Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Eco-Friendly Buildings: Here’s Why Green is the New Black


What makes a building green? Is it the way we build, or the actual design of our buildings or is it both? And who certifies that a building is actually living up to this label?
In this article, we look at “green” buildings and how they’re being seen as the future of urban construction in India. Simply put, green buildings are those which are “designed, constructed and operated” in a manner that is sensitive to local conditions and which mitigates its environmental footprint.
Ideally, any effort to make a building green should start right from the pre-construction stages and continue throughout the life cycle of the building. Any such construction would need to have good waste management practices, use local materials and methods, and be resource, energy and water efficient.
Thus, they might draw upon indigenous know-how (for example, ikora buildings in seismic zones), have a green roof, harvest rainwater, install rooftop solar systems, recycle fly-ash from the construction waste and have “smart” sensor controlled lighting and water systems.

Who Rates These Green Credentials? 

Broadly speaking, the main governmental certification for a green building is the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) rating system. This assesses buildings on 34 criteria (including renewable energy, recycling, water use) and awards points out of 100 – a building must be awarded more than 50 points in order to carry a GRIHA certification. Based on their score, buildings are awarded between 1 and 5 stars.
The GRIHA system is guided by the 5 Rs:
  • Refuse blind adoption of non-local materials and construction processes.
  • Reduce dependence on energy-intensive methods and materials.
  • Reuse materials and knowledge to reduce building and maintenance costs.
  • Recycle waste from the construction and operation of the building.
  • Reinvent and innovate best practices in the sector.
Apart from GRIHA, there are two other rating systems for a building’s green credentials in vogue in India – the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and the Star rating by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency.
Why Are Buildings Going Green? 

 Solar energy at home. (Photo: iStockphoto) 

Going green makes sense on several levels – a well-designed green building could lead to lower operating and maintenance costs over its life-cycle and satisfy the aspirations of environmentally conscious users. Mitigating environmental impacts and providing a healthy place to work and live makes such buildings both Eco-friendly and smart.
Thus, while the initial investment costs for green buildings might in some cases be up to 20 percent higher, these costs are paid off in diminished operating costs over an average of 3 to 5 years.

Building green ensures that our cities will remain healthy and sustainable. (Photo: iStockphoto)

In addition, as India focuses on smart cities, several states have begun considering mandatory energy conservation and green building codes in addition to offering sops for green construction. For example, cities like Noida and Pune offer both property tax benefits and additional building construction space (by giving 5 percent extra Floor Space Index) for green construction.

There are benefits for citizens too – integrating waste management, renewable energy and water recycling into the building design could help reduce dust and garbage, bring down energy costs and mitigate water shortages. As our urban populations surge, our buildings must respond to this boom instead of growing in a messy and haphazard manner.
On average, construction contributes to over 10 percent of India’s GDP and with urban populations set to double within a few years, building green ensures that our cities will remain healthy and sustainable. The need of the hour is to ensure that there is a robust system certifying green credentials as well as active participation by the government, builders and citizens in order to build structures that are both Eco-friendly and responsive to citizen needs.

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