With the effects of climate change being felt across the globe, green buildings have become a necessity, to ensure a sustainable future. We look at what this involves and how it can be achieved in the real estate sector
Sustainability is no longer an option but the need of the hour, to conserve the resources and protect the environment. The increase in environmental awareness among people, has impacted real estate in India too. In the last few years, green buildings in India have seen a dramatic increase. A green building is one that is designed and built to reduce environmental impacts.
Green buildings are a trillion-dollar industry, worldwide, says Milli Majumdar, managing director of GBCI (Green Business Certification Inc) India and senior vice-president, US Green Building Council (USGBC).
“India had 899 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified projects totalling more than 24.81 million gross sq metres of space in 2018. Currently, we have close to 3,200 LEED participating projects totalling 1.45 billion gross sq ft. India is steadily working toward its target of 10 billion sq ft of green building footprint by 2022, on the back of several initiatives and programmes. India has consistently ranked third (outside of the US) in the annual list of the top 10 countries and regions in the LEED list,” informs Majumdar.
She attributes this progress to the leadership of businesses, property owners and government leaders, who are using green buildings to address some of the most critical social and environmental concerns, while raising the living standard for people in their communities.
“Many government buildings in the country have chosen LEED certification. State governments in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, have started offering incentives for the rating system and government agencies have been persuading property buyers to opt for sustainable buildings with LEED certification,” adds Majumdar. The GBCI considers five key parameters for LEED certification: saving energy, saving water, waste management, reducing carbon footprint and focusing on the health of the building’s occupants.
Importance of sustainable construction practices
Climate change is happening. Global warming may cause sea levels to rise, resulting in the flooding of low-lying coastal areas in the future. Buildings and their usage attribute around 40% to this, says eminent architect Benny Kuriakose. “Resources are limited and waste disposal has become a serious issue. We have to look at an alternative approach. Practising ‘sustainable architecture’ should be the norm. Conservation of our existing buildings should be our top priority. The construction of new buildings has a great impact on the environment and should be kept to the minimum. Only green buildings should be constructed now,” maintains Kuriakose.
Green buildings consume less water, make optimal use of energy, conserve natural resources and generate less waste, while providing healthier living spaces for its occupants, as compared to conventional buildings, points out Sunita Purushottam, head of sustainability at Mahindra Lifespaces. “For residents, this translates into tangible benefits in the form of savings in water and electricity bills, while intangible benefits include enhanced ventilation, adequate daylight, superior air quality and an overall sense of harmony and well-being. The vision for green buildings is to have a zero-carbon footprint. There is a growing trend, today, to utilise unconventional alternatives for conserving natural resources,” adds Purushottam.
Home buyers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of living in green homes and are demanding the same. Chandan Vichoray, HOD of Management Technology in an engineering college, says: “My idea of a green home is about efficient energy utilisation, which comes from using natural resources like sunlight and air. I bought an apartment at the Bloomdale project in Nagpur as the design of the building and layout of the site allows space for air circulation and sunlight to enter my rooms, which reduces my need for energy and also brings down my carbon footprint.”
Sustainable construction technologies in real estate
There are many ways, in which real estate can embrace sustainable construction technologies. Purushottam lists several ways in which this can be done:
- “At the construction stage, one can ensure that existing water bodies are preserved, to minimise ecological disturbance.
- Opt for Gypsum plaster, as an alternate material to cement and sand plaster, as this requires 50% less water for mixing and no water for curing.
- A curing compound can be used instead of water, to reduce water consumption in projects.
- Water-efficient fixtures can minimise wastage and recycled water can be used for landscaping.
- In addition to bricks, fly ash can be used in the construction of roads and flooring of car parking areas. The use of fly ash reduces dependencies on cement, which is linked to CO2 emissions. Fly ash also enhances thermal efficiency, keeping interiors cool in summer and warm in winter.”
Constructions can also incorporate features that minimise energy consumption. Natural ventilation can often be a problem in Indian cities with high pollution levels. To counter this, one can use shaded and comfortable outdoor landscape and introduce indoor plants, says Nitin Bansal, director of projects at Morphogenesis, an architecture and urban design firm. “Alternative cooling strategies, like natural ventilation enhanced by ceiling fans and desert coolers, can provide thermal comfort for a large part of the year and reduce the need for energy-guzzling air-conditioners. Indoor plants or green walls can also minimise the harmful effects of poor outdoor air quality. For water conservation, dual piping systems with a centralised sewage treatment plant, can help utilise grey water for secondary requirements, like flushing, irrigation, etc. Rainwater harvesting for large developments, can cater to freshwater demand. Renewable energy for common areas and solar heaters, can help in energy efficiency,” Bansal elaborates.
Although the construction industry and consumers are moving towards sustainable practices, there is a shortfall of sustainable design experts and technically skilled manpower, to execute these objectives, Bansal laments. “The industry needs to evolve holistically and this should include education and training infrastructure. Accelerating the adoption of green buildings, will require advanced training and education infrastructure, enhanced financial support, as well as better incentive schemes,” he concludes.