The green makeover

The InterfaceFlor buildingAs children we received this wisdom, “Waste Not, Want Not.” Also, “Waste Today, Want Tomorrow.” This is a thought that is occupying governments, private institutions and individual’s world wide as we face a growing energy crisis, water shortages, disappearing green cover, and multiple health problems from overuse and misuse of the environment.

The green movement has also spread to India and about time too, considering that all our environmental problems are multiplied by the rapidly increasing population which puts ascading pressure on every resource.

To be fair, we Indians do have a history of eco-consciousness.

With our frugal mentality we are forever recycling our old clothes, books, household items, etc., and have been using our resources optimally––consider for eg, how we use every part of the coconut tree or every product of the cow including its dung.

Unfortunately, Indian habits and attitudes are changing because of growing westernisation, spread of consumerism and the population explosion and thus rapidly degrading our environment.

One look at the compositions of our cities’ waste-dumps and you can tell––the largely
biodegradable garbage now includes highly toxic waste especially from packing materials, plastic containers, IT industry waste, non-degradable consumer items,
building-material waste, etc. So, reducing our carbon footprint is an urgent necessity.

The world had realised that the way we make and maintain our buildings makes a
major difference to the environment.

One outcome is the widely adopted international LEED Rating System which evaluates environmental performance from a whole building perspective over its lifecycle to provide a definitive standard on what constitutes a green building. In India, the CII-Godrej Green Business Centre, Hyderabad, set up the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) to enable the construction industry to become environmentally sensitive and has been spearheading the Green Building Movement since 2001. Green homes rating They have even setup the IGBC Green Homes Rating System, which is like an Indian version of LEED taking into consideration unique Indian requirements and conditions, explains well-known architect Sharukh Mistry of Mistry Architects and chairperson, IGBC Bangalore chapter.

The IGBC sets standards byelaws, procedures, for Indian homes, buildings, industries and neighbourhoods. What is a green building? But what exactly constitutes a reen building and what are the advantages?

According to IGBC, a green building is one which does minimal damage to landscape and site condition; which uses non toxic, recycled/recyclable and environment-friendly building materials, renewable energy, optimal amounts of water besides water-recycling, energy efficient equipment, renewable energy; and has high indoor air quality.

There are enormous tangible and intangible benefits–– and visible from day one
like reduced operating costs and energy savings (25 to 40 per cent compared to non green structures),better health for occupants, more positive frame of mind(thanks to working in daylight-and-fresh-air rich environments), and green
corporate image. What about the general belief that green buildings are more expensive?

“Such comparisons are odious,” says Mistry. “Theinitial or capital cost is only marginally higher but over the building’s lifetime the returns from various savings
are very high. Actually, we should never consider sale-price alone of any product
we buy but also its lifetime assessment costs ie how much its use will cost us over the years. Thus, green buildings make more financial sense. Moreover,
if we plan carefully right from design stage itself ,we can maximise
benefits easily.” Among the specific elements factored in during design stage
are building a home with stabilised mud blocks, having water harvesting
systems, grey water recycling, optimal access to sunlight and fresh air, greenery
around, use of waste-materials, low-energy consumption, etc.

The green conversion What about an already-built structure that wants to turn
green? Mistry replies: “Iwant to clarify that whether it’s designing a green building
or reworking a building after construction to make it green, there are certain recognised parameters but ultimately, every building decides its own optimum way of staying green. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Before finding the ideal solution for a certain building one has to consider the climate, its topography, surroundings /neighbourhood, size and structure, nature of work by or lifestyle of occupants,
heat and light ingress into the structure, etc.” What can be done to make an already built structure green?

Mistry explains the means. “A primary requirement is to open out the structure to sunlight, fresh air and
ventilation. Also, ensure that the structure is not exposed to excessive heat and light. Use
solar and photovoltaic lights and think un conventional energy like geothermal and wind
energy. Soaps, detergents must bere placed with materials with less chlorine and toxicity.” You could start with  the roof, maybe... The roofs are another great place for going green, continues Mistry.

“They can be turned into beautiful terrace gardens with vegetable patches. This will have a cooling effect on the house, oxygenate the atmosphere, and provide a source of home grown produce.” “Reduce, recycle and renew. Reduce use of plastic, segregate organic waste and see that it used by gardeners in some
green patch––yours or others’. Have profusion of greeneryin and around the house––trees, potted plants, suitable indoor plants, etc. Recycle old windows and doors, and broken tiles.” “Install water-harvesting systems.

Try grey-water recycling–– here adouble -piping system is advisable though currently a bit expensive and,
incidentally, mandatory in many countries.” Mistry walks the talk as you can see from his impressive
track record of eco-conscious projects for individuals and corporates, and his own amazingly ecofriendly office where an unconventional design manages to bring the outdoors inside and creatively uses wastematerials among other remarkable features.  A long way to go And he wishes more people would think green. There is a phenomenal amount of work to be done in the Green Building Movement and we have a very, very long way to go, he concludes. We agree. But, a good beginning has been made
and that is a very good augury.

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