- Buildings account for around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and consume 40% of the world’s energy.
- According to the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), if all the buildings in Indian urban areas were made to adopt green building concepts, we could have saved more than 8,400 megawatts of power, which is enough to light 550,000 homes a year.
Sustainability has been on the list of all countries for many years now. One cannot ignore that real estate is affected by climate change and vice versa. Hence, it is imperative to incorporate sustainability while building houses and multi-storey towers.
Everyone is aware of the dire effects of climate change and the increased average temperature that is raising the sea level every decade. So, to obtain financial, environmental and moral benefits, we should identify solutions to reduce emissions and mitigate climate impacts.
The Need for Sustainable Real Estate
As per the global alliance for buildings and construction, buildings account for around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and consume 40% of the world’s energy. There is no denying the fact that climate change is causing extreme weather conditions, which in turn is affecting the demand and price of the real estate. In the US, houses exposed to rising sea levels, sell for less as compared with less vulnerable property from the beach.
In Europe, buildings are exposed to floods and high winds more and more often leading to substantial damage of up to $1.18 billion.
Indian cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Surat are at risk due to the rising sea level. Many more hold the dubious distinction of being in the list of 30 most polluted cities of the world, leading to millions of deaths every year due to air pollution.
In 2016, United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) produced a document to support the real estate sector in meeting low-carbon goals- Sustainable Real Estate Investment Implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.
Green buildings can provide sustainability solutions for cities, communities and neighbourhoods across the world. Consistent efforts towards reducing emissions can help address environmental concerns, reverse climate change and enhance the health and wellbeing of the people.
Buildings could tap into sustainable design, construction and operations that focus on reducing energy, waste, water and using materials that lower our exposure to toxins and raise quality of life.
The Concept of Green Buildings
According to the world green building council, a ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life. Any building ranging from an office, a school, a hospital, to a community centre can become part of the green building.
Along with environmental benefits, green buildings have economic incentives too. It could help save utility bills, lower construction outlays and increase the value of property for developers. According to the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), if all the buildings in Indian urban areas were made to adopt green building concepts, we could have saved more than 8,400 megawatts of power, which is enough to light 550,000 homes a year.
The benefits of green buildings include energy efficiency through analytics-based energy centralization and efficient appliances, reducing utility costs. Water efficiency technologies at the source would help reduce the strain on groundwater levels.
Further, rainwater harvesting and water recycling strategies could provide water independence for buildings, which could be essential for cities such as Chennai which is facing acute water scarcity.
Green Buildings also provides natural defence against respiratory illnesses and airborne vectors. Their stringent ventilation and filtration requirements reduce exposure to viruses.
As per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people in green, well-ventilated offices record a 101% increase in cognitive brain function.
These Places are Redefining the Concept of Sustainability
In an attempt to position itself as a global leader in green technology, South Korea has planned to develop three hydrogen-powered cities by 2022. The cities will embrace the use of hydrogen for cooking, heating, electricity, and transportation. This would be a giant leap towards the use of a clean source of energy in infrastructure.
In Sydney, a French architect Jean Nouvel along with botanist Patrick Blanc created a pair of plant-covered Sydney towers that reflect light into their lower levels with a huge cantilevered panel of mirrors. Developed by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia, the building named one central park is a centrepiece of a multi-billion dollar masterplan in downtown Sydney.
Overlooking the Biblioteca degli Alberi is Milan’s “Vertical Forest”: two residential tower blocks that are covered in 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants.If this forest was planted on the ground, it would cover 20,000m2 – the size of three and a half football pitches.
Based on a similar model, is the Nanjing Vertical Forest- the first of its kind created by Stefano Boeri Architetti in Asia, located in the Nanjing Pukou District. The two towers are home to 600 large trees, 200 medium-sized trees, and over 2500 shrubs and trailing plants which will cover an area of 4500 square meters. The project will help to regenerate local biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions by about 18 tons, producing almost 16.5 tons of oxygen every year.
How India is Embracing the Use of Green buildings
Developers in India have also understood the importance of green building, hence India has housed many famous green buildings over the last few years. Suzlon Green Earth in Pune is one of the top green buildings in India. Made with a vision to provide natural daylight to most parts of the buildings, its efficient ventilation ensures regulation of fresh air, reducing energy consumption. The building received its LEED platinum rating in 2010.
The indian hotels have also pounced on the opportunity to save costs by going green. ITC Maurya is one the first and largest LEED platinum hotels in the world. The hotel is a unique building that recycles more than 90% of its waste.
Other famous buildings include CII- Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, Hyderabad, the office of ministry of external affairs – Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi, ITC Green Centre in Gurugram, Infinity Benchmark in Kolkata and many others.
Green buildings have been on the top of government’s priority list through initiatives such as Smart Cities Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
These buildings have and will continue to lead the way in India’s efforts to achieve sustainable growth and energy efficient real estate.
The Covid Impact
The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the need for sustainable buildings with a focus on hygiene and safety. As the pandemic locked people into their homes, the call for health of these spaces increased. The economies have started opening up and as transport activity resumes, carbon emissions will also increase. Thus, the newly constructed buildings should take responsibility for adding positive effects on the environment. Green buildings have the strength to improve the health of these spaces while protecting natural resources.
As we move out of lockdown, India will have to re-envision the way society is run in ways we can’t currently imagine. None could have imagined that a move towards sustainability would be influenced by a pandemic. But one should learn that this period dramatically reduced emissions and we can use the knowledge gained in this period to enhance the concept of green buildings.
One might say that investment in this sphere is comparatively high but the long-term returns will also exceed those from regular buildings. It will also earn a higher value during resale or rental agreements.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)
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