This article is based on the paper ‘A Strategic Framework to Achieve Net Zero Energy and Sustainable Designed Buildings’, which won the best paper award at the international conference held by the International Conference on Recent Advances in Steel Construction Engineering (ICRASCE).
Dr Sudarsan JS, School of Energy and Environment, NICMAR, Pune
Dr Sudarsan is an environmental engineering professional with a Doctorