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Stephen John, Research Fellow, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury, New Zealand points out the benefits of environmentally-friendly, energy efficient and cost-effective New Zealand pine.

The construction industry in India is one of the most rapidly growing sectors and contributes significantly to the economy. It is growing at a rate of 9.2% against the world average of 5.5%.

Increasingly there is interest among builders to opt for green construction to obtain a better Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. This can be perceived as a thought-process shift, wherein the companies are looking at the long term benefits of green construction.

Though the concept has been practiced extensively in more developed countries, India has recently woken up to this concept.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the central pillar of the Indian Green Building Council or IGBC, plays an active role in promoting sustainability in the construction sector. The IGBC has licensed the LEED green building standard from the US Green Building Council and is responsible for certifying LEED-New Construction and LEED-Core and Shell buildings in India.

All other projects are certified through the US Green Building Council. Along with the construction industry, several architects too are adopting green building techniques.

CII-IGBC recently announced that Shree Ram Urban Infrastructure – a developer – is attempting the first ever LEED Platinum rating (Core & Shell) in India and will be the first ever residential building in the world to do so. Palais Royale will be located in Worli, Mumbai, with an estimated height of over 1000 ft.

Taking a LEED

The projected growth potential for green buildings in India is shown in the following table:

From humble beginnings of 20,000 sq ft of green footprint in 2003, to a staggering 70 million sq ft to date, green buildings are well poised to reach heights in India.

Today, a variety of green building projects are coming up in the country – residential complexes, exhibition centres, hospitals, educational institutions, laboratories, IT parks, airports, government buildings and corporate offices. This has compelled the Indian materials and equipment manufacturers to seriously look at green features to meet the growing demand for green buildings.

Most construction companies are trying to increase their LEED ratings through various product features such as use of flyash, energy efficient windows and use of recycled materials for construction. Although these products effectively give a construction project higher LEED rating, it follows the letter of the Kyoto Protocol rather than the spirit of it.

True, green construction would be through the use of sustainable products for construction which would effectively aide the sustainability of the environment. New Zealand has one such product to assist – New Zealand Pine.

It has the unique characteristic of being both green and sustainable to the environment, giving a higher rating to the construction project, and at the same time not harming the ecology. New Zealand pine is environmentally-friendly, energy efficient and a cost-effective alternative to threatened native and tropical forests in India.

Green, with hints of steel

From a green perspective, wood building materials have much less embodied energy (energy required to manufacture building materials) compared to other materials. The biggest advantage of using wood is the opportunity to recover solar energy from wood waste – a significantly greater plus point than both the benefits of stored carbon and the low embodied energy in wood materials.

The solar energy which has been stored in the wood for a few years can then be used in place of fossil fuels. Better still, wood waste can come from all stages of harvesting and processing, construction and demolition of timber buildings.

A simulation was conducted by the University of Canterbury New Zealand to investigate the use of concrete, steel, and wood as the main construction material for the sub-structure, super-structure and finishes in a commercial building.

The project looked at how green and sustainable different building materials are, and involved three six-storey building design projects with concrete, steel, or wood. The aim of the project was to look at the influence of materials on the life cycle energy use and CO2 emissions of the buildings.

For the steel and timber buildings, the objective was to use as much of the material as possible in the structure and finishes. Many interior and exterior finishing materials were kept constant. External cladding on the timber building was fibre cement.

The break-up of the three buildings are:

  • Concrete: conventional pre-cast reinforced concrete
  • Steel: main structure steel, with a steel-concrete composite floor
  • Timber: main structure of pre-stressed timber columns and beams, with a timber-concrete floor

With regards to the level of embodied emissions in the three buildings (measured from cradle to gate i.e. when natural materials are removed from the earth, to when the materials end up as basic manufactured material ready for delivery to subsequent processing or fabrication, or as final product ready for delivery), the building with timber as its main construction material had a net embodied carbon emissions figure of 689 tonnes CO2. Compared to the concrete building net figure of 1508 kg CO2/m2 and the steel building’s at 1730 kg CO2/m2, the timber building had the lower carbon footprint among the three buildings.


With a mere 0.05% of the world’s forest resource, New Zealand is able to supply nearly 9% of the Asia-Pacific region’s forest products trade. New Zealand is home to some of the largest and most intensively managed forestry plantations in the world, producing timber and timber products.

About 50% of the New Zealand forests are FSC certified and nearly all of 1.8 million hectares are plantation forests. Plantation-grown wood is an environmentally-friendly alternative to tropical hardwood, with one hectare of pruned radiata able to produce as much usable quality wood as 40 hectares of tropical forest. This renewable resource offers quality and durability at reasonable cost, grown in forests that offer significant environmental benefits. 

New Zealand wood companies take an innovative and highly-focused approach to delivering finished products such as wood building solutions for resort developments and lifestyle holiday homes; supply high quality mouldings and components for the production of solid wood and modular furniture; and manufacture high quality, durable products.

Engineered wood

According to The Structural Timer Innovation Company (STIC), wood can be used as a light timber frame in large-scale construction. After a pioneering timber engineering research at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, STIC was recently formed to fund the research and commercialisation of large-scale, commercial, open-plan building – constructed using timber.

Using a modular system concept, STIC will develop open-plan, commercial, multi-storey timber buildings utilising high quality timber like laminated veneer lumber (LVL). It is an engineered wood with many attributes such as being guaranteed, is consistent, can be manufactured under third-party supervision, has limitless production lengths, and most importantly, the wood is sourced from renewable pine plantations.

Andy Buchanan, professor of Timber Design at Canterbury University, says primary applications will include developments of a commercial, industrial and residential nature. Initial developments will be large low-rise buildings, and move on to 10-storey buildings or more. The developments will span across New Zealand, Australia and other export markets.

These new buildings will be more desirable places to live and work in, being of lower weight with easier transport of components and less expensive foundations plus flexible design.

The sustainability benefits of timber buildings will include lower CO2 emissions due to the low embodied energy of timber materials, lower life-time heating and cooling costs, and carbon sequestration in the building components.

The use of New Zealand timber also helps make buildings greener, resulting in a better rating in the building rating tools.

Moreover, with extensive laboratory testing already done, the pre-stressed, post-tensioned timber buildings will be durable and resistant to major earthquakes and safe in extreme weather, fires or other emergencies, he says. The conclusion is that LVL is a highly suitable multi-storey construction material that exceeds all
test expectations.

Only New Zealand can offer this innovative multi-storey timber building approach – literally a revolution in timber building and design. For the future, considerable partnership potential exists between Indian value chain partners and New Zealand timber suppliers, as firms work with buyers to leverage on new technologies and deliver customised solutions.  


The size of green buildings is estimated at US$4 billion by 2010. The market for FSC certified wood is projected to grow to US$150 million per year by year 2010.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) Trade Commissioner for South Asia, Paul Vaughan sees tremendous opportunities for India & New Zealand to collaborate in this respect: “Through a series of technical seminars and participation at leading conferences in India, New Zealand has been able to reach out to the architects & interior designers on the use of NZ pine and engineered wood products like LVL and glued laminated timber (glulam). Our effort is to build an ecosystem where Indian builders and architects can work closely with the manufacturers in New Zealand to provide sustainable building solutions.”

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