Why buildings should go green

by - February 1st, 2015

By 2030, more than 600 million people would be living in urban areas. The 6th GRIHA Summit presented ecological solutions for resource-efficient and sustainable habitats for healthier living.

The concept of a green building eschews the conventional construction processes that lead to unimaginable wastage - both of materials as well as costs. In fact, a green building integrates a fine blend of both traditional and modern techniques that minimize the use of scarce resources such as water and energy. Green buildings are fast becoming a development imperative, as India is set to become the third largest construction market in the world by 2025. According to the 12th Five Year Plan, almost 380 million people were living in urban agglomerations in 2011, and it is projected that by 2030, almost 600 million people would be living in urban areas. Increasing population coupled with continued urbanization is likely to result in the emergence of about 60-70 cities with a population of more than a million by 2030.

But the need to move towards green buildings has vital ecological reasons too. Globally, buildings account for 40 per cent of the total energy consumption, but energy efficient technologies have the potential of reducing energy consumption by up to 60 per cent. In India, the building sector accounts for approximately 35 per cent of the total energy consumption and is growing at a rate of eight per cent annually. Buildings are also a source of emissions of various gases and pollutants, and directly as well as indirectly, they account for about 19 per cent of greenhouse gases globally.

But the Green Building Footprint is just about three per cent of the current building stock of 25 billion sq ft, and this is expected to reach 100 billion sq ft by 2030.

The GRIHA Summit & Model

To provide a fillip to the green building sector, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) brought together over 700 professionals from the construction sector to promote and spread our green building footprint. The 6th GRIHA Summit, held in New Delhi from March 12 to March 14, provided a platform to showcase best practices, resource-efficient models and cleaner pathways in the building sector. The initiative was supported by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, and the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

GRIHA - Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment - was adopted as the national rating system for green buildings by the Government of India in 2007. The GRIHA rating system has been developed to help 'design and evaluate' new buildings (buildings that are still at the inception stages). A building is assessed based on its predicted performance over its entire life cycle - inception through operation. The stages of the life cycle that have been identified for evaluation are:

  • Pre-construction stage: Intra and inter-site issues like proximity to public transport, type of soil, kind of land, where the property is located, the flora and fauna on the land before construction activity starts, the natural landscape and land features.
  • Building planning and construction stages: Issues of resource conservation and reduction in resource demand, resource utilization efficiency, resource recovery and reuse, and provisions for occupant health and well-being. The prime resources that are considered in this section are land, water, energy, air, and green cover.
  • Building operation and maintenance stage: Issues of operation and maintenance of building systems and processes, monitoring and recording of energy consumption, and occupant's health and well-being, and also issues that affect the global and local environment.

Multi-layered benefits

On a broader scale, this system will benefit the community at large with the improvement in the environment by reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, reducing energy consumption and reducing the stress on natural resources.

Some of the benefits of a green design to a building owner, user, and the society are as follows:

  • Reduced energy consumption without sacrificing the comfort levels
  • Reduced destruction of natural areas, habitats, and biodiversity, and reduced soil loss from erosion etc.
  • Reduced air and water pollution (with direct health benefits)
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Limited waste generation due to recycling and reuse
  • Reduced pollution loads
  • Increased user productivity
  • Enhanced image and marketability

Emergence of new large-scale developments / townships / neighbourhoods and the growth of older cities are bringing in complex changes to the ecology, natural resources and the environment at the local, regional and global levels. It is time we relook into our planning practices and guidelines to plan our cities and build them in such a way that they promote sustainable development with minimal impact on the environment.

For more information, click: http://grihaindia.org/grihasummit/

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