Costs vis-à-vis eco-friendly options: Construction material procurement

Karan Pal Singh explains that green construction material costs higher than the traditional ones but the initial cost premiums are nothing in respect to the returns received during the whole lifetime of the building.

The most criticized and challenging aspect of constructing environmentally friendly buildings is the price. In spite of the fact that most green buildings cost a premium of <2%, but yield 20 per cent higher year by year over the entire life of the building, costs still continue to hamper the permeability of the Green Phenomenon in the market despite its innumerable benefits.

India is experiencing a tremendous growth in the infrastructure sector. With the growing concern about the environment in recent decades both the consumers and marketers have displayed deep attention about protecting the environment. Over a period of time the increasing awareness about the green benefits has prompted a pro-active response from both the manufacturers as well as the marketers all over the globe but its progress has either been slow or negligible in terms of customer buying decisions. It is simply because of the fact that green construction material costs higher than the traditional ones which inhibits the potential consumers to adopt the Green Phenomenon.

If you go by the surveys conducted in the past, a major portion of the population indeed is of the view that the awareness levels of the Green Buildings are optimal in the market. The buying patterns of Delhi alone state that in totality 87 per cent of the population thinks that awareness levels of green building are high in the market. People are aware about the concept but due to some cost apprehensions they hesitate to work on this concept in practice. Only a meagre 16 per cent work on the concept in practice and a staggering 78 per cent are rather unwilling to shell out a portion of their incomes to buy Green Building. Hence, a sizeable fraction of the investors, builders, architects and the clients are hesitant and are not willing to invest in or build green due to the common acceptance of belief that the green buildings cost more. And sadly, the stigma of high costs clearly weighs heavily on the green construction options available in the market.

This trend calls for orchestrated efforts to make the potential consumers realize that green home is technologically feasible and economically viable. A green building is constructed by using eco-friendly materials and are environmentally responsible, and resource efficient through its lifetime from design to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and even during deconstruction. It must be clearly understood that the price of individual item may be costlier but overall it does not cost extra to construct a green building. It is a simple application of conventional wisdom, orientation of the building, concern for our neighbourhood and application of mind to minimize use of material best described by Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

It is high time that the potential consumers realize that the initial cost premiums are nothing in respect to the returns they get for the whole lifetime of the building. The energy conservation experts argue that more efficient material in the long run ultimately results in lower costs of heating and cooling in the house so the homemaker recovers that money in the long run. Due to the green construction material a green building saves energy to the extent of 30-40 per cent right from day one. The green material is relatively light as compared to the traditional fly ash bricks and hence puts less pressure on the building thereby increasing its life. A study was conducted on life cycle costing on GRIHA Rated green buildings in India by Majumdar (2008) concluded that “Green Buildings are a boon to the investors, yielding high returns as compared to conventional buildings or other investments in a shorter duration.”

There is a dire need of advertisement campaigns to educate the potential consumers about these less known facts. On one hand where manufacturers need to focus on bringing the cost of the construction material down the Government on the other hand also has a crucial role to play in encouraging the use of green construction material through its policies and incentives. The right kind of technology is of great consequence in the production of green concrete material. Only the right technology helps in manufacturing the right kind of material. Importing this technology and relevant machinery involves tremendous costs which in turn makes the whole product unviable. The Government should take assertive measures to contain the extensive use of top soil which is used to manufacture clay bricks and encourage the use of fly ash which is increasingly becoming a bio-hazard.

For centuries human beings are condemning the planet with their selfish acts. The collective efforts must be undertaken to capitalize on the growing responsiveness of the citizens towards the Green Phenomenon. Industry stake holders and government should work together to cut down the costs of eco-friendly options and enable the maximum number of the people to adopt this for the green future.

(The author is Managing Director – KJS Concrete.)

Related posts