Green Construction is Becoming Increasingly Profitable and Desirable Says Mili Majumdar Managing Director, Green Business Certification Institute Pvt Ltd and Senior Vice President, USGBC
Mili Majumdar is Managing Director, Green Business Certification Institute Pvt Ltd and Senior Vice President, USGBC.
Need for Developing Green Building Concept in the Country
Buildings have a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of both people and the planet. With buildings accounting for more than 40 per cent of global energy use and one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is necessary to address more efficient building practices. The building sector, in particular, has one of the largest potentials for significantly reducing natural resource depletion. Green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, user fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts and decrease life cycle costs.
As a developing and rapidly urbanizing country, India has one of the largest construction markets in the world. The construction sector in India emits about 22 per cent of our country’s total annual CO2 emissions. This negatively impacts the environment and contributes significantly to air pollution issues, such as the current challenges affecting the health and daily lives of residents in Delhi. Green buildings not only help mitigate these issues – but they also offer short and long-term benefits like reducing carbon footprint, managing water and minimizing waste.
Evolution of Green Building concept in India
Over the last several years, green buildings in India has seen a dramatic increase and India has become quite literally an engine of green growth. For example, India is already the fourth largest market in the world for LEED certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building program. In just a few years, we also expect tremendous growth in India’s green building sector. Our construction sector can make a significant contribution to the targets our government have put in place for reducing our carbon footprint by continuing to adopt green building certification.
Developers and occupants are also starting to realize the benefits green buildings can have in enhancing efficiency and minimizing resource consumption. Correspondingly, we are also seeing a growing demand from occupants to live and work in green buildings as they are becoming more cognizant about the impact they have on the environment and on their health. The industry is coming together to drive this change, and we are also seeing a push from the government to move to sustainable offerings.
The crucial role of local material in sustaining the natural environmental conditions
As the demand for more sustainable building options rises, green construction is becoming increasingly profitable and desirable within the international construction market. Because of their high consumption of energy use, buildings present a unique opportunity to reduce carbon footprint. Studies have shown that efficient buildings and appropriate land use can help developers save money and critical resources, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Strategies and technologies that can be utilized to increase energy efficiency in a building include installing high-performance mechanical systems and appliances such as those that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR requirements and that use high-efficiency infrastructure such as LED lighting. Addressing a building’s envelope, ensuring it is properly weatherized by using the regionally appropriate amount of insulation in walls and roofs and installing high-performance glazing are all key. By doing this, a developer can minimize unwanted heat gain or loss and conserve energy traditionally used for heating and cooling. Developers can also use energy simulation and computer modelling to identify and prioritize energy efficiency opportunities and commit to monitoring and verifying their building’s performance to ensure it is functioning as designed.
How can we create buildings which optimises on local materials and built to cut power, water and material requirement?
The LEED rating system includes regional materials credits that building projects can use. These credits are designed to increase demand for building materials and products that are extracted and manufactured within the local region, thereby supporting the use of indigenous resources and reducing the environmental impacts resulting from the transportation of materials from outside the local region.
Buildings are a major energy-consuming sector in the economy. In the current scenario, what measures should be taken where about 35 to 40% of total energy during construction is saved?
Green buildings can help the real estate sector reduce their carbon footprint in the short and long-term. They generate fewer emissions compared to traditional buildings — not only during the construction stage but also after they are occupied and throughout the entire lifecycle of a building. LEED-certified buildings, for example, help reduce carbon emissions by using less energy and increasing efficiency. In fact, since 2009, more than one-third of all the points in the LEED rating system has been allocated to technologies and strategies that address greenhouse gas emissions caused by buildings. Through the LEED rating system, we’re looking at ways to optimize energy use, reward building density, reduce a building’s carbon footprint related to transportation to and from space and address embodied carbon, which is a major topic in the building industry right now.
Climate is changing fast globally because of increased energy consumption and thus increase Greenhouse gases (GHG) like CO2. What is the solution?
Moving towards sustainable options is the solution. The concept of sustainable development is not new to India, and in recent years, our nation has continued to take on a greater leadership role in the global sustainability community. India’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and moving towards efficient measures has gained global recognition. This is in large part due to strong leadership from our government, which has committed to reducing our emissions by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, to increasing our non-fossil based power capacity from 30 to 40 per cent and to reducing carbon by almost three billion tons by 2030. We’ve also shown tremendous leadership in the smart cities movement with efforts such as the 100 Smart Cities Project. And, finally, many government buildings have chosen to pursue green building strategies and have perused LEED certification. Plus, several government agencies have begun to acknowledge and incentivize LEED certification. For example, the leadership is shown by the Ministry of Housing Urban and Affairs in integrating sustainability and green building in housing development plans and in drafting the “Green Building Policy” is especially encouraging.
What are the challenges that impede green practices in a major way in our country?
One of the biggest challenges facing our country – and, for that matter, other countries around the world – is the transformation of our existing buildings. Historically, the largest market share for green buildings has been in the new construction sector, but existing buildings represent by far the largest share of the global real estate market. And existing buildings present us with a unique opportunity. Consider that it can take up to 80 years to make up for the impacts of demolishing an existing building and construction a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient. We need to get our existing buildings on a path to sustainability in order to realize true market transformation. While many older buildings are inefficient and resource depletion, with keen attention to their building operations that can be turned around.
Conservative green approach to adopt green building concepts in India in urban areas?
Urbanization is a key issue facing our nation. India alone is expected to double its building stock by 2030, and roughly 70 percent of those buildings still haven’t been built. Urbanization has created a huge demand for new construction, especially in the residential market. Tools like LEED present a great opportunity for us to address the challenges facing our urban areas. The LEED rating system can be incorporated during both the design phase of a new building but also to an existing building, and it works for all buildings at all phases of development—from homes to corporate headquarters to data centers to manufacturing facilities to schools and more.
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