05 June 2020

Special Focus: Green Building & Sustainable Construction

Building a Green Future


A big jacaranda tree resplendent in purple nestles alongside a willowy Neem outside my bedroom window. And although my society can’t boast much about meeting the green buildings protocol other than segregating garbage, the simple tree-lined canopies in our lane with its plethora of singing and nesting birds is enough to make you breathe a sigh of relief.


In his attempt to control nature, man has finally begun to acknowledge that it is in harmony with nature that we thrive and be our best.

And creating buildings that go beyond delivering lip service to environmental concerns to embracing and revering this harmony are signaling the next phase of evolution in the green construction arena.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), buildings in India consume 40 percent of the energy, 30 percent of the raw material, 20 per cent of water use, and 20 percent of land use. Simultaneously they are also responsible for 40 per cent of carbon emissions, 30 per cent of solid waste generation, and 20 per cent of water effluents.

With India’s urban population already touching 60 per cent, we have a veritable energy and conservation crisis in our midst.

Fortunately, with India’s increasing thrust on green laws, we seem to be making some amends. India now ranks third among the countries with LEED-certified green buildings. As of October 2017, there are more than 2,500 LEED registered and certified projects, representing more than 1 billion square feet of space in India. The Dodge Data & Analytics report 2 predicts that emerging economies like India and China will be leading the market for green growth, with the segment increased from twofold to six-fold over current green building levels.

"Around the world leaders are committing to climate change initiatives that have the power to improve quality of life for citizens and ensure a sustainable future," USGBC and Green Business Certification (GBCI) President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam said in a statement.

Green Buildings are not only survival imperatives but also the new wellness tools. Now successful projects are defined not only by the scope of their aesthetics, functionality, and economy but also by the impact they leave on the wellbeing of its inhabitants and the surrounding environment.

So this month we decided to explore some of the new ideas currently evolving the segment.



Biophilic Design

Biophilia refers to man’s innate attraction or love of nature. In a recent interview with http://www.designcurial.com/, Biophilic designer Oliver Heath said, 'Biophilic design is more than just bringing the outside in, it's about making and strengthening a connection with many aspects of nature. It's about natural light, views on nature, plants, natural materials, textures, and patterns.' The term ‘Biophilia’ was first coined by an American psychologist Edward O Wilson in 1980 when he observed the direct link between growing urbanization and our gradual disconnect with nature in terms of our exposure to sunlight, green spaces, fresh air and natural materials. This was followed by an increase in the cases of depression, stress, vitamin deficiencies and lifestyle diseases. But now an integrated and sustainable design approach is giving to a whole new definition to green buildings.

Myst, a gated community nestled in the Kasauli hills in Himachal Pradesh claims to be India’s first residential development, created using biophilic architecture. A joint venture project by Tata Housing and Impacts Projects and designed by Llewelyn Davies Yeang, Myst offers eco-luxury residences that seamlessly integrate with the local hillside ecology and topography. With efforts in conservation of topsoil and preservation of natural fauna in the form of a biodiversity park, sustainable drainage incorporated in the form of bioswales and recharging of groundwater, channeling of rainwater into soil sinks to recharge groundwater, movement- sensitive bollard lighting to prevent disturbance to wildlife, green living roofs, non-intrusive lighting and bird habitats, Myst is an interesting attempt to integrate the human-built environment with nature.

On the commercial space front, Biowonder, Kolkata is India's first biophilic corporate park. Awarded the Global Award for the Best Sustainable Development as well as the Best Green Project at the CREDAI Bengal Realty Awards, 2014, this office-cum-hotel luxury project in Kolkata brings greenery to the corporate world through cantilever terraces. The ITC Fortune Hotel here will have at least 40% of the rooms allowing access to private pocket greens.

“How the building blends with nature or becomes part of nature is now a major focus, with vertical gardens and green roofing in vogue ,” says, says S. Raghupathy, deputy director general and head of the green business centre, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Amongst green products that are trying to bridge the human-nature disconnect are the new ‘living walls’ by GRIIN. According to Sujit Jain, MD & Founder, GRIIN, “These are movable green walls are aimed at urbanites who crave to nurture home gardens but feel limited by the lack of space. These living walls or vertical gardens can be adapted to any vertical surface or even structured without any wall support in your home. Vertical gardening is now fast emerging as a tool for improving a building's thermal insulation by helping to cool the air in summers by the process of evapotranspiration. They also create excellent wind protection and naturally block high frequency sounds contributing to an overall reduction of noise that transmits or reflects from the wall. In addition to this, vertical gardens absorb the urban air pollution, producing clean oxygen and boosting local biohealth.

Backed by Netsurf Communications which are investors in companies like Herbs & More, Naturamore and Ajay Biofit, the GRIIN team comprises of Agriculture, horticulture experts, and Interior Designers who help the client in choosing the best-suited design and plants for the individual location.




Biomimicry is a new science that tries to imitate designs and ideas found in the natural world to solve human problems. From bullet trains inspired by the aerodynamic beak of a kingfisher to Stanford engineers climbing walls using gecko inspired feet, to using the structure of a bamboo to understand height and stability in construction, to creating better mosquito inspired injection needles biomimicry is omnipresent. The Los Gatos California startup Calera Corporation has copied the mineralization of CO2 process in marine organisms to absorb and convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into calcium carbonate. The same can be used as a supplement for cement, solely as cement, or as a binder. The powder can replace 15% of Portland cement for concrete mixture used in construction and can reduce carbon emissions by simply converting CO2 to something else.

Bach home, one of the prime examples of Biomimicry is the zero-electricity air conditioner designed and built by New Delhi-based Ant Studio. Built for a DEKI Electronics factory, this low-tech, energy efficient, and artistic solution to counter the sweltering heat harnesses the power of evaporative cooling. The installation shaped like a honeycomb-like is made with conical clay tubes that naturally reduce the surrounding temperature. When water runs down the structure, wetting the cones, the subsequent evaporation lowers the ambient temperature. It’s sufficient to wet the cones just once or twice a day. “Findings from this attempt have opened up a lot more possibilities where we can integrate this technique with forms that could redefine the way we look at cooling systems, a necessary yet ignored component of a building’s functionality.”, said Monish Siripurapu, founder of Ant Studio.

To mobilize support and further interest in Biomimicry in India, architect Seema Anand and entrepreneur and architect Prashant Dhawan have founded Biomimicry India and the Biomimicry India Network. In the last few years, they have conducted a number of public events, talks, and workshops at premier academic institutions in India. The duo hopes to assimilate biomimicry into the Indian perspective by aligning their work with the Indian government’s smart cities and smart manufacturing initiatives, “100 Smart Cities” and “Make in India.”



Demand For Monitoring Performance of Green Buildings

According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based research and advocacy think tank, green building regulations often do not mean much if the post-construction monitoring is ambiguous or absent. Once the projects are completed and incentives received, there is often no proof of any record of the actual performance of the buildings and the nature of resource saving measures applied. Unless incentives are linked with top performance, including a including a penalty for non-compliance and not just minimal improvement, the green building laws will not be able to accomplish much change. Also, compliance needs to move from self-reporting by builders and rating agencies to a system mandates independent official oversight.



Innovation In Sustainable Design

GFRG panels: India generates almost 64 million tonnes of gypsum waste at fertilizer plants. This waste can be utilized to manufacture GFRG panels to replace the traditional method of using blocks and bricks was popular for construction. These panels are prefabricated and manufactured in factories and do not need plastering and painting like in a normal wall. “GFRG is sustainably preferable, environmentally friendly, faster than conventional methodologies, can be adapted to different plans and designs and is also expected to reduce the per-unit cost of construction by as much as. Additionally, there is a reduction in maintenance cost as well, as the materials are impermeable. Leakages and corrosions are reduced and longevity is ensured,” says Shubika Bilkha, business head, REMI. “As we look to scale up affordable housing in India and meet the 'Housing for All' agenda, technology will be imperative to accomplish this target. GFRG panels have been qualified for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol by World Bank.

Rice Husk Ash (RHA): RHA is manufactured from the burning of rice husks is used as an admixture for concrete. Owing to its high reactivity and pozzolanic properties, the workability and solidity of the cement is enhanced. RHA is resistant to the acidic environments and lowers heat evolution emitted during slaking, which increases its strength, impermeability, and durability. Owing to the large paddy cultivation in India, RHA-concrete can prove to be a game changer for the cement and the concrete industry.



Net-Zero Buildings

As the green segment continues to evolve, there is now increasing focus on the net-zero movement, an approach where the building uses 'no energy and no water' and ideally gives out no waste.

Over the last couple of years, the net-zero movement has gained steam across the world. In India, though we still have to cover the net-zero gap, many constructions are already close to realizing the dream. The Olympia Tech Park in Namma Chennai, a 1.8 million sq.ft. project, housing some of the best fortune-100 companies has the lowest energy consumption, high natural lighting systems, 100 percent water recycling and other environment-friendly processes in place.

While Suzlon One Earth building in Pune is completely powered by onsite and offsite renewable sources. While the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center (GBC), the first building outside of the US to be awarded LEED platinum rating, doesn’t emit any waste and recycles all of it. The ITC Maurya, Delhi, the first and largest LEED Platinum rated hotel in the world uses parabolic solar concentrators to save energy and recycles almost 99 per cent of the solid waste by means of composting or recycling programs. Examples like these indicate that we might already well be on the path to creating net-zero buildings in India.



Our approach to construction today shapes our current and future wellbeing and unless we can create structures that invite and foster the harmony between humans, nature, and our built environment, sustainability will just remain a popular aspiration.

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