by Ashish Mahajan
We have witnessed the terrible aftereffects of floods in Maharashtra in 2005, Uttarakhand in 2013, Chennai in 2015, and most recently in Kerala. Experts suggest that the two major reasons for these calamities are man-made – global warming and unplanned development. Global warming has contributed to rapidly changing weather patterns, causing unprecedented rainfall in some areas while the plague of unplanned development has further exacerbated the physical, psychological, social, economic and ecological damage brought about by these calamitous floods.
India, being the second most populated country in the world, is gearing up towards being a developed economy. It is, hence, responsible for providing quality and safe housing to 1.3 billion people. When it comes to development, we often feel like the earth belongs to us and we forget that we have only borrowed the land from our future generations. If we keep following the current path of unplanned and reckless development, we will further deplete the scarce natural resources available to us and create an uncertain future for our children and grandchildren. Supporting this statement is the fact that many cities have already started facing a shortage of water. Therefore, it is crucial for us to develop housing, taking into consideration the needs of man as well as nature.
What is a Green Building?
A green building is defined as one which uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants to thrive. Modern green developments incorporate solar panels/other renewable sources of energy, rainwater harvesting system, water treatment plants, organic waste converters, and efficient solid waste management, in their premises, in order to be self sufficient. Further, it is also considered sustainable when developers use natural building materials instead of synthetic ones, and when they select drought-tolerant plants for landscaping, thus adhering to the principles of the 3 R’s—reduce, reuse and recycle.
The World Green Building Council is currently working to ensure all buildings operate at net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through its Advancing Net Zero project. Net zero energy buildings generate 100% of their energy needs on-site. This is very important considering the vast number of upcoming developments that the country is witnessing – now and in the future. If this does not happen, and if we are unable to keep global warming below 2°C, catastrophic events will soon follow this. India, even though we are still at a nascent stage, is still one of the leading countries in terms of green buildings. Suzlon One Earth in Pune, CII- Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad, ITC Maurya in New Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan in New Delhi are some of the well-known green buildings in India.
Green Buildings are necessary for sustainable development
Green buildings have a lot of advantages in the long term over traditional constructions. One can decrease the reliance on public utilities such as the power grid because of the usage of solar panels for electricity and save up to 50-75% on heating and cooling costs. This also reduces the dependency on fossil fuels and decreases levels of atmospheric pollutants. When one uses rainwater harvesting, they are making sure that rainwater does not simply wash off into the sewer, rather is used for gardening or washing purposes.
Circulation of air in green buildings is a lot purer, healthier, and fresher as there are no toxic materials used during the construction. Lastly, research suggests that there are some plants which help decrease pollution up to eight times and improve the quality of air. Urban developments should plant such pollution fighting trees on their premises. This would not only improve the quality of air in and around the area but would also help decrease air pollution on the whole. Since our cities are becoming more vertical, another avenue for increases greenery is vertical gardens. These can be around buildings and even around the many flyovers and bridges in cities and towns. There are many examples of this in Mumbai and Thane where there are thriving gardens, parks and walking/jogging paths under the flyovers.
The Need for change
Just as every industry adapts to changing times, the real estate market should also evolve and transform too. Nowadays, professionals are finding out-of-the-box ideas to build sustainable abodes of living while being mindful of nature. According to the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), green building results in energy savings of up to 40-50% and water savings of up to 20-30% compared to conventional buildings. This type of development is positive in nature, and provides a solid and sustainable solution for meeting the sheltering demands of billions of people living in this country.
Green buildings contribute to reducing carbon footprint and overall energy savings. We as responsible citizens and societies should also take an interest in sustainable construction, as it will be our contribution to the ongoing battle of protecting the environment, and our legacy in saving the earth for future generations.