Sustainable Buildings – The Way Forward
Dependency on energy has been pivotal for the existence of human civilization, from Stone Age to today’s Contemporary Age. In context of India, we are the seventh largest energy consumer (in the world) and out of which energy usage in building blocks accounts for 33 per cent of the nation’s energy use. And what is rather alarming is that it is growing at a rate of 8 per cent annually. In the last two decades or so there has been an overwhelming migration of people from rural lands to urban spaces in search of better opportunities, education and standard of living. This has triggered a real estate boom in urban parts of the country leading to numerous residential and commercial projects; ultimately increasing the overall usage of energy several folds.
Going by constant rise in consumption of energy, a balance has to be struck between the immediate need to fulfill the growing usage of energy while keeping in mind the repercussions it might have on the environment. Thus, emerged the concepts of Green buildings/Sustainable buildings which are by far the most effective solutions to address the current situation and which have been duly promoted by the various Government bodies.
So what exactly constitutes a sustainable building?
Sustainability principles have been carefully adhered to, right from site selection and design to engineering, construction, materials and operations. This includes but is not restricted to the usage of native flora, minimizing both environmental impact and reducing the need for landscaping water, low-energy/green materials, appropriate orientation of building facades that en- sure adequate day lighting and minimizes glare etc.
Planning & Design
The planning and designing phase of sustainable architecture involves utilization of evolving techniques and innovative methods which will ultimately curtail the adverse effects of pollution. In India, sustainable buildings are often based and constructed on the precedents set by developed countries like the usage of natural and non-toxic materials, choosing recycled material (lumber, clay plaster, straw bales, and mortar), structural insulating wall panels etc.
The most important component of energy efficiency is the application of sustainable building concepts in fully constructed or completed structures. These structures utilize innovative methods that promote generation of energy by sustainable means such as wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, bioreactors and solar panels among others.
The Indian real estate sector has witnessed the coming of sustainable structures in the form of zero energy homes which are highly energy efficient and are integrated with passive solar building designs. Though they incur high initial costs, zero energy homes are becoming increasingly popular because of their ability to pro- mote positive environmental impact.
Another important cog in the sustainable machine is getting good advisory and consultancies on board, agencies with proven success rate in the field. These organizations play a critical role in minimizing water wastage, understanding the value of biodiversity, and more importantly the importance of their preservation and longevity. This knowledge is incorporated at the design phase itself which can then be value-engineered all throughout the project life cycle. There are many established and globally recognized organizations that have proved their prowess in this field and could be an important partner especially in a developing country like India.
The lightning speed at which India has been growing, the increase in energy consumption is an expected by-product. The large chunk of which will be devoured by sprawling buildings spread across the country. Ecologically safe structure is not a luxury item but an urgent and immediate need in the realty landscape, this is only possible through education, policy level changes, working in unison but most importantly developing a sense of urgency to environmental conservation.
Author: Ashish R. Puravankara, Managing Director & Board Director, Puravankara Limited.
(The above article was first published in the July-August print edition of Business World – Smart Cities World magazine)