Environment consciousness seems to be the buzzword with builders, architects and corporates. The construction industry in India is booming, especially in places like Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, Vadodara, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. It is growing at a robust rate of 9.2% per annum, compared with the world average of 5.5%. However, not all of this is planned or executed properly and so the flip side is the negative impact on the environment, as we increasingly use and deplete resources like energy and water.
Vishal Garg, assistant professor and head, Centre for IT in Building Science, International Institute for Information Technology at Hyderabad, says, “Green buildings help reduce running costs and provide a healthy environment to the building occupants. But to have a measurable impact on the economy and environment, it is necessary to have large-scale application of the concept. One can easily see the impact of savings in energy, reduction in peak demand, optimum utilization of natural resources especially water, and reduction of pollution.” These buildings use cost-effective technologies; more of these would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This would have a positive impact in a world where global warming is now a serious concern. Just see the statistics. From a modest beginning of 20,000 sq. ft of green footprint in India in 2003, to an amazing 10 million sq. ft projected for the end of 2008, and a projected growth potential of Rs2,000 crore, green architecture is poised for rapid growth.
How does one define green architecture? Simply put, it is the practice of enhancing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites utilize and harvest energy, water and materials, and decrease the negative effects of the built environment through improved siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal—the complete building life cycle. Green architecture is a fundamental part of the associated concepts of sustainable design and development.
“A green building actually implies green living which incorporates both the building and the human aspect,” says Garg. The concept is not new. Our architectural tradition has always paid heed to this. This includes design, material recycling, judicious use of natural resources and use of locally available material, which is in sync with local climatic conditions. What we see today is nothing but a revisiting of the past, re-inventing traditional architectural principles and using new tools and materials to design and build, suited to present day requirements.
Professionals talk of four Ds that encompass the concept. The first is design. The design process considers the materials, construction methods, overall environmental impact, quality of life, efficiency and costs from several perspectives. The second is development or the construction stage. For instance, carrying soil off-site or depositing soil onto the site is not a green construction practice. Developers use the excavated materials within the project site as much as possible. The third is duration, or the life cycle of the building. Factors like natural ventilation and daylight as well as materials used in the construction are critical as they impact the health of the building’s occupants. The fourth is demolition. Usually, when a building reaches the end of its usefulness, the common practice is to abandon or demolish it disregarding its effect on the environment. Today, the trend is to design building products that generate minimal waste in their use and installation and emphasis is laid on reuse and recycling. Ideally, the building itself should be designed for ease in disassembly and deconstruction.
R Subramanian is national manager (Marketing & Sales) Saint-Gobain Glass, India, which has supplied glass to many green buildings across the country, including the ITC Centre and WIPRO Technologies in Gurgaon and the Grundfos building in Chennai. “The increasing popularity of environment-friendly buildings in India is just a resonance of a worldwide trend towards environment-consciousness,” he believes, “it’s an idea whose time has come, and reached its tipping point.” So, how important is glass in a green building? The transparency of glass lets daylight in, enhancing the health and productivity of the occupants and prevents the ‘sick building’ syndrome. Glass helps in energy conservation as it saves money spent on artificial lighting. It is also 100% recyclable. As it is much lighter than concrete it reduces the load on the building and its foundation. In terms of maintenance costs too, glass is an attractive building material.
Today, in India, the India Tobacco Company (ITC) Centre in Gurgaon is the world’s largest platinum rated (see Need to Know box) green building. CFC/HCFC-free HVAC equipment to combat ozone depletion, solar energy for hot water requirements and a blend of modern and traditional elements, with high performance glass coexisting with stone cladding on the façade, marks out the ITC Centre. “There are definitely many more such buildings coming up,” says Vineeta Badawe, director V.V. Architects, who designed the Grundfos and Vestas buildings in Chennai. “We are working for on one for TVS, a Research and Development centre, and there are many more in the pipeline. This is almost like a mission to save water and electricity; and ensure minimal destruction to surroundings.”
The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (Hyderabad) was the first in India to achieve platinum status. Grundfos Pumps India Pvt Limited (Chennai) has been awarded gold. Other notable green buildings include North Delhi Power Ltd (New Delhi), Wipro Technologies (Gurgaon), Indian Machine Tools Manufacturers Association - IMTMA (Bangalore), CII -Naoroji Centre of Excellence (Mumbai), Vestas (Chennai), Technopolis (Kolkata) and Olympia Technology Park (Chennai).
From the user point of view, too, green seems the way of the future. Basavaraj S Patil, manager, Product Development and Maintenance, Grundfos, points out, “As compared to conventional buildings, green buildings provide a great working environment. The extensive access to natural light and the close connect with the outdoors, makes employees feel that they are working in a natural environment.” At Grundfos, the relative humidity is also controlled, a boon in a city like Chennai. There is a reverse osmosis plant on campus and water is recycled. The factory has non-polluting equipment that is battery and gas operated.
Patil believes, “The more the comfort, the more the openness, levels of productivity increase.” Green buildings also help our bodies get attuned to our natural biorhythms. Generally the expenditure in making a building truly eco-friendly may be more than that spent on a conventional building, as cost effective technologies for large buildings are yet to catch on in a big way. But the tangible benefits like savings in energy will generally pay back the incremental cost in a few years. A healthy environment, increased productivity and less environmental damage are the real benefits.