World Environment Day: Green buildings at the centre of healthy, sustainable living

June 04, 2021 3:47 PM

While many realty players are reluctant to make the switch to green buildings to the seemingly higher upfront costs, the larger investment returns such as reduced emissions, lesser utility costs and more social value cannot be overlooked.

In the current age, technology has enabled us to maximize the potential of green buildings. It can be leveraged to conserve as well as generate energy.

By Ashish R. Puravankara,

While 2020-21 has inarguably been marked by social distancing and uncertainty, it has also been a period of reflection. Reflection on our vulnerabilities, our capacity to make sweeping changes in our lifestyle and an urgent need to reconnect with nature. It was evident that the way we design our homes and workspaces has a deep impact on our health and wellness, our neighbourhoods, and the planet. As a consequence, sustainability began to inform blueprints and the concept of ‘green buildings’ strengthened its position in the market. Green buildings are eco-responsible structures that are built using sustainably sourced materials, are energy-efficient throughout their lifecycle and offer improved access to green amenities.

Clean and green conserves health

Right from reduced risks of respiratory issues to having a positive impact on our mental wellness, green buildings offer a comprehensive solution to holistic well-being while promising higher quality of living. Before diving into the benefits of these structures, it is important to mention LEED. LEED is a universal certification provided to buildings that are constructed and operated with a focus on health, circular use of materials, resource efficiency and clean energy.

A 2018 study by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) found that almost 85% of employees working in LEED-certified offices reported improved productivity and overall health due to better indoor air quality and access to natural sunlight. In comparison with standard non-LEED buildings, the improved air filtration system also helps control the spread of airborne particles and germs indoors.

For many urban dwellers, accessible green spaces have been a much-needed escape from isolation and to reconnect with their natural surroundings. By integrating terrace gardens, vertical landscaping systems (especially in dense urban centres) and sprawling backyards, green buildings offer creative solutions to enhance personal outdoor spaces.

Bringing a green building to life

In the current age, technology has enabled us to maximize the potential of green buildings. It can be leveraged to conserve as well as generate energy. Some of the measures include motion-sensitive lights, natural gas microtubes, efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems and utilizing renewable sources like solar energy to light up common areas.

However, it is important to remember that technology is not the only means to give life to a green building. Many fundamental ideas behind green buildings have been an enduring component of ancient Indian architecture– interiors that are oriented towards the sun to harness the heat, ensuring large outlets for sunlight to stream in, usage of natural materials like bamboo and clay for construction. Modern-day inspirations of these practices include using eco-friendly materials for construction like recycled steel and plastic, reclaimed wood, manufactured sand.

To gain the full economic and environmental benefit of constructing a green building, every aspect of design, planning and material selection must be driven through a green mindset. The project must be led by architects, contractors, designers and engineers who are adept with green design tools and have relevant experience.

Additionally, before the project begins, it is critical to examine the building site. An environmental audit must be conducted to ensure that the project will not be built on vulnerable habitats or farmlands.

A fruitful investment

While many realty players are reluctant to make the switch to green buildings to the seemingly higher upfront costs, the larger investment returns such as reduced emissions, lesser utility costs and more social value cannot be overlooked. A USGBC article, for instance, stated LEED buildings saw 20% lower maintenance costs in comparison to standard buildings.

As per, Global Green Buildings Market- ‘The global green buildings market is projected to enjoy an impressive 14.3% CAGR through 2020 to 2027 (forecast period). One of the key drivers for this growth will be rising eco-consciousness among new-age consumers and their preference for sustainability-led brands. To remain relevant and thrive in the market, realty players will have to weave green buildings into their infra-plans.

The Road Ahead

The future of the real estate and quality living hinges on buildings that factor in sustainability, creativity, health-focused amenities and productivity. It is pertinent to approach the entire lifecycle of an asset through the lens of a circular economy. This would mean reduced use of carbon-intensive materials, recycling construction waste, and upcycling materials to their fullest potential.

Considering the evolving work-life paradigm before us, it is essential to place ‘flexibility’ at the centre of green building designs. This will help effectively address the changing needs of the workforce or residents. Furthermore, introducing incentives and funding opportunities within legislation can also propel the growth of this segment.

(The author is M.D, Puravankara Limited. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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