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Towards sustainable urban ecosystems: Green building and green performance indicators

Towards sustainable urban ecosystems: Green buildings and green performance indicators

Bhavesh Jha

 

Traditional architecture is energy efficient. “Green Building Practices” offer probable key towards a sustainable performance- based development model

 

The growing pace of urbanization and rising  population in urban centers , which is expected to grow from current 58 percent to 68 percent by 2050, can  significantly strain  urban infrastructure, natural and social environment. It has got several implications. There are multiple concerns that need to be addressed. 

There are aspects for policy interventions, scope for entrepreneurs and need for significant investment in research and development with focus on identifying innovative solutions for addressing some of these concerns. 

Take the case of urban waste generation, including toxic waste, often emerging from factories and industrial production facilities, which have not yet been upgraded to advanced-green technologies, are a matter of concern for quality living in  the urban centers. The building construction sector is often an ignored or unnoticed part of larger urban ecosystems. Often construction sector causes pollution, wastage and environmental damage. Also, it has been one of the major energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Interestingly it has already started affecting quality of life, environment and sustainability of urban-city eco-systems. 

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Energy, public transport, management of water resources are all areas that can impact urban living in the days ahead, which offers significant scope for sustainable and green entrepreneurship, business opportunities as well as innovation.  

This article focuses on “Green Building Practices” which could be a probable key towards a sustainable performance based development model. 

Impacts of Unplanned construction activities 

The traditional constructions in India are of great architectural example. When it comes to energy efficiency, traditional architectural traditions fare better.Very few would disagree. It would be interesting to see some of those features: 

  • Thick walls often act as insulators
  •  Buildings in hot and dry geographical regions had corridors directing wind to cool naturally. 
  • For wet regions, natural light and breeze were used 

Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds India is one of the magnificent structures, with articulated windows that provide cool breeze in a desert area and Golkanda where ventilation is designed to let in fresh cool breeze in spite of summer. 

Shutterbug75 / Pixabay

 

Real Estate sector: a major energy consumer 

The Real Estate sector has been one of the major energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The sector has more than 50% share of resources, also accounts for more than one third waste generation worldwide.” observed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Study 2005. 

Urban pollution and construction

 The particulate matters and the other hazardous substances used and emitted during construction activities contribute to environment degradation. The non-recyclable materials such as mercury, fluorescent bulbs, batteries, hazardous waste and lead based paints etc are hazardous to environment as well as health.   

Urban Heat Island Impact (UHI)

The unplanned construction can lead to Urban Heat Island (UHI). This phenomenon, UHI, can make cities hotter. UHI would cause temperature within cities rise. 

Following are the reasons:

  • Lower spacing between buildings and building dimensions
  • Relatively dense building material used in construction, causing storage of  energy
  • Replacement of natural surfaces by impervious or water proof surfaces, leading to a drier urban area, where less water is available for evaporation, which offsets heating of the air
  • Lower surface reflectivity to solar radiation — dark surfaces such as asphalt roads absorb more sunlight and become much warmer than light-colored surfaces, 
  • Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor

How does it affect us?

  •    The UHI is mostly noticeable during the summer and winter. It increases  heat within urban centers and enhances the length of seasons, and decreases the occurrence of weak tornadoes.
  •  The UHI decreases air quality by increasing the production of pollutants such as ozone and decreases water quality as warmer waters flow into streams and put stress on their ecosystems. 
  • Heat islands causes human discomfort, health risks, increase in energy use, air pollution, release of greenhouse gases, and higher costs due to greater water and energy use. 
  • With the increasing urbanization all over the world, especially in tropical countries, it has potential to contribute to global warming directly or indirectly. 

Around 68% of the population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. This will increase the impact of urban heat islands on human health as well as on global warming directly and indirectly. 

Free-Photos / Pixabay

The observations on the climate change over large cities over the past century show similarities with projected future climate changes. Therefore cities may serve as a model for assessing the impacts of, and adaptation strategies to climate change on both local and global scales.

