Construction has always been known to be harmful to the ecosystem it enters. However, it has also always been a necessity to construct more, bigger, and taller buildings.
With the threat of global warming and mass destruction, it’s driving the earth towards, every action that humans undertake has been brought to scrutiny. Construction hasn’t been any less affected by the same.
The simple disapproval of the impact that construction has on the environment has turned into outrage within the past few years. This has pushed more developers to adopt climate-conscious practices.
These practices range from replacing traditional construction methods to favouring green building certifications. Now more than ever, the consumer base is preferring green buildings whether it's in the residential or the commercial sector.
The Importance Of Green Buildings
Initially, the green buildings movement had left the commercial real estate sector unscathed. While developers were focusing on creating sustainable and green residential projects, commercial buildings were still being designed as tall glass structures with a focus on aesthetics.
With time, this ideology is changing. As businesses move towards including sustainability, environmental impact, veganism, and organic practices, they are less inclined to associate with office spaces with astronomical carbon footprints.
The construction industry currently creates approximately 40% of the world’s total greenhouse gas and demolition waste. Building green buildings isn’t just for the environment though. Green buildings are much healthier for the people that occupy them. They also are cost-effective as the alternative methods used such as solar power have low overhead costs as compared to traditional methods.
We can go into detail and talk about all the ways the Earth is dying to justify the need for green buildings. But what truly triggered this change was the pandemic. Watching local ecosystems thrive due to lower stressors on the environment after the world shut down made individuals realise the impact that we can still have on the environment. Knowing that changing our behaviours and consumer habits can largely increase our chances of survival has been the key factor in the outcry for greener construction practices and green buildings.
Impact Of Green Buildings
To prove our point, let’s look at the impact that adopting the green building model will have on the environment, economy, and society as a whole.
Environmental Impact Of Green Buildings
1. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report from 2009, the sector that has the most potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the construction industry.
2. Switching to renewable energy, fuel-saving techniques, and energy efficiency, can eliminate approximately 84 gigatonnes of Co2 emissions by the year 2050.
3. Reports suggest that the global temperature rise can be brought back to pre-industrial levels of 2 degrees celsius and make 50% more energy savings by 2050 by direct green measures by the construction sector alone.
4. In Australia, certified green buildings have been recorded to generate 50% less potable water and 62% fewer greenhouse gases as compared to their traditional counterparts.
5. Certified green buildings in Africa save 30%-40% carbon emissions and energy and 20%-30% potable water.
6. In India, certified green buildings have been noted to save 40%-50% energy and 20%-30% water as compared to traditional buildings.
Economic Impact Of Green Buildings
1. The buyers of green buildings are ready to pay the green tax. This is the premium that buyers have to pay to attain residential units or commercial spaces in a green building, making property valuation for the same higher than traditional buildings. The estimated value of an increase in property price is about 7%.
2. Buyers willingly pay the green tax because owners of green spaces have been proven to save significantly on utility bills.
3. The global savings on energy is estimated to be €280 to €410 billion as per a European Commission report from 2015.
4. According to the Canada Green Building Council, the green building industry in the country contributed $23.45 Billion to the GDP in 2014. It also generated over 300,000 employment opportunities in Canada during the same year.
Social Impact Of Green Buildings
1. According to a group study done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Syracuse University Center of Excellence and SUNY Upstate Medical School in 2015 occupants of green buildings record a 101% increase in brain function.
2. According to a Park and Yoon study, performance can be increased up to 8% simply by having better air quality.
Factors That Determine Green Buildings
Now that we understand how necessary green buildings are for every stakeholder involved, let’s look at what generally determines whether a building is considered green.
These are loose criteria that a certification agency might judge a building on before awarding it the green building certificate.
The materials used during the construction of a building are crucial to receiving a green building certification. The developer must have used energy efficient, recycled, sustainably sourced and managed, composite, resource-efficient, and biomass materials.
Any use of non-renewable materials can hinder the awarding of the green building certification. The developer must also ensure the recycling and environmentally ethical disposal of the debris generated during contruction.
The International Energy Code has set a minimum building performance criteria. For a building to be certified as a green building, the building performance should surpass the International Energy Code minimum criteria by at least 30%.
The developer must also keep in mind to use renewable and sustainable energy sources as the main sources to power the building. Energy conservation methods, like daylight savings, must be available in abundance in the building to minimize energy consumption and emissions.
The building must be equipped with water conservation systems such as:
1. Greywater Recycling Systems
2. Rainwater Harvesting
3. Pressure Reducing Valves
4. Insulated Pipes
5. Efficient Taps
6. Water-Saving Shower Heads
7. Efficient Toilets
8. Groundwater Recharging
9. Water Meters
10. Efficient Irrigation Technology
While designing a building, the idea of making the least environmental impact must be considered from the very beginning. The design must ensure that the ecosystem that the construction is supposed to take place in is only disturbed as little as possible.
This means creating high-density projects to not bulldoze the land around the construction site.
A thorough survey of the site must also be done to ensure that valuable environmental assets are not harmed during construction.
The materials used indoors for the construction must also be in accordance with the construction materials mentioned above. Use or presence of hazardous materials such as lead or asbestos can severely hamper a developer’s chances of receiving a green building certificate.
Along with the indoor materials, the indoor spaces should also assist in healthier living. This is to be done by creating well-ventilated spaces to maintain air quality, giving access to optimal daylight etc.
Certification Agencies For Green Buildings
In India, the following agencies award the green building certificate after a thorough inspection of the construction process and the finished building.
1. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
2. Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)
3. Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)
4. Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA)
While the concept of green buildings is limited to developers and builders working on bigger projects, it’s slowly seeping into the middle class and lower segment constructions as well. It is safe to assume that sooner than later, independent contractors will also have to get with the times and pick up the construction methods and materials of green buildings.
When constructing or renovating your house next, do consider the efficient and environment-friendly changes you can adopt. Starting small today will have a big impact tomorrow.
Also read: What is a Greenfield Project in Real Estate?