Green and sustainable construction: The future of real estate?

Anil Khurana, head- architecture & design, Kalpataru, explains why green building principles need to be applied scientifically

Kalpataru, Anil Khurana, Green building, World Green Building Council, Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, Baker & Nestor, Piezoelectric plasters, Low-E glass

Green or sustainable building as defined by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) is one that by way of its design, construction and operation reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and further creates positive impacts on our climate, the natural environment and its users. Sustainability is the concept of maintaining equitable conditions across not only socio-economic and geographic barriers but also across generations and through time.

Impact of COVID-19
The virally-conveyed clarity has shown us the fragility of the achievements of human civilization. The current pandemic has upended norms and conventions. It has caused us to reevaluate our role as designers and builders. The virus has certainly brought perspective to the ways our societies live and work. In the novel world of physical distancing, a thriving virtual network has become an absolute necessity. By disengaging ourselves from unproductive activities, we’ve reduced our energy consumption and thereby, our carbon foot print. Its first time in history that very basic tenets of design & construction needs to have a paradigm shift of sorts.

Diseases shape cities
Some of the most iconic solutions in urban planning and building design came in response to health crises. Be it Haussmann’s renovation of Paris in the 1800s, London’s modern infrastructure in the cholera epidemic of 1954 or New York’s new housing in the 19th century. Chicago firm Baker & Nestor points out: “Architects are often inspired to come up with fresh ideas during those moments when we’ve got nothing else to do.”

Public spaces are moving towards an automated environment to mitigate the contagion. Contactless technology with automated doors, hands-free switches, and cell-phone controlled devices and digital-cash economy will be more prevalent in commercial and retail developments. Open office plans are already on the decline, we’re learning from virtual working to create work spaces that allow for a balance between isolated concentration and meaningful collaboration. Washrooms in public spaces are minimizing doorways. Self-cleaning toilets and smaller modular spaces like pod rooms will soon become the norm.

Multi-function spaces and adaptive reuse of single-use space has become the new normal. The stadiums and hospitality spaces are being repositioned as healthcare and shelters virtually overnight. A whole century of innovations in physical modes of transport like aircrafts are either rendered inoperable or like cruise ships being adapted into shore academies. A clear representation of cycle of sustainability - recycle, reuse and reduce.

New techniques
Green building principles need to be applied scientifically, underlying the thermal and luminous behavior of buildings. We spend 90% of our time indoors and buildings are responsible for 40% of our carbon emissions worldwide. Furthermore, a temporary drop in pollution levels has amply highlighted the large part we can play in reducing our carbon footprint. Our buildings can become substantially more energy efficient by adopting smart building materials like Low-E glass and switchable glass in facades, anti-bacterial fabrics and finishes, piezoelectric plasters, translucent concrete, shape memory alloys among others. Certain construction materials already standard in Healthcare may find application in other building types. The true test of sustainability will come after we are able to inculcate the changes brought about by this pandemic into concrete examples of energy efficient buildings and cities of the future.

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June 2020
10 Jun 2020