Friday, January 13, 2012: 04:28:20 PM

TJCD Guest Column

Live the green way – Ashish Rakheja of Spectral

Modern buildings emit about 24% of global carbon dioxide and consume over 40% of world’s total energy, thereby making green buildings a necessity for a better and secure tomorrow

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A decade ago, as the research community raised an alarm about the rising pollution levels, scarcity of natural resources and accumulation of non-degradable materials, attention was drawn towards saving planet earth. The matter was intensively probed to find the root cause of declining resources and increasing pollution levels in the atmosphere. As answers to the problems surfaced, solutions became evident and significant research proposals were drafted to reverse the process of environmental degradation.

Since then, various initiatives have been launched to ensure not only a safe today but a secure future for posterity. From awareness campaigns, rallies, hoardings, and advertisements to planning and implementing green, environment-friendly projects, promoting a green environment has switched from being just a passing fad to a topic of genuine concern today.
Green buildings, a necessity
According to a study by the International Energy Agency, modern buildings emit about 24% of global carbon dioxide and consume more than 40% of the world’s total energy, primarily because of the HVAC load (Heating, Ventilation, Air-conditioning) and extensive lighting facilities.
This alerted the construction industry about the importance of creating natural, durable and economical structures aimed at providing a pollution-free, comfortable and healthy environment to the occupants while preserving and recycling natural resources. This thought seeded the theory of green buildings, which are buildings structured with a view to ensure that all natural resources such as water and energy are efficiently consumed with minimum generation of non-degradable waste.
The idea of green buildings seemed to be a successful venture when in 2009 the US General Services Administration submitted a report on 12 such green buildings, stating that they were cost-effective, with tremendous energy performance and had exceedingly satisfied occupants.
Indian scenario
In India, the concept of natural houses has been prevalent right from ancestral times and, surprisingly, this concept is quite similar to today’s green buildings. Even in the present day, one observes that most rural Indians thrive on the rudiments of nature to meet their daily needs of shelter and livelihood. For India, with its high density of population sheltered in the urban areas, accommodating the growing populace within limited areas has always been a challenging issue.
The factors and amenities that make some buildings eligible to be called ‘green buildings’ revolve around energy-saving systems, waste management processes, minimisation of toxic outlets and the appliance of natural materials for construction.
The energy-saving technology used in Indian green buildings works on the principle of optimal usage of natural light and minimal wastage of electricity by establishing solar thermal technology, minimal exterior lighting, heat recovery wheel, smart lighting and ventilation systems, high-efficiency chillers, solar kitchens that provide steam at 150°C, reflective high-albedo roof paint, high-performance double glazing, glass encased terminal and the like.
The waste management processes and recyclable features include biomass gasification systems, recycling of treated sewage and wastewater for landscaping, air-conditioning and flushing requirements, grass organic fertilisers, storm water management system and controlled water discharge in flushes.
To minimise pollution levels, developers had to ensure that there was minimum discharge of non-degradable toxic materials from the buildings. Accordingly, low volatile organic compound paints for the walls, autoclaved blocks containing 30% fly ash was used for construction, wooden door-frames made from compressed sawdust and green guard certified furniture was used.
Besides, separate smoking rooms with exhaust system were created. The green buildings were made cost effective and eco-sensitive by using traditional materials such as locally excavated stone, mud bricks, timber, rubber wood, bamboo and medium-density fibre.
New concept
Lately, the concept of intelligent buildings have been incorporated into green buildings to provide systems, controls and automation in building operations such as lighting, HVAC, security, CCTV, alarm systems, access systems, audio-visuals, entertainment systems, filtration and climate control for improved scheduling, coordination, optimisation and usability while being in harmony with the environment. This initiative is regularly monitored and optimised by Building Management System.
Going ahead, better government laws, consistent support from concerned associations, sharing of successful ideas for better sustainability and incorporating the latest knowledge will enable construction of more such green buildings all over the country.
Ashish Rakheja, COO at Spectral, an AECOM (Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Management) company based in New Delhi


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