Green buildings: Verdant and vibrant
Green buildings are taking the right shape. Developers and consumers are more aware and demand for them is increasing
Green building and construction is a word that has been thrown about quite frequently. Few would know its intrinsic meaning. In the construction industry, there are common allusions to green buildings and construction. But the question often arises, how much of it is being followed?
It’s common to speak of positive energies at forums. They are supposed to infuse a sense of vibrancy and ‘illuminate’ people from within, while eliminating negative energy. The same can be said about green buildings. The World Green Building Council defines a green building as a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.
While talk of green buildings have been on the rise in recent times, there are certain stipulations the developer must adhere to in order to construct a complete green building. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most popular green building certification programme used globally. This involves a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighbourhoods. Rohit Poddar, MD, Poddar Housing and Development, says, “LEED rating system awards credit points for selective building features that support green design in categories such as location and maintenance of building site, preservation of water, energy, and materials used in construction, comfort and health of the residents. For participation in this system, a building must fulfil the stipulations and laws related to environment, occupancy scenarios, building durability and pre-rating completion, site boundaries, and area-to-site ratios. The developer needs to share data on the building’s energy and water consumption for five years after occupancy or date of certification to attain Gold status and garner 60-79 credit points, while for Platinum status, a building should have earned at least 80 points.”
Explaining how the market is progressing, Mili Majumdar, MD, Green Business Certification Institute, India and sr. VP, USGBC, says, “Platinum and Gold are the two highest levels of certification, so they are something to aspire and work toward. Projects who have achieved these levels have met some of the highest sustainability standards and are true leaders in the market. In India, more than 90% of certified projects have achieved LEED Gold or LEED Platinum—which is impressive. These leaders are helping push the rest of the market forward.”
From selecting the location to daily operations, green buildings are held to the highest standards of environmental responsibility and resource efficiency. Rakesh Reddy, director, Aparna Constructions & Estates, says, “These buildings optimise their use of local materials, minimise their impact on local ecology and, most importantly, are built to reduce power, water and material requirements. There are certifying agencies, such as the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) that assist real estate developers to implement environmentally-friendly practices and get green building certification.”\
Steps to take
With growing awareness among the industry and home-buyers, developers are embracing green construction practices and consumers are willingly opting for such properties at a premium. Principal architects Harsh Pote and Gaurav Sanghavi of Pentaspace, say, “Site, location, orientation and the choice of material play a key role. The plan and elevation of the building needs to respect the natural resources of light and ventilation. Hence, one must limit the use of artificial resources like electricity, HVAC, etc. One good way to go about it is to incorporate solar lights in the common areas. One must preserve the remaining site in its natural form, which is open, and not under construction.”
While there are several dos and don’ts to a green building, Neha Hiranandani, director, House of Hiranandani, says with a word of caution, “Despite the awareness, green construction practices are not often commercially viable as the cost of resources, including technology, is high. There is a dire need for subsidies to be offered on resources and technologies used for green constructions. Tax exemptions on green buildings can encourage developers and home buyers to opt for environment-friendly construction practices.”
To this Sahil Jain, founder and principal architect, Morphlab, says, “Most people mistakenly assume that building green costs more. In fact, there are many ways to ‘green’ a building that don’t add to the cost and create savings in the long run. To calculate the true cost of going green, one must consider not just up-front costs, but also the life-cycle costs.” He believes that in subsequent years the cost is compensated by low operating costs because of the ease of which natural materials can be maintained.
Developers can maximise profitability as green buildings helps save costs in the long term. If the building is planned early on, the capital cost will be marginal when the concept is introduced early in the project. PK Mishra, VP, Salarpuria Sattva Group, says that among the innovative green building materials, the following materials stand out due to their durability, cost-effectiveness and local availability. “These are earthen materials, wood, bamboo, insulated concrete forms, cordwood, straw bale, earth bags, slate/stone roofing, steel, thatch, composites, natural fibre, polyurethane, fibre glass, cellulose, cork, polystyrene and isocyanate, natural clay, non-VOC paints, natural fibre floor, fibre cement, and stone. Some of the natural resources that were considered by Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) as viable building materials are 27 types of agro-industrial wastes, by-products, residues, natural fibres, plantation timbers, including rice and wheat husk, bagasse from sugarcane, coir, hemp etc., that are cultivated on a large scale in Indian farms.”
Making it count
Most developers believe that it is only right that they transfer all green building related knowledge and information including drawings and documents to the building tenants, residents/owners’ association. A Rajaraman, executive VP, TVS Emerald Realty, says, “For the building to continue to be efficient in terms of energy and water consumption, continuous monitoring and maintenance would be required. This should be the same as a regular building in terms of frequency/cost. There are processes which should be implemented for waste management, organic waste treatment, sewage water treatment and reuse, and these would be done by the tenants/facilities management team.”
Dr Sunita Purushottam, head of sustainability, Mahindra Lifespaces, believes that developers need to educate residents about green homes and how they can be maintained. This must be done at the following touchpoints – sales, handovers and for O&M. One possibility is partnerships with certification agencies to maintain the certification for at least six years after the project has been handed over.
There are several vendors who have created a special range of products for green buildings. For instance, Pragun Jindal Khaitan, MD, Jindal Aluminium, believes that the green building revolution has been empowered by the green metal, aluminium. Its sustainable properties is the first choice of architects and builders around the world while creating green structures. “Aluminium, as we know, can be recycled infinitely by consuming just 5% of the energy needed for manufacturing primary metal which reduces carbon footprint. It also enhances the energy efficiency of a building due to its reflective properties. Being corrosion-resistant, aluminium increases the life span of the building thereby reducing the harmful impacts of corrosion on the environment,” he adds.
Similarly, lighting plays an important role as it affects appearance, occupants’ comfort and thermal performance of a green building. Rakesh Zutshi, MD, Halonix Technologies, says, “To ensure that light spill-over and interior lighting ambience is maintained in a green building, it is important to design lighting in such a way that it reduces the amount of light emitted horizontally. The aim is to reduce light pollution and only those fixtures should be used that direct light where it is needed. Designing appropriate ambient light levels for spaces of different functions is equally important to maintain interior lighting ambience in a green building. For this purpose, efficient lamps should be used with controls that automatically turn off lights when they are not needed.”
Anuj Dhir, VP business head, commercial lighting business, Wipro, says, “In addition to tremendous energy savings and improved life, opting for LED lighting solutions offers tight control of the light pattern. Lighting designers can design efficient lighting systems to provide coverage to the desired area by deciding the proper placement of lights. Wipro Lighting’s anti-glare luminaire, Immaculate Soft, with specially designed Micro Precision Optics (MPO) diffuser restricts UGR to less than 19, which is the ideal UGR standard for offices.”
Similarly, Wienerberger India’s products are known for sustainability and promote the concept of natural and green building materials. Monnanda Appaiah, MD, Wienerberger India, says, “For wall solutions, we have Porotherm smart bricks that are available in two main categories: Non-load bearing (Infill/partition walls) and load-bearing (G+1 construction without RCC). The perforated design of the bricks provides excellent thermal insulation ensuring maintenance of a comfortable indoor temperature, thus aiding substantial energy saving. Then there’s Porotherm Dryfix. System. For façade, our products sold under the brand names of Aspect Ventilated Façades and Argeton Façades offer design flexibility and are available in a range of colours and finishes.”
The building material industry is becoming more organised and structured owing to recent government policies. The sustainability aspects of a building are becoming more relevant to the occupants with growing consumer awareness on the subject. This realisation has led to developers and customers looking for greener, more natural alternatives in construction.