Going green at optimal price

Green Construction

The toughest aspect for construction companies and contractors across India is not whether they want to embrace green and eco-friendly construction options but rather selecting the perfect green option considering all factors and conditions. Sandeep Menezes looks at the various ways to go green optimally.

The “green construction” tag has been used to describe every other project which is under implementation these days. It has turned into a highly distorted term that is used more as a marketing gimmick rather than a true reflection of eco-friendly and sustainable construction.
Defining Green

Green construction does not mean expensive high-end facades, costly materials or luxurious fittings. It simply means constructing considering sustainability as an integral feature of the project.

Green construction is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout an asset’s lifecycle from design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green construction is also known as a sustainable or high performance construction.

Project Objective

The main objective of green construction is to reduce the overall impact of the project on built environment, on human health and on the natural environment. This optimizes demand for the electricity, water and other natural recourses by generating its electricity on site through renewable means. It has to follow sustainable process of meeting water demands like rain and water harvesting. The project should recycle and reuse all its waste on site which cause minimum burden to the environment.

Going Green from the onset:

One can easily design a cheaper green project by integrating resource-efficient features into a project’s design from the pre-design stage itself, and by ensuring that the architects, engineers and contractors follow established environmental principles addressing local needs. Designing a green project is easy and fun and may cost lesser than a conventional building in the longer run.

Green construction concepts can be included into projects at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction. However, the most considerable benefits can be gained if the design and construction team takes an integrated approach from the earliest stages of a project.
Therefore the green option needs to be selected right from the project designing or conception stage itself to derive maximum benefit.

Cost Analysis

Across India, we find green construction skeptics who cry hoarse that it’s tough to execute green construction projects without paying a huge cost premium over traditional construction methods. In fact actual examples reveal that one can execute a LEED certified green building project for an average of two per cent more in upfront costs. But the running costs saving over the total life-cycle of the project can be reduced to the extent of around 20 per cent vis-à-vis traditional buildings.

Actually, the incremental costs of using green technologies such as insulation and hypo-thermal glass are maximum 5-8 per cent. As savings are also high, the additional cost can be recovered in 3-5 years.
Over the next few years, the projected investment into India’s infrastructure is estimated at $1 trillion. Even if a two per cent ($20 billion) premium is incurred upfront due to the higher cost of green construction, it will still lead to much higher savings since nearly 20 per cent cost reduction can be achieved on the total asset lifecycle when green construction has been utilized.

Adopting Green Procurement Policy

Construction materials constitute up to 60 to 80 per cent of project costs and are also the most vital of segments which needs to be taken care of in case the green agenda has to be implemented properly.

It is sometimes feared that implementing sustainable procurement will result in cost premium for ‘add-on’ sustainable features. However, this fear is typically unfounded where lifecycle costing is applied for procurement decisions, even without monetizing all resultant environmental and social benefits. The cheapest products procured based on lowest upfront economic cost criteria may not prove to be most economically advantageous for a company over a project’s life. The greener products with recycled content have potential to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and limit emission of toxic by-products from the project. Thus, competitive greener product options may turn out be less costly when subsequent product-related expenses such as operation cost, maintenance cost, and disposal cost are considered.

The nation is passing through an incredible growth stage across its infrastructure sector. With growing concern about the environment in recent decades, both 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 proactive 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, especially in a price-sensitive market like India.

But in recent years, the construction industry and contractors have become more positive towards utilizing green materials although it might result in a slight upfront costs premium vis-à-vis traditional materials. This has lead to more manufacturers bringing out green construction materials that are eco-friendly. With the higher adoption of green materials, it is expected that in future the costs premium attached to green construction materials will become negligible.

Way Ahead

There must be orchestrated efforts to make all potential customers realize that green construction is technologically feasible and economically viable. Green construction involves using eco-friendly materials that 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 items may be costlier but overall it does not cost extra to construct a green building. It is a simple application of conventional wisdom, and application of mind to minimize use of material best described by “Reduce Wastage, Reuse Materials and Recycle Maximum.”

Conclusion

Green construction practices for future security are not lofty ideals or regressive methods. They are deeply practical approaches that must coalesce into a single built form that necessitates the renunciation of high-energy guzzling construction. Green construction does not hamper the user’s lifestyle, but inspires it to be more holistic, self-reliant and most importantly responsible, not for a sustainable future, but for everyone’s future.

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