Green is the new grey in India

India is one of the fastest expanding economies in the world with a growing need of infrastructure.   However, excessive infrastructural growth can lead to long term detrimental effects on the environment, which is where the concept of sustainable construction comes into play. Sustainable construction focuses on three main dimensions, which are economic, environmental and social sustainability. These three are considered as the basic pillars of any sustainable project.

A green building is a widely used concept all over the world that is also a symbol of overall sustainability. Green buildings are resource-efficient and environmentally responsible, from location selection to demolition after the end of lifecycle. A green building uses less water, natural resources and energy, when compared to any traditional buildings. It also creates less waste for landfills and greenhouse gases with various strategies, hence making it healthy for people living or working inside as compared to a regular structure.

India has been a frontrunner in the adoption of the green building concept in its public as well as private infrastructure. According to a report by TERI, it is estimated that if all buildings in the urban areas of India adopt green building concepts, India can save around 8,400 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to light 550,000 homes a year.

Green buildings construction deal with five basic principles, which are mentioned below:

  1. Sustainable Site Design: This refers to the careful examination of each site in order to prevent the destruction of valuable open space and habitat.
  2. Water Quality and Conservation: It lays an emphasis on retention of water and ground water recharging, along with recycling of water and rainwater harvesting.
  3. Energy & Environment:  It maximizes the use of renewable energy sources and aggressive use of energy conservation measures.
  4. Indoor Environmental Quality: It provides healthy, productive and comfortable indoor environment for the occupants of the building
  5. Materials & Resources: This refers to minimizing the use of non-renewable construction materials and maximizing the use of recycled materials.

Notably, green buildings provide financial benefits that conventional buildings do not. The benefits include energy and water savings, optimal daylight and ventilation. It leads to less dependency on mechanical systems, reduced waste, improved indoor environmental quality, reduced operation costs and reduced infrastructure strain. It would be useful to add here that invariably some benefits (like greater employee comfort/productivity, occupants’ health) fall in the category of less tangible green building benefits and cannot be quantified. Hence, they are not considered in cost analysis.

The financial costs and benefits of green buildings have concluded that a minimal increase in upfront investment of about 2%-12% of construction costs to support green design, typically yields life cycle savings of over 20% of total construction costs- over ten times the initial upfront investment. Buildings like CII-Godrej GBC (built in 2003) – a platinum rated building saw a 18% increase in the cost which it was able to pay back in 7 years; the Spectral Services Consultants Office in Noida built in 2007 with a 8% increase in cost gave a payback in 4 years.

Green Buildings so far do not account for even 5% of the total building footprint in India. Slowly yet steadily, the numbers of green buildings have started to grow in India through various policy and regulatory incentives. However, since sustainability is still more of a choice right now, rather than a need, it causes a gap. Though the initial investment made in green buildings is higher than traditional buildings, the same can be compensated with the reduced operations & maintenance costs.
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report calls for a reduction in energy demand and a strong electrification of the building sector. It also advises a shift to high-performance lighting, appliances and water heating equipment in the construction sector. Green buildings help building owners and managers, architects, developers and product manufacturers navigate this transition and monitor performance. In a bid to promote green buildings in India, some of the state governments and local bodies have started providing incentives to those who get their building green-certified. The construction sector (usually known as grey sector) is going the green way now. Going forward India will see more and more number of green buildings that would help in holistic economic, environmental and social development of the country.

Author: Ishita Gupta (Intern, CIRC)

About Ishita Gupta (Intern, CIRC)