With increasing demand for green yet affordable housing from new-age aware buyers, Brotin Banerjee shares recent trends in eco-friendly construction across India.
The real estate business has recently started to realize the importance of sustainable projects – but an integrated approach needs to be adopted.
Sustainability in all forms is gaining stature and as the most stringent green building standards in the world. Real estate construction and operation shares a symbiotic relationship with the environment, and is a key catalyst in the direct and indirect effects on the environment. Over the last year or so, realtors have grown to understand the importance of sustainable development. This is based on the environmental considerations which if go unobserved, will prove detrimental in the future.
Quite suitably, developers are now sitting up and taking notice of the high demand integration of energy saving features. Undeniably, green housing presents an opportunity to reduce variable utility costs but the key is to ensure environment friendliness without overriding affordability. Green design can no longer be only about altruism, the construction practices have to strengthen its life, reduce cost and provide a healthier environment.
Today, with global warming on the rise, more homebuyers are demanding green homes, and home builders are looking for cost-effective, sustainable ways to deliver them. Recent advances in green building technologies are bringing carbon-neutral and zero net-energy homes closer to reality.
Zero-carbon and Zero Net-energy Homes:
The term “green building” is wide-ranging and applies to many different facets of environmentally conscious building. The terms zero-carbon and zero net-energy, however, are much more specific. Both zero-carbon and zero net-energy homes seek to use only as much energy as they can produce. Zero-carbon (or carbon neutral) homes also use no fossil fuels and therefore produce no greenhouse gasses. The U.K. has set a goal to require all new homes to be zero-carbon by 2016, and the city of Copenhagen is gunning to become the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025.
Advances in Solar Power:
Green building isn’t only about alternative energy technologies, however. It’s also about the appliances that use those technologies. Have you ever dreamed of a kitchen that could turn off its own lights or a thermostat you could text to change the temperature?
Solar power has come a long way since man first used magnifying glasses to start fires in the 7th century B.C. Recent advances include the use of natural berry dyes to make solar cells more efficient, microfilm technologies that create less waste and lower costs, and concentrated solar power plants like the one the Desertec Foundation is pushing in North Africa.
On-site Water Treatment Solutions:
Water is an integral amenity and raw material requires to be handled and used with most precision. The pressure on the water table can be reduced throughout from the planning stage with the use of indigenous plant and grass species, rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation of public green spaces, waste-water management and grey water recycling. Water-efficient fixtures and metering are also important measures to help constrain and measure water usage in the project.
Materials, waste and recycling:
Waste-reduction efforts should be chalked out right from the construction process. Materials with recycled content should be promoted while use of virgin material should be discouraged. Sourcing from local region is another plus, while the post-occupancy waste management and treatment methods are critical for generating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating points .
Indoor environmental quality:
Criteria for high-quality indoor air includes natural day-light, cross-ventilation, efficient exhausts and interior manufacturing with materials containing few volatile organic compounds.
It is imperative to preserve the natural topography of the project. This also helps immensely in building a green cover and considerably reduces the project’s heat effect. To improve cross ventilation and bring natural lighting to the project, developers can focus on designs that maximize the exposures for each flat. Designers are looking to reinvigorate and redefine the field with innovative architectural stylings that will give a new generation of buildings a lean, intelligent identity. Informed by a green sensibility and a renewed commitment to versatile utility, one such design trend is Biophilic design. On the leading edge of the green building movement is a strategy called biophilic design – using patterns in nature, particularly in biological systems, to inspire innovative and more efficient designs within architecture and engineering. Glass usage has typically been a symbol of energy inefficiency, as heat exchange in large, translucent surfaces is higher than in insulated walling. Advances in window design have combated this problem, but new developments stand to make glass the staple of green building.
In that the building sector is experiencing a reboot of sorts, the industry more than ever needs an influx of inspired, innovative, eco-friendly ideas, concepts that will work to give our cities and communities physical shape to our evolving goals of environmental care, energy conservation, and improved resource management. With these trends leading the way, the next few years in the building sector will be greener and more imaginative than ever.
(The author is MD & CEO of Tata Housing.)