Buildings as Consumers of Resources 

The increasing urban sector development has led to a galloping increase in population.  Due to development, there has been a great loss of natural environment. The depleting tree cover posses a great concern for increasing the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. Some of the other consequences are as follows:

  • Urban areas with little vegetation can experience higher temperature upto 7 degrees than those with proper tree cover
  • Tree cover can cut the energy cost of heating and cooling by around 12% and reduces the overall dependency of power demand 

The built environment has a major impact on the environment and consumption of resources. Some of the resource consumption may be exhibited as under;

  • It consumes around 16% of the world’s fresh water withdrawal
  • 25% of the wood harvested is consumed in the building and construction industry
  • Consumption of around 30% of raw material in total is the share of building and construction industry
  • Built environment consumes around 50% of global energy 
  • It is the cause of almost 35% of the world’s CO2 emission
  • It produces around 40% of Municipal Solid waste
  • 70% of global warming outcome of built environment/ transportation

“Green building” has become an important tool or practice to conserve the resources, preservation of environment and pollution reduction. It is gaining momentum due to increasing global warming concern around. Various aspects on environment and social inclusion have been addressed for preserving the natural environment. The reasons for enhanced focus on  green building codes and practices are energy efficiency concerns, concerns on waste water treatment and management, recycling and reuse, groundwater recharge, solid waste management during construction and post construction phase etc. 

Green Performance Need of the hour

As the building and construction industry has a major share of energy and resources consumption. They are responsible for about 25-40 % of energy consumption, 30-40 % of material resource consumption, 30-40 % of waste production and 30-40 % of the greenhouse gases released globally.

 Inefficient and improper garbage disposal systems, shortage of water and other civic services are imposing unbearable burden on urban economies. 

Green Buildings design principles are universal. Green Buildings aims to provide optimum design solutions effectively emulating all of the natural systems and conditions. Most of the GB (Green Building) rating systems touch on the same chord i.e. “Conservation of Resources”. 

Green Rating System

An indigenized version of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) rating system is prevalent in India. LEED India Rating System has been adopted by CII-IGBC (Confederation of Indian Industries- Indian Green Building Council), Hyderabad. TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) has evolved its own rating system called GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) with support from Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India which stresses on a holistic approach for shared responsibilities and accountability towards improved energy performance. This system has now been endorsed by the Government of India.

Green Performance Indicators 

The overall sustainable mechanism of the construction industry depends upon various factors. The consideration of natural/ecological concerns primarily measures the green performance rating of a building. Green performance of a building is based on broadly five key parameters i.e. Sustainable Site, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere. Material and Resources and Indoor Environment Quality. Various other sub-indicators under these above mentioned five indicators are used to assess and evaluate the performance of a building being carbon neutral.

 

Benefits of Green Building

Various tangible and intangible benefits are involved in constructing a Green Building. With the introduction of technological measures being developed constantly, the practice of green construction provide great benefits ranging for a responsible Environment, Social to Economic entity. 

Basically the practice of Green Building,

  • Reduces trash, pollution and degradation of environment
  • Uses energy, water and other resources efficiently
  • Protects occupant health and improving productivity

The growing world economies, the transformation towards urbanisation and increasing development activities worldwide is affecting the ecological balance. The increasing unsustainable business  practices are causing enhanced greenhouse gas emissions. 

The concept of  green building has not yet received the attention and focus that it deserves. Green construction is the need of the hour.

The long term aspects of tangible and intangible benefits are normally ignored due to cost factors. Green building in the long run provides economic as well as environmental well being for the occupants and the investor. 

 

Bhavesh Jha, CEO, Root Logix

Author bio:

Bhavesh Jha is CEO, Root Logix, a strategic green building consulting has been working in the field of Green Building advisory and certification with a focus to maintain sustainable project performance. With its multi-disciplinary team, we provide Green Building Certification Services catering to LEED Green Homes, GRIHA, IGBC, Energy Modeling & Simulation Study, Daylighting Analysis, Fundamental and Enhanced Third Party Commissioning Services, Energy Audits for Building & Industry pan India.

For more information, please contact us at bd@root-logix.com, or visit www.root-logix.com 

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