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It is our moral responsibility to consider the impact of real estate and infrastructure developments on climate change and environment and accordingly use the concept of 'eco-efficiency' to mitigate the adverse effects, Neha Bhatia
According to the Sustainable Construction and Building Initiative of the UNEP, a large fraction of about 30-40% of the global energy is consumed by the building sector itself. The building sector also accounts for 30-40% of material resource consumption and 30-40% of waste production. In addition to this, the materials that have been conventionally used by the building sector have high carbon footprints and contribute to high green house gas emissions. In short they have a significant impact on the global climate change thereby worsening the global warming situation. In the recently held The Economic Times Realty Convention, 2009, this was confirmed by Mili Mujumdar, associate director, Sustainable Building Science, The Energy Research Institute, who said, "It is a well established fact that 40% of the global energy use and 30% of GIEC emission are accounted for by the building sector." She further added, "Recent study by TERI says that four and half billion units of electricity are required to meet the current demand of the residential and commercial buildings. Conventionally our traditional buildings consume around 200 units/sq. metre/year, which is phenomenally higher than the international standards and can be easily brought down to 90, which is half of it, through appropriate approaches. It is easily doable."

Growing global environment crisis along with excessive consumption of energy and excessive emission of green house gases by the building sector has fuelled the need to adopt the concept of sustainability. Although at the global level, the governments have bound themselves with the Kyoto Protocol; it is becoming increasingly imperative with every passing day for the building sector to adopt green buildings.
As mentioned above, buildings do have a significant impact on the environment over their entire life cycle. While the construction and operation of buildings results in depletion of resources like ground cover, forests, water and energy, resource-intensive materials are used to provide the building envelope and landscape which adds beauty to the building, which in turn require water and pesticides for their maintenance. To provide comfort to the occupants of the building, energy consuming systems for lighting, space conditioning, water heating and security are installed in the building. Besides, a large amount of waste is also generated during the construction of the building as well as during the operation and the maintenance of the building. The occupants of the building also have a significant contribution in the waste generated. Thus, buildings are not only one of the major consumers of energy, but they are also one of the major sources of pollution and hence they affect the urban air quality and contribute significantly to the climate change.

Clearly, the design of a " Green Building" should address all these issues in an integrated and scientific manner. The concept of "Green Building" thus aims at increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources - energy, water, materials - while reducing the impact of the building on human health and the surrounding environment during its life cycle, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal and recycle of waste. According to Mujumdar, "In the clean development mechanism projects, 12 out of 45,000 registered projects are talking about reducing demand in the building sector."
LEED and GRIHA are two commonly used rating systems used to evaluate the design of a Green Building. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED provides the building owners with tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their building's performance. LEED promotes the ‘Green' design approach by evaluating the performance of the building in five key areas, namely, human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. GRIHA, an acronym for Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment, is the National Rating System of India. It has been conceived by TERI and developed jointly with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. It is a green building 'design evaluation system', and is suitable for all kinds of buildings in different climatic zones of the country.
Although green buildings appear to be a promising solution of the global climate change threat posed by the building sector, the one hesitation in their adoption is the excess capital cost incurred in their construction, which could be about 6% of that of a regular building. However, it is also a proven fact that it costs less to operate a green building that has tremendous environmental benefits and provides a better place for the occupants to live and work in. About 80% of the energy consumed by the building sector is consumed during day-to-day operations as per the Sustainable Construction and Building Initiative of the UNEP. This issue was highlighted by Mujumdar also who said, "The builders have a huge issue about split incentives. The concern is who meets the excess cost? But the recent studies show that these measures don't cost much. They might cost you 6-10% more per sq. foot but a benefit of about 30-40% in terms of energy saving is achievable in A/c buildings. There is an unrealized potential which the developers are not realizing within their own selling platform. They have a huge potential in sustainable development to attract consumers. Instead of selling high-profile sanitary fixtures it is better to sell energy efficiency and also it doesn't cost anything. It is a win-win situation." The point was further reinforced by Zubin Irani, MD, Carrier Airconditioning and Refrigeration Ltd., who said "Energy efficiency and demand side management is not only about CSR, but it also actually makes important business sense and drives short term economic payback. As far as technologies go, there have been a lot of innovations that drive significant payback in existing as well as new buildings. These lead to significantly higher energy efficiency. In any offering that we offer paybacks will be in two-three years. Regulations and building codes will definitely help propagate the cause of energy efficiency. The new guidelines will raise awareness amongst customers and if customers demand for it then the developers will move in that direction. This whole phenomenon is going to propagate not because there are regulations or because the green building standards are maintained but the main reason is that it makes business sense. And if it makes business sense then financing will become viable. Soon some smart people will figure out how to finance this and make funding available to customers also so that this thing propagates even more. There is a lot of potential in terms of demand management and energy efficiency. This really has the greatest short term potential as it makes sense from a business model point of view."
With so many advantages of 'going green', the way ahead for green buildings is certainly very promising. This is the best we can do to save our environment and make our planet healthy and secure for generations to come and hence it is the moral responsibility of the customers as well as the builders and the governments on a global scale to promote the concept of "Green Buildings". According to Mujumdar, "Mandating things don't really help if implementation is not strong. There is a need for a concerted approach. We need intervention at the policy level and awareness needs to come at both the developer and consumer level to incorporate these in the main stream."
Courtesy:- TOI dt:- 20/11/2009

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