‘Building’ green for sustainable future

In the age of global warming and the resulting climate changes, man-made intervention has caused tremendous impact to the environment and the ecosystem leading to major resource crisis across the planet. Understandably, the construction industry is important to support the growing populations’ living aspirations, but certainly not at the expense of overexploiting nature.

It may be news to the uninformed that the construction industry, together with the support of materials industries, is one of the major global consumers of natural resources, both physical and biological.

According to a recent report titled by Willmott Dixon, one of UK’s leading construction companies, around half of all non-renewable resources that mankind consumes are used in construction, making it one of the least sustainable industries in the world. The need of the hour is to acknowledge and implement sustainable construction practices that have a positive impact on the environment both during the construction phase and throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Sustainability in building construction is defined as the desire to perform activities without any depletion of resources or bringing any harmful effect on the environment. Sustainable built environment can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is based on three components: economic growth, social progress and environmental protection.

Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.

Naturally lit and well-ventilated buildings that utilise alternative energy sources and that are designed to offer attractive whole life performance to consumers are more likely to be sound investments than those over-dependent on fossil fuels or which ignore the fundamental human need for a healthy and engaging environment.

Energy use and energy source, embodied energy, use of harmful materials, material sources, ecology and landscape, flexibility and durability, waste and water management, disposal, travel plan and pollution — all these aspects find a place in green building.

Multiple eco-friendly building materials have emerged in the marketplace to reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry. The climatic conditions, distinctive building types, unique cultures and traditions or environmental, economic and social priorities that shape different countries and regions also factor into the green building approach. Some of these eco-friendly materials are:

Porotherm Smart Bricks: This is an extremely Resource Efficient Brick (REB) that combines precision technology with a sustainable construction process and guarantees fast construction which saves time, is labour-friendly, does not need any water or sand, ensures consistent quality, a strong adhesive bond between the bricks, enhances thermal protection and offers unmatched dimensional tolerance. There is also zero wastage at the building site.

Manufactured sand: This sand is prepared by crushing hard granite stone, is readily available and reduces transportation costs significantly. It is devoid of impurities that are present in the conventional river sand and gives a stronger foothold during construction.

Reclaimed or recycled metal: Aluminum, for example, is a high embodied energy material due to the energy required to produce them, such as mining the ore, heating and shaping products, and transporting a relatively heavy material. But each time the metal is properly and efficiently reused or recycled into new products, its embodied energy lowers and makes the material more sustainable. Recycled metal is a long-lasting material that does not need frequent replacement. It tends not to burn or warp, making it a viable option for roofing, structural supports and building façades. It’s also water and pest resistant.

The green building sector is still a very niche concept; however, the industry is expected to grow at the rate of around 20% year on year. While sustainable building is undeniably still in a nascent stage in the country, India ranks second just after the United States in terms of the number of green technology projects and built-up area.

This holistic construction approach is definitely here to stay in India as a sector which promises incredible growth for many years to come since it encourages interdependence and shared responsibility among stakeholders in the building value chain. Building green automatically translates to building smart and society needs to re-engineer itself for a green cycle.

(The writer is Managing Director, Wienerberger India)

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‘Building’ green for sustainable future

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