Five low-cost green building ideas
Imran Mirza lists down five ways in which you can go green, without spending a great deal
While there’s a long list of things you can do to secure your building a green certification, you can move towards sustainability by following these low-cost green building tips. Easy to implement and inexpensive, these simple strategies can drastically lower your project’s environmental footprint.
1. Design for maximum natural day lighting
Using natural light from the sun is the best way to reduce energy consumption and lower the carbon footprint of a building. It costs nothing and is also beneficial for the health of the occupants — research shows that people perform better in naturally lit environments. Day lighting helps to lower lighting costs, reduces the price of cooling and can be accomplished without any increase in the cost of construction.
Buildings can be designed to receive adequate daylight and reduce the requirement of artificial lighting through innovative use of facades, windows and open areas.
2. Use a natural ventilation system
Cooling costs make up for most of the energy consumption in any building. It is possible to cut down on cooling requirements by using a natural ventilation system. Windows can be used effectively to enable proper ventilation by taking advantage of the wind movement and thermal convection. Natural ventilation reduces the need for air conditioning and brings down power consumption. It also improves the indoor air quality as fresh air circulates in the building.
Windows must also be provided with overhangs to create a natural cooling system and reduce heat gain by screening out the sunlight.
3. Install water-efficient fixtures and toilets
Developers have little or no control over the consumption of water in their buildings once they are occupied by the owners. A smart way to ensure that the water consumption of the occupants remains low is to install water-efficient fixtures and toilets. Unlike old toilets that required 18-20 litres of water in every flush, new toilets use only about 6 litres per flush.
Flow reducers can be fitted into the aerator at the tip of the faucet to lower the rate of water flow. Using low-flow showerheads instead of standard showerheads also leads to substantial water savings. Low-flow toilets can save more than 80,000 litres of water per year for a family of four. One can reduce the consumption of water by nearly 40 per cent simply by using flow reducers.
4. Use zero- or no-VOC paint
No-VOC paints do not emit any volatile organic compounds and hence are environment friendly. Recent studies show that indoor air is usually between three and five times more toxic compared to outdoor air. Toxic emissions from paint and finishes are the biggest contributors to this. Using zero- or low-VOC paints can thus improve the indoor air quality. Low-VOC paints also help to reduce toxins that cause allergy, while zero or no-VOC paints are ideal for places like hospitals, offices and schools, which need to maintain good indoor air quality.
5. Use fly-ash in concrete
Fly ash, a by-product of coal-based power plants, is an excellent and inexpensive substitute for cement. Depending on the application, one can use 30- to 50-per cent fly ash mixed with concrete for construction. Using fly ash offers twin benefits: it reduces the amount of concrete needed for construction, and also increases the strength and durability of the concrete. In India, more than 60 per cent of power is generated through coal-based power plants. Using fly ash can reduce the environmental impact of cement production to a great extent. The government also encourages the use of fly ash in construction projects.