World Environment Day: Industry, stakeholders, pitch in to build green

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year and the theme for this year, is air pollution. We look at the Indian real estate sector’s plans, vis-à-vis green buildings and the challenges that lie ahead

This year, the theme for World Environment Day is air pollution. Numerous researches have pointed out that Indian cities are among the most polluted in the world and this includes Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Noida, Patna and Lucknow. Delhi too has witnessed severe air pollution, the long-term effects of which can be devastating.

Need for the construction sector to invest in sustainability

According to the Global Construction Sustainable Materials Market Research Report 2019, 23% of air pollution is caused by construction and related activities. At the same time, in India, the construction industry’s contribution to GDP rose to 9% in 2017 and is expected to increase to 15% by 2030. Consequently, this sector can significantly mould India’s environmental future, through heavy investments in green and sustainable practices.

Identifying the ‘green’ stages of construction

When it comes to green constructions, Sunita Purushottam, head – sustainability at Mahindra Lifespaces, points out that the entire lifecycle of a building – from site selection and design, to construction, occupancy and end-of-life phase – should be resource-conscious. At the design stage, the company creates blueprints that encourage green living and thereafter, resource-efficient materials are selected as part of the structure, fixtures and fittings, as well as on-site infrastructure. Optimal use of daylight is achieved via design, orientation, type of glass, shading and the right mix of enablers to reduce dependency on artificial light during the daytime.

“All Mahindra Lifespaces’ projects are designed, keeping in mind the sun-path, to maximise daylight potential for residents. This also helps reduce electricity consumption,” she adds.

It is also important for a company to zero-in on sustainable locations that are in close proximity to relevant social infrastructure and mass transit routes, she explains. At the construction stage, the focus is on reuse of construction waste, to minimise waste and fresh consumption, she adds.

In addition to bricks, fly ash can be used in concrete, cement roads, hardstands and floors in car-parking areas. The use of fly ash reduces dependency on cement, which is linked to CO2 emissions. Fly ash also helps enhance the thermal efficiency of buildings, keeping interiors cool in summer and warm in winter.

Green building technologies gain ground in India

Sustainable and best practices have become more commonplace now, with developer bodies, environmental activists and home buyers raising concerns over the lack of such residential projects. As a result, more and more firms are aiming for green construction. “Our new projects use cutting-edge technology and materials such as Pilkington Glass that offers higher levels of natural light, noise control, thermal insulation and protection from fire – all without compromising on strength and stability. This high-quality glass keeps residents cool in summer, warm in winter and reduces monthly energy costs,” says Rakesh Reddy, director, Aparna Constructions and Estates Private Limited. He says that his firm has also started using aluminium wall form-work, also called ‘Mivan technology’, as this construction technology offers significant advantages of quality, speed and minimal impact on the environment.

See also: Smart ways to reduce your carbon footprint, at home and at work

Are you living in an environment-friendly home?

For a building to be sustainable, much of this will depend on how the occupants use the premises. In addition to the residents making lifestyle changes to lead a green life, efforts also need to put by the developer firm.

For example, at the occupancy and maintenance stage, the developer must focus on the project’s sewage treatment plants, water treatment plants, rainwater harvesting systems, solid waste management systems, organic waste converters and waste segregation at source.

Other focus areas include use of renewable energy such as solar PV, use of XPS boards to achieve lesser U-value, solar water heating, solar street lights, energy efficient lighting through the use of LED, CFL, energy efficient lifts, pumps and motors, and low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, adhesives and insulations to maintain healthy indoor air quality. Low-flow, water-efficient fixtures are also a must.

“Specially designed terrace roof sections, with high albedo material or reflective paint, to reduce heat absorption and the resulting energy demand on air-conditioning, should also be on the developer’s focus list,” adds Purushottam.

From affordable housing, to green affordable housing

Not just developers, others are also pitching in, to do their bit for the environment. IIFL Housing Finance, for example, is pushing to bring green homes to all. “As one of the biggest CLSS lenders, we realised that the kind of construction happening in this particular segment is not only creating dilapidated conditions of living but also harming the environment through conventional resource utilisation,” explains Monu Ratra, the company’s CEO. The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), a part of industry body CII, with a vision to provide sustainable green living for the affordable housing segment in India.

Towards this, IIFL has launched the ‘Kutumb’ initiative, seeking to assist developers to launch green projects across the country. This will have an independent cell headed by an architect and will roll out separate funds to developers committed to the cause of green buildings. The initiative has received recognition from three green certification agencies in India – Griha Council, EDGE and IGBC. Ratra says that the mission, is to provide ‘Green Housing for All’. The IGBC has also recognised the significance of sustainable development, says V Suresh, chairman of CII-IGBC, adding that they have given the green signal for collaborative promotion and implementation of green building concepts and the IGBC Green Affordable Housing Rating System.

Green buildings: Barriers in India’s construction sector

Nevertheless, cost remains a crucial factor in the adoption of sustainable practices. In terms of finances, a ‘lifecycle assessment’ by Mahindra, at its Mumbai’s Bhandup project, ‘Splendour’, demonstrated that green buildings offer a superior water and energy efficiency proposition, accompanied by significant reduction in utility bills, claims Purshottam.

“While globally, upscale and high-profile commercial and residential projects get certified by LEED and other agencies, this concept is still raw in India due to technological and financial barriers. One of the challenges, is to address myths around green buildings. One needs to understand that the intent of green buildings, is to create healthy and well-ventilated spaces. All this needs, is responsible design and construction solutions that do not have an incremental cost,” says Ratra.

India has already made significant progress, vis-à-vis sustainability in constructions. The National Building Code of India 2016 included the world’s first Sustainability Code under Part 11 – Approach to Sustainability. Moreover, standards like Residential Eco-Samhita by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, are unique in addressing the energy, water, air quality, site and material resource issues effectively. The need of the hour, is to abide by these regulations.

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