energy bills; help improves indoor comfort, and extend the service life of the roof. Cool roof coatings have special reflective pigments or are white to reflect sunlight. A light-coloured roof absorbs less than 50 per cent of the solar energy, which reduces a roof’s temperature. In contrast, dark roofs absorb 90 per cent of solar energy. Building a green roof is an ideal heat island reduction strategy. It offers both direct and ambient cooling effects. In addition, green roofs improve air quality by reducing the heat island effect and absorbing pollutants.
Similarly, such buildings could use features of green building technology to conserve water and to also save energy because energy is used to treat, deliver, and heat water. Use of water efficient plumbing fixtures: low-flow fixtures have been on the market for a while. There are also many ultra-low-flow fixtures that conserve even more water without compromising performance.
Conventional buildings can benefit from a completely energy efficient lighting system which includes energy efficient lamps, ballasts and light fixtures. Switching them to CFLs adds a lot to green features. The most promising feature is LEDs (Light-emitting Diodes). LEDs don’t heat up like incandescent, and they last longer and are more energy efficient than both traditional bulbs and CFLs. Such buildings can also install motion sensors that turn lights off when not in use. Dimmers are used to lower light levels thereby saving money and energy.
Centralized high energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can also be adopted by such buildings to be compliant to GBM. An HVAC system is 95 per cent efficient; meaning 5 per cent of the energy produced is expelled. They can also install a programmable thermostat to manage periods of time where the heating and cooling can be turned up and down. Such buildings should also change the air filter of the HVAC system as prescribed by the equipment manufacturer. Dirty filters slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep a building warm or cool. Dust and dirt in an HVAC can lead to expensive maintenance and early system failure. Additionally, replacing the burn out motors with energy-efficient ones add more energy efficiency.
Incorporating energy efficient landscaping into the overall building design has long-term benefits. For instance, shady landscaping protects a building from direct sunlight during the summer and allows more sunlight to reach through windows during the winter. Additionally, planting trees on the southern and western side of a building can keep the building cooler because it blocks sunlight from falling directly on the building during the winter; then, when after the trees lose their leaves, the trees allow more sunlight to reach the building.
Installing localized exhaust fans above kitchen ranges and in bathrooms to create spot ventilation help bring more healthy air in the house thereby removing indoor air pollution and moisture.
If India is to achieve the goal of becoming one of the leaders in GBM by 2025, it needs to kick off the Green Building campaign from the ground up immediately. It needs to spread the enduring benefits of the Green Buildings to the public who are unaware of the movement. It needs to also clear the misconceptions that green buildings are an expensive and financially unachievable option.
Setting up an ambitious goal, meanwhile, is not enough. The government needs to complement its rules and regulations with appropriate measures to spur the growth. Builders and developers have to undergo a tedious process and bureaucratic red tape for approval. This and other administrative maladies must stop. Green buildings need more incentives. Rebate on property tax and other similar schemes are not enough. Green building materials should be available at a reasonable price.
Like in other nations, the Indian government should be able to convince the private sector mortgage lenders to launch new green mortgage scheme thereby giving incentives to those who go green.
Last but not least, India needs to produce more skilled green building experts – from policymakers to architects, engineers to contractors to workers. Green building construction is the future of living. It is not conventional building construction.
source- Times of India