A few decades ago, we never would have imagined the word “Green” to have so much importance and role to play in our day to day lives. But today we are looking for GREEN in everything we do, we see and we buy. From green clothing, green cars, green crackers to green phones and green “everything else”.
Today with climate change, global warming and carbon emissions being the talk of the town, we are in need of better sustainable alternatives to the existing concepts that come with negligible harm to the environment as possible.
One such distinct concept is the “Green Building”.
What are Green buildings?
These buildings aim to reduce the impact they have on the environment. It is also known as a sustainable building or green construction. These structures are environmentally responsible, by efficient usage of resources through every stage of the process operations right from design to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. These green buildings are much similar to our conventional buildings externally, except for the fact that they project the concern we have for the environment.
In short, a green construction is a narrow balance between high quality construction and low environmental impact.
Features of a Green Building
According to WGBC (World Green Building Council) the features required to label a building “GREEN” are:
- Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
- Use of renewable energy, such as solar energy
- Pollution and waste reduction measures,
- Enabling of re-use and recycling
- Good indoor environmental air quality
- Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
- Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
- Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
- A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment
How can we make our buildings green?
- Working on waste water management and drinking water efficiency.
- Usage of innovative ways (like dual plumbing) to harvest water and minimize their use indoors. For example, “Grey Water”, which is the outcome of dishwashing and car washing can be used for toilet flushes. Usage of low flow flushes and shower heads can work wonders.
- Using renewable sources of energy in all the stages of the building’s life cycle, thus reducing the cost of running and increasing the reliability and efficiency.
- Welcoming more carbon technologies with wider arms, thus leading to a lighter footprint and a happier planet.
- Using smart construction designs that provide sufficient indoor thermal mass, good insulation and ventilation and usage of photovoltaic panels. Using lighter coloured paints (these paints are called Green Paints) have proved to absorb lesser heat comparatively, thus keeping the house cooler and reducing the electricity usage to a great extent.
- Trying as much as possible to bring fresh air indoors, ensuring good IAQ- Indoor Air Quality. (You do not need those fancy Air Purifiers in every room. Let’s go the natural way).
- Choosing construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions will improve IAQ. Wood is considered to be hypo-allergenic and its smooth surface prevents the build-up of minute particles unlike in soft finishes like carpets.
- Reducing light energy needs by incorporating natural lighting as much as possible by creating resilient and flexible structures.
- Minimizing the usage of materials as much as possible and going in for more reusable and durable ones like using packed gravel or permeable concrete instead of conventional concrete or asphalt to enhance replenishment of groundwater, generating less waste, thus leading to the demolition waste recovery usage in future. (Yes, We need to think FAR enough!).
- Creating a peaceful environment by proper acoustics and sound insulation, ensuring proper garden spaces everywhere possible to ensure clean fresh air and unpolluted environment. Looking for alternative innovative ways to bring agriculture into our cities through green roofs, rain gardens, indoor plants etc.
- Designing flexible and dynamic spaces, to help during natural calamities, anticipating changes in their use over time, and avoiding the need to demolish, rebuild or significantly renovate buildings to prevent them from becoming obsolete.
- Finally, creating a positive economic and social environment ensuring peaceful mental health of the occupants.
IGBC is the country’s premier body for green building certification and allied services. Today there are more than 5,400 projects registered with IGBC from various parts of India and abroad.
Green building rating systems such as BREEAM (United Kingdom), LEED (United States and Canada), DGNB (Germany), CASBEE (Japan), VERDE (Spain) and GRIHA (India) help consumers determine a structure’s level of environmental performance.
The take home message
“Nothing in this world is more simple and cheaper than making cities that provide better for people”. – Jan Gehl
The construction industry in India is one of the steadily growing, largest economic activities. In India the building sector accounts for about 30-40% of the total primary energy consumption and more than 30% of the electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, the existing buildings are responsible for more than 40% of the world’s total primary energy consumption and for 24% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Having said that, it is upto us, being responsible citizens to take an intelligent approach towards energy and the environment. Green buildings can be the best “big” step towards a sustainable future, as it brings together a vast array of practices, techniques and skills to reduce and ultimately eliminate the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health.
Go green so there will be a better tomorrow.
Author Amreena Jan, is a masters graduate by profession and a writer by choice. An international research holder in Nanotechnology (IDRC, Canada). Known for her witty humorous writing style, she is also a social activist. A co-author and editor of the book ‘Basic and advanced concepts of food engineering’. She is also a content creator and a blogger @ amreenajan.blogspot.com