Green buildings: From crimson to green
Green buildings are not fashionable. But the order of the day
For long, green buildings were spoken of fashionably. The impression given to the listener was that it was an elite thing. Few contended. That is because more people thought it was an expensive affair and beyond their means. It was only when reams were written and interviews were published on officials of members of the Green Building Council did people fathom and get an inkling of green buildings.
But then, why the secrecy? If it is meant to benefit mankind and usher in a new era of construction, shouldn’t the information be scattered around? For some time, Construction Week has always sought to do the right thing by writing about green buildings and their benefits. We thought we would go one step further.
We brought in some of the promoters of green buildings in a webinar to understand how India can go green.
Our panellists were: Mili Majumdar, MD, GBCI, India and senior VP, USGBC; Shabbir Kanchwala, sr VP, K Raheja Corp; Shailesh Puranik, MD, Puranik Builders; Chitty Babu, chairman & CEO, Akshaya; and Sanjay Bahadur, CEO – CC, Pidilite Industries.
Encouraged by Dr Fixit, the eclectic panel had all the knowledge required to charm our audience of 1200-plus who attended the webinar virtually.
A better view
Speaking about green buildings, Majumdar said, “Now is the time to revisit what green offers to us in terms of solutions optimising cost and one should encourage green to reap its maximum benefits. Energy-efficiency, health benefits, low maintenance are only some of the large benefits.”
Bahadur believes that wherever we are constructing, the developer must ensure thermal comfort for the people. He says, “When thermal comfort is taken care of, then healthy living and ventilation is a part of it. Going forward, the mechanical ventilation method may change so that buildings are made more healthy. We must ensure that the walls and the roof are well insulated and it must be tested. There are not enough testing facilities in India.”
The construction industry, per se, has hit a re-set button. For that matter, the rest of the world too. Chitty Babu said, “I see plenty of opportunity in the whole business of construction. A lot of things will now change. Right from design to mode of selling to marketing, will see a drastic change and will need thinking through now. At Akshaya, we started building without revealing the benefits to our customers. Everything else falls in place. Cross-ventilation, top soil in place, heat reduction, etc are some of the visible benefits. We have been executing green projects (only) since 2008 and has given us amazing results.”
Most of them agreed that Covid-19 is a good opportunity to revamp one’s philosophies and change tactics, if possible. Chances are that what worked in the past might not work anymore. For instance, labour is not going to be available in large numbers. Seeking labour will mean paying a higher price. So developers will have to rethink the construction methodology if they need to build projects at a pace they are supposed to.
There is also a shift happening in consumer behaviour. For instance, there were plenty of large malls built and then online shopping became the rage. Puranik said, “Similarly, the lines between a residential and commercial real estate are going to get blurred. With work from home becoming a fad, people can be sitting anywhere and working. So much of resources will be saved in the long run. If anything can be made green now, then this is it.”
Processes are undergoing changes across projects – that is a given. Kanchwala said, “Our commercial and residential projects are challenging us to think up new ways. With the social distancing norms, area requirements have gone up for commercial projects. IT and IT-related companies are looking for larger space now. However, we continue with our tryst to build green, be it our commercial developments or our high-rises. The Group works closely with Green Building Council to increase energy-efficiency in every way possible.”
Conceptualise from the start
Today, more developers are adopting the concept of green buildings. Maybe not all the way, but there is progress. Anubhav Gupta, business head (Vikhroli), head of CSR and sustainability, founder of GPL Design Studio, Godrej Properties, says, “About 95% of our portfolio is green. The idea of green begins very early on. First we work out how we want to face our buildings, then comes the internal arrangements of space, light, ventilation, etc. Use of recycled materials and their local procurement plays a very important role. We are trying to make our sites water positive. All this is for the customer’s benefits as its ultimate use is by them. On our part, we educate them to use the buildings better so that the infrastructure put in is put to good use.”
Materials like paints with lower emissions of toxins, stone, natural fibre, composites, steel, insulated concrete bags, wood and many other environmental-friendly materials are used for construction of high-performance buildings and sustainable designs. The usage of green materials offers selective benefits to the developer and occupants like reducing environmental impacts associated with the extraction, transport, processing, fabrication, installation, reuse, recycling, and disposal of these building industry source materials. Solar panels are quite popular for using renewable energy and cutting down grid energy usage.
Speaking about constructing green high-rises, Ashok Mohanani, chairman, EKTA World & president-elect NAREDCO, Maharashtra, says, “High-rises enable many people to live, work, spend their leisure time to access public services in relatively small areas. Green buildings need appropriate design and planning which could help in developing a universal and integrated model that could embed the entire urban and building models. Challenges include unavailability of sustainable building material, poor material quality, unavailability of specific equipment, increased cost of construction and mainly uncertainty in the performance of sustainable materials.”
In commercial projects, using a rating system like LEED allows to create a better performing building and rating systems to provide third-party verification ensures buildings are in fact green. Companies have taken the concept of green living seriously and focus on advances not only for building structure or systems from the outside but from the inside as well. Commercial areas are more flexible to adapt the change as compared to residential therefore a higher consumption of environment-friendly spaces is observed. An attitudinal shift is expected in the current scenario for residential living as buyers have become more focused towards wellness and healthy living.
Apurva Gupta, chief marketing officer, Rivali Park CCI Projects, says, “The debate over tall sustainable buildings and their significant impact on the environment has often been raised. On one hand, there is a dire need to construct high-rise green buildings for the environmental upgradation, and on the other hand, the high consumption of crucial resources due to the tall buildings is posing a challenge. Apart from this, capital costs for energy effectiveness as part of the green factor in buildings are often a chief barrier to comprehending high performance buildings that can save energy.”
Several developers are concerned that implementing sustainable features into their buildings will encompass high upfront costs. As equalled to conservative buildings, green building projects are often witnessed as having higher initial design and construction costs. Another challenge involved in making a high-rise green is the construction and installation process of green roofs. The foremost challenge is to safeguard the building can sustain a green roof, ensuring its quality installation, maintenance requisites, leak prevention and potential plant loss due to ecological conditions or mismanagement. Developers can make the most of the benefits of green roofs by appropriately choosing plants, the medium of growth, drainage layers and other features tailored to the local climate conditions and the building’s surroundings.
Speaking about stressing on this, Majumdar says, “One need not strive much to make green buildings. Location matters as much also. Access to basic services and creating an area that is pedestrian friendly are only some of the things. Lesser concentrates of pollutants can be achieved through right planning. One need not look only within the gated community, but must look outside too.”
Summing up the discussion, Bahadur said, “Our philosophy is clear. It’s chemistry in the service of solving civil engineering problems. Construction problems will emerge differently due to changes in practices that may happen. Through chemistry we need to resolve them and find a solution. For this, all the stakeholders like architects and builders and solution providers need to work together.”
Many types of green, nontoxic building materials are now readily available at inexpensive values. These encompass low- and zero-VOC paints, strawboard made composed from wheat, and linoleum flooring that made from linseed oil and jute and linseed oil. Sustainable resources like hundred percent reprocessed carpeting and heavy steel, acoustic ceiling tiles and furniture with noteworthy salvaged content, and soybean-based padding often cost the same as or much less than standard materials, and they have much less damaging impact on the surroundings.
Futuristic trends in green buildings like net-zero energy homes are fast catching traction. Due to its zero net energy consumption, these buildings advance energy efficiency at homes, thus taking resource-saving to the next level.