CEO Biodiversity Conservation India Ltd, Core Commitee, CII’s Indian Green Building Council

People often ask how green buildings are different and what cutting-edge technologies add value. Green buildings are not technology the way we usually understand it. There are many technologies devised over the past 500 years that have stood the test of time and brought a combination of user-comfort and resource-efficiency. Cities such as Hampi, in their 16th century heyday, had over half a million residents, but secured water in a sustainable way without borewells or electricity.

They made ice, homes that beat heat and cold, fountains without pumps, and multi-storey structures without steel or cement. Buildings that survived the quakes in Bhuj, Uttarkashi and Latur were built before the 1920s.

Of course, many modern innovations are promising too. A logical big step in green technology will be wireless transmission of power, eliminating the need for electrical cables. The other revolution we will see is a shift from AC to DC transmission. Both these bring one major advantage to the table: they cut transmission and distribution losses— the dissipation of electricity as heat due to the resistance of conductors.

India gets to use only 60% of all power generated because of transmission and distribution losses. DC transmission, on the other hand, loses only about 3% of electricity over every 1,000km and offers better stability and control. India already has some successful instances of high-voltage direct transmission. The 1,000MW Rihand-Dadri line was commissioned in Uttar Pradesh and the 2,000MW Talcher-Kolar link, the biggest so far, spans four states: Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Technology must extend primarily to four areas: energy, water, waste management and transportation. Cities such as Curitiba (Brazil), Barcelona (Spain), Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Seoul (South Korea) show how the future will contour itself on efficient and smart administration of infrastructure. Paris and New York City (NYC) have shown how a city can be carbon-friendly. NYC’s carbon footprint is 80% lesser than the average for the rest of the US.

We need a war against waste of energy and water. This would need laws banning deep borewells and high-energy lighting. Reuse of wastewater, aerators and flow restrictors should be encouraged and high tariffs imposed to deter callous practices.

A shift in construction patterns will also be seen as we attempt to go greener. Prefabrication and assembly architecture will promote scale and affordability. Building materials will be derived from renewable resources. New technologies for air management will avoid using ozone-depleting substances for air conditioning and refrigeration. Cities such as Phnom Penh and Seoul are already working on a green skin for use in urban agriculture to reduce dependence on ecosystem lands.

Chandrashekar Hariharan is CEO of Biodiversity Conservation India (Pvt.) Ltd.

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