Afternoon Voice

Green Buildings – An Imperative, Not a Choice

Over the past few decades, fast-paced economic development coupled with rapid population growth and urbanization has led to a rapid depletion of natural resources. The accelerated rate of resource consumption and rise in greenhouse gases’ emission has resulted in significant environmental degradation. This has, in turn, resulted in climate change, the rise in average temperature and deterioration of air quality.

The building sector is one of the major consumers of natural resources such as water, energy and other raw materials. It generates a large number of wastes and pollutants during the three phases of its life cycle – construction, maintenance and deconstruction. As per estimates, the construction sector consumes an approximate 25 per cent of water and 35-40 per cent energy, apart from other raw materials.

Additionally, it emits 40 per cent of global wastes and 35 per cent of greenhouse gases. Looking at the rampant degradation of the environment across the globe, it has become imperative to take measures for the optimal use of natural resources, reduction of wastes and restricting the pollution.  The use of green building practices can help in addressing these concerns along with giving an impetus to build a sustainable environment for future generations.

What is a green building?

Apart from a noun, green building is also a verb – namely the practice of using processes and technologies which are environmentally friendly and energy efficient throughout the building’s lifecycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

Green building practices can improve the environment’s ecology in numerous ways. They can reduce energy consumption by 20-30 per cent and water usage by 30-50%, and significantly reduce waste generation by extensive recycling. Apart from the obvious protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity, the use of green building practices leads to:

 

 

Across the different countries, there are several programs and agencies that define, categorize and certify green buildings, such as LEED (USA), BREEAM (UK), DGNB (Germany) and CASBEF (Japan). In India, IGBC and GRIHA are at the forefront of promoting the green building programs and certifications. Certifications are done on various parameters such as:

 

Though at a nascent stage, India has emerged as one of the leading countries in terms of green buildings’ projects. India ranks only second after the U.S. in terms of the number of green technology projects and built-up area. More than 4,300 projects with an approximate 4.7 billion sq.ft. of built-up area are registered for green technology in the country.

However, this is only about 5 per cent of the total buildings in India, indicating that there lies a tremendous potential for further penetration of green building technology in India. Growing at an exponential rate, the Indian green buildings’ market is expected to double and may reach close to 10 billion sq.ft. by 2022 (at a valuation of $35-$50 billion).

Key factors driving green building practices

Although the initial costs of a green building may be higher (up to 15 per cent, depending on various factors) than for conventional buildings, the long-term benefits such as low operating costs, potential health benefits for the occupiers and protection of the environment makes such buildings very viable options.

Some of the key factors that are likely to drive the green buildings’ demand are:

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging trends and technologies in green buildings

Green buildings aim to build a sustainable environment through efficient use of energy and conservation of natural resources. The efficiency of a green building can be maximized by the use of innovative construction materials and cutting-edge technology. While there are many technologies used across different countries, some of the more notable ones are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ongoing challenges and barriers for green buildings

While the use of green building practices is on the rise in India, there are also a few challenges and barriers. Over the last few years, the slowdown in Indian real estate sector has led to a huge stash of unsold inventory. In addition, the impact of recent reforms amidst subdued demand has further dampened the market sentiments, and the majority of the developers are struggling to offload the existing inventory.

Current market conditions have made the developers skeptical about the usage of any technology that increases the cost of construction. Apart from this short-term market situation, some of the other challenges for green buildings practice implementation in India are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

The relentless degradation of the environment along with fast pace depletion of resources, rising pollution and climate change has affected the human life significantly. The deteriorating health conditions and livability quotients are alarming for the current and future generations.

This state of affairs calls for closer attention and increased participation of countries across the globe to take measures to slow down environmental degradation. The building sector, which is one of the biggest consumers of resources and emits a significant amount of pollutants as well as wastes, can play a vital role in building a sustainable environment by increased usage of green technologies.

In India, the growth of green buildings can be accelerated through standardization of norms, better incentive schemes, single window clearances, robust financial support system and most importantly creating awareness amongst all the stakeholders. Increasing awareness about green buildings and their long-term benefits can create a much bigger market potential – and when all is said and done, green buildings are the foundation of any substantial sustainable living mantra.

 

By Anuj Puri

(The author of this article is the Chairman of ANAROCK Property Consultants)