Creating a green chemistry

Last Updated 21 June 2012, 12:15 IST

Chemistry plays a crucial role in sustainable architecture because it enables speed, durability, aesthetics, improved indoor air quality and use of natural resources. 

Green buildings seem to be catching on in a big way in the country, with more and more people enthused about the idea of sustainable architecture. So, how does one identify a green building? What are the key aspects that need to be taken into account when one is talking about a green building. According to Prasad Chandran, Chairman, BASF Companies in India & Head South Asia, “Green buildings mean providing meaningful, measureable, positive benefits to lower emissions, usage of energy, materials, water, labour, health and enhance safety over the lifecycle of a structure, while meeting or exceeding the building performance.

The essence of optimal usage of resources is closely linked to the philosophy of lean design which is being applied to construction processes, aimed at minimising waste and also reducing the gap between design and construction.

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), defines a green building thus, “A green building is one which uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to a conventional building.”

Chandran points out that the main focus should be on balancing the ecological, economic and social aspects during design, execution, operation and disposal of building structure and surroundings. This will contribute to the purpose of long term sustainability in the construction space, promoting the ‘green’ concept.

According to Chandran, the three main types of benefits associated with sustainable construction are environmental, economic and health and community benefits.

Environmental benefits include improved air and water quality, reduced energy and water consumption and reduced waste disposal. Economic benefits include reduced operational costs, reduced maintenance costs and durability of the buildings. Health and community benefits encompass enhanced occupant comfort, health and indoor air-quality enabling more productive work and living space.

Overall green construction would also reduce the stress on resources created by growing population, need for urbanisation and work towards conserving the environment.

How can these be made more affordable and utilised in a greater number of new buildings being planned? Speaking from the construction perspective, Chandran explains that construction chemicals are less than 1% of the overall building cost. In some cases, materials with a longer life span can require a somewhat higher initial investment, although usually not more than 5-7% higher than average. However, in the long run it turns out to be much cheaper - with longer life span, better durability, more resistance to weathering and reduction in energy consumption.

Chemistry plays a crucial role, he points out, and adds that it enables speed, durability, aesthetics, improved indoor air-quality, reduced mass for construction and usage of natural resources. It enables affordability while maintaining high aesthetics and consistent quality.

“Sustainability is becoming one of the main drivers of growth and value creation. It can only be achieved through innovation – and that is where chemistry plays an essential role. Innovations for sustainable construction, for example, require a wider portfolio, better understanding of local industry, its need, growth potential and a thorough understanding of the customers’ value chains. Further, it can help reduce costs and thereby clear the myth that green building solutions are expensive and increase overall construction cost,” he explains.

Role of local innovations

Local innovations make the concept of green buildings more acceptable and thereby accelerate business growth. “BASF has a range of products and technologies, which is a classic example of a local (Indian) innovation. Insulation solutions like Peripor, Elastopor and Elastospray are used for roof insulation; Neopor for wall insulation to achieve better energy efficiency. Due to this, the total energy consumption reduces by up to 20-25 percent. Similarly, Thermocrete, the lightweight insulation concrete is an innovative combination of products stemming from two BASF competencies; construction chemicals and foams, locally designed and developed for India.

The South East Asia headquarters of World Health Organisation (WHO) in New Delhi is an ideal example of efficient and practical usage of Thermocrete. Innovations like these and many more have contributed significantly to growth of our business in the construction space,” Chandran says.

Meanwhile, the IGBC, on its part, is a pioneer when it comes to creating awareness on green buildings. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) Green Homes is the first rating programme developed in India, exclusively for the residential sector. It is based on accepted energy and environmental principles and strikes a balance between known established practices and emerging concepts. The system is designed to be comprehensive in scope, yet simple in operation.

Then, there is also LEED-India which provides building owners, architects, consultants, developers, facility managers and project managers the tools they need to design, construct and operate green buildings. According to the IGBC website, there are 1,667 registered buildings, 253 certified buildings and 1.18 billion sq.ft green building footprint under its wings.

(Published 21 June 2012, 12:15 IST)

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