by TEAM CW
Way back in 1979, Germany introduced its first law regarding insulation of buildings when its energy consumption was about 146 kilowatt hour (KWh) per square metre. By introducing different regulations and finally the Energy Saving Ordinance, Germany has been able to reduce its energy consumption to 50KWh per square metre today. Today this concept has undergone a positive shift in terms of consumer demand across the world. More developers are warming up to the concept of constructing green buildings and seeking out right materials that will help them manage this concept.
According to CalRecycle, product selection can begin after the establishment of project-specific environmental goals. The environmental assessment process for building products involves three basic steps: Research, Evaluation, and Selection.
Research involves gathering all technical information to be evaluated, including manufacturers’ information such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test data, product warranties, source material characteristics, recycled content data, environmental statements, and durability information. This step may involve researching other environmental issues, building codes, government regulations, building industry articles, model green building product specifications, and other sources of product data. Evaluation involves confirmation of the technical information. Evaluation and assessment is relatively simple when comparing similar types of building materials using the environmental criteria. For example, a recycled content assessment between various manufacturers of medium density fibreboard is a relatively straightforward “apples to apples” comparison.
A life cycle assessment (LCA) is an evaluation of the relative “greenness” of building materials and products. LCA addresses the impacts of a product through all of its life stages. Although rather simple in principle, this approach has been difficult and expensive in actual practice (although that appears to be changing). One tool that uses the LCA methodology is BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability) software. It allows users to balance the environmental and economic performance of building products. The software was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory.
Selection involves the use of an evaluation matrix for scoring the project-specific environmental criteria. The total score of each product evaluation will indicate the product with the highest environmental attributes. Individual criteria included in the rating system can be weighted to accommodate project-specific goals and objectives.
Few people know that when we think of greenhouse gas emissions, some of us might envision a tailpipe spewing exhaust… but 40% of the carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change actually comes from buildings. While some of that is a secondary effect of operational needs such as electricity, A/C, and heating, many GHGs arise from resource extraction, manufacturing, and production of the building materials themselves.
Understanding what a green material is depends on understanding relationships—in nature, in the economy, between nature and the economy. It is a very complex matter and always changing. What is considered a green material is also constantly changing. It is important to look closely at every individual product and material, but it is often more efficient to look first at the building system. This is particularly clear when we see systems now being designed to allow buildings to be easily dismantled rather than demolished. The context in which a material is used is crucial. A conventional petrochemical-based building material might be used in buildings and developments that are quite ecological in overall impact. Similarly, a “green” material might be deployed or installed in destructive ways that completely negate their positive characteristics. By being salvaged and reused, a very conventional material might become a green material. It’s a question of relationships that are multi-dimensional and constantly shifting.
Among Indian developers, K Raheja Corp’s green vision is to commit towards making all its commercial and residential LEED and IGBC “green certified.” Some of the new technologies used by K Raheja Corp in green buildings are: Net Zero Concept (Zero Energy and Zero Water Concepts), HVAC and electrical, glazing, low-emitting materials, and managing water-efficiency. Net-zero concept depend on renewable sources. Buildings that consume slightly more energy than they produce are called ‘near-zero energy buildings’. The energy is measured over the course of a year. One of its many features is that it does not depend on any external source for energy and water. In terms of low-emitting materials, K Raheja Corp uses local and recycled materials having lower embodied energy. The reduction or no use of low-VOC paints, adhesives and sealants is better for the environment, for indoor air quality and are approved for use around people with environmental sensitivities.
The Czech construction company LIKO-S and the Czech architect Zdenek Fränek have developed a self-sufficient zero-energy building. The LIKO NOE project is based on the concept of “natural thermal stabilisation”. This means that it only uses energy provided by natural sources such as sunlight or underground cold. The building is also independent of any external water supply. The façade, however, is almost completely covered by grass, which directly contributes to the building’s water supply. A system based on the functioning of roots — a so-called “constructed wetland”— cleans the wastewater and makes it reusable to not waste any usable rainwater and to be generally independent of an external water.
Sustainability is a shared responsibility and development a shared value chain. K Raheja Corp’s messaging strategy articulates this development journey to its customers across projects, from communicating demonstrable benefits-cost savings and a better quality life for their mid-segment projects to redefining the notion of what sustainable luxury means for others. Features and products in isolation may not be able to influence consumer decision making, but together with robust communication, are beginning to generate both interest and demand from customers.
While a green home typically does not cost a lot more to maintain, green features do add to capital costs. Companies are now institutionalising processes to ensure that they meet sustainability goals while maintaining profitability. Msot of them constantly engage in joint ventures, design, construction and other partners to deliver buildings that meet green standards as defined by IGBC. For instance, K Raheja Corp has further mandated this through tender inclusions and by formulating comprehensive programme briefs to the consultants wherein sustainable design is built into the design process.
Durability is Desirable
This one relates back in a large part to sustainable sites. The conditions under and around one’s home determine the ability of the structure to withstand all sorts of potential challenges to its integrity, not least of those being moisture, wind and temperature fluctuations. This is also tied into considering the offerings of local resources, as the naturally-occuring materials in any given location are most likely to be durable within that region. It’s smart to do one’s research in order to address not only weather-related issues, but also insects, function, and even style.
Because the word sustainable is open to interpretation, any manufacturer or marketing team can call their product “green”, among the many other eco-friendly buzzwords out there. Several third-party certification organisations have cropped up in recent years, to help police those ever-clever marketing folks from twisting the truth about the endless products on the market. A good rule of thumb is to stick with the consensus based certifiers like LEED, FSC, and EnergyStar, and be cautious of trade association greenwash labels that may create certifications to aid their own sales.
Recently the Brazilian hardwood Ipe has become a popular choice for decking and exterior cladding applications, due to its strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. Few people know much about its native habitat, however, or that it’s covered in several feet of water for much of the year (which is how it adapted to be so hard and resilient). Just because a species of timber is long-lasting does not mean it’s a sustainable choice. If it’s not FSC certified, chances are the tree was logged by clear-cutting virgin forest, without plans for habitat restoration. Before specifying a hardwood, find out where it comes from, who’s supplying it, and if there are FSC certified woods available. EarthSource Forest Productsworks with designers and contractors to find cost competitive FSC certified woods, based on availability.