The Retrofit Revolution
By Jayashree Kini Mendes
The world is paying the price for rapid urbanisation and massive population increase in the quest for faster economic growth. Over the last few decades alone, we have depleted our natural resources because of the dynamics of urbanisation that has misused these resources. The alarming rise in greenhouse gas emissions, climatic changes, waste generation, have resulted in continuous environmental degradation. It is only in the last few years that the industry across sectors have woken up to the fact that they need to save the planet. Environmentalists abound and much of their cries have trickled down to the hoi polloi.
The lifecycle of a development from demolition to construction to operation consumes a number of key resources such as energy, water, raw materials, among others. In order to achieve economical resource consumption certain best practice processes and undertaking key initiatives during the development phase is most important. The implementation of these initiatives/processes that help track and manage resource consumption in projects will be important to ensure efficiency in the utilisation of natural resources during the development phase.
Vivek Mohanani, MD & CEO, Ekta World, says, “The climate change and global warming is compelling the real estate sector to find ways of constructing green buildings that are affordable to all. If the intention is to construct a green building, it is advisable to build, rather than work on an existing one. The cost may vary but overall green construction offers 12% operational savings and 7% assets value appreciation as compared to conventional buildings. Sometimes green technology appears expensive because they are new or seem complicated, but their gains are long term.”
Considering India’s growing population, “government initiatives such as smart cities can aid in an increase in affordable housing units and a concerted push towards infrastructure development, while conserving natural resources, becomes critical during development. This can be achieved by greater regulatory support promoting environment-friendly development and a focus on developing green buildings”, says Shubika Bilkha, director, Real Estate Management Institute (REMI). She believes that with increased focus on sustainable development, developers should look at incorporating eco-friendly substitutes for construction. Some new green materials that have been used for construction include fibre cement siding, thermally modified wood, roof shingles, plywood veneers and natural stone tile. Additionally, some affordable green materials include bamboo, wood, recycled metal and plastic, structural insulated panels, cellulose and natural clay plaster.
In the construction industry, vendors too are enthusiastic about offering eco-friendly materials and equipment that can help develop sustainable buildings. VG Sakthikumar, MD, Schwing Stetter Sales & Services; convenor for membership committee, ICEMA; and chairman of mechanisation committee, BAI, says, “Though we are a part of the construction industry, our focused area is building machines that can meet customer’s expectations. We have designed machines looking beyond the performance and considered critical issues like fuel consumption, noise pollution, recyclable parts, long life of equipment, etc., which can play its own role in conservation of resources.” Schwing Stetter believes that conserving water is one of the critical requirements. “Concrete recycling plant will use the leftover concrete, waste concrete, washed water, etc. and make it possible to reuse them in concrete production. Washed water with the cement content can pollute not only the surface water but also groundwater which is a serious concern,” he adds.
Giving an insight into products, Mahesh S Anand, president, Nippon Paint (India), says, “We ensure all our paint products are environment-friendly, and were one of the pioneers, even in the international market, to introduce non-toxic, anti-formaldehyde wall emulsions that have near-zero VOC and are odourless by nature. These emulsions, apart from having high durability, also absorb harmful air-polluting vapours that cause health hazards, and convert them into clean fresh air, thereby ensuring a clean environment around us.”
Indian builders are slowly embracing the idea of eco-friendly construction. They need to first have a sound knowledge of green technology and ways of incorporating it in projects. “A good way to start would be to employ energy efficient methods like solar panels, rain water harvesting, green materials (wood, stone, earth) and other recycled materials (recovered wood and concrete, fly ash cement) in construction. Landscaping, terrace and vertical gardens minimise air pollution, also conserving energy and water consumption. The ultimate objective of a green architect is to safeguard resources and choose eco-friendly materials and construction practices,” adds Anand.
Sustainability and green has been part of Grundfos’ DNA from the very start. Mahathi Parashuram, regional head, public affairs, communications & relations, Grundfos Asia Pacific Region, says, “With our smart and green solutions, we help Indian industries and corporate save both energy and water. Utmost care is taken during production of pumps. All our products comply with environmental norms in terms of recyclability of components, usage of non-volatile paints, energy efficient motors, etc. Around 10% of the world’s energy is consumed by pumps. If you move to energy efficient pumps, you can save around 4-5 % of this energy.”
World over, there’s a significant demand for eco-friendly infrastructure and sustainable products that are also aesthetically pleasing. Ajit Singh, business head, Johnson Marble & Quartz Division, H&R Johnson (India), says, “Ceramic flooring has gained popularity as it is considered one of the most sustainable flooring options and is highly durable and maintenance-free. It can last for years if properly installed and serviced. Our germ-free tiles and sanitaryware reduce the need for chemical disinfectants in homes. Our cool roof tiles & cool clad tiles reflect heat from the surface of roofs, terraces and external walls and keep the interiors cooler, thereby reducing load on air conditioning units.”
Speaking of concrete, Atul Desai, ED & CEO, RMC (India), a division of Prism Johnson, says, “We have multiple eco-friendly special concrete products such as Elitecrete, Perviouscrete, Envirocrete, and Megacrete, which reduce carbon footprints, conserve natural resources and can be recycled. Concrete being a technically advanced solution involves high intellectual property for R&D of green products. Green products are differentiated in raw material selection (locally available), manufacturing process (energy conservation), sustainable delivery mechanism and the properties to conserve the natural resources for generations.”
Playing a Role
Maintenance of green buildings is not different from conventional buildings. Green materials are safer for the occupants and reduces their maintenance costs. Ashish Raheja, MD, Raheja Universal, says, “When starting a project, we envisage the materials we are going to use and source. We ensure that we source construction materials from nearest location of the site, make maximum use of recycled material like fly ash bricks and RMC.”
On its part, Rustomjee has adopted green and eco-friendly construction as an intrinsic philosophy. Atul Date, head, design, Rustomjee Group, says, “Materials are finalised considering the tenets of function (durability, applicability of context and persistent intended usage) along with aesthetic aspects. We experiment with a lot with new materials & technologies with an in-depth amount of R&D that precedes actual adoption. Some key materials are AAC blocks, performance glass, water saving plumbing fixtures & fittings, LED fixtures for lighting, use of flyash in concrete, engineered wood for door frames, and uPVC for enhanced acoustic/thermal performance.”
Explaining the factors that matter to them, Jaswinder Sandhu, executive VP, EPC, Oberoi Realty, says, “When we talk about eco-friendly materials, we expect it to be from a renewable source and should be biodegradable, recyclable, aid energy efficiency, increase durability and life span, reduce air, land and water pollution, and should be available. We should be able to reuse the waste products, and the material should have energy conservation properties, and must embody energy. Initially, it was a challenge to identify ecofriendly materials, however, with continuous use and help from our LEED consultants, we have good control on sourcing. The construction industry has matured with time and so have service providers.”
As India is an agrarian country, there is a lot of agro-industrial waste, byproducts, residues, natural fibres, plantation timbers, including rice and wheat husk, bagasse from sugarcane and much more that is available—all these can be sourced from farm lands for construction. Dhaval Ajmera, director, Ajmera Realty, says, “The use of materials is as per the design plan. It is envisaged by the architect who has been deployed specially by National Green Tribunal who select the material, suggest the sources and ensure specifications are maintained for the entire project. Some of the materials we use are partial replacement of cement with GGBS in concrete, MIVAN technology to avoid block work, and plaster making debris generation to zero level, besides usage of VersiCell on podium to create drainage,”
All the above measures help in containing incremental cost and depends upon the phase during which green features are incorporated. If they are incorporated in the design phase, the cost can be lesser than if incorporated during advanced stages of construction. A spokesperson from Kalpataru says that a checklist of the requirements for eco-friendly materials that are compatible with the architectural design and green building guidelines is drawn and communicated with internal stakeholders. The procurement and contracts team are requested to identify vendors, suppliers and contractors for procurement of the specified eco-friendly materials and the relevant conditions are incorporated in the purchase order.
Manju Yagnik, vice chairperson, Nahar Group, says, “Lack of advanced green technology and the high cost of maintenance are some of the disadvantages. The process of securing approvals for green homes is complex and time-consuming. However, the rewards cannot be ignored. Cost of green materials need not dictate the cost of green buildings, and expert designers can utilise green materials, including some that apparently cost more, without increasing overall project costs.”
Considering all that has been said, green construction specially designed for the tropical environment has paved the way for innovative techniques and utilisation of new green materials in the construction industry. These tropical green buildings not only enhance the comfort of dwellers, but also conserve on water and reduce costs associated with energy repair, maintenance and air conditioning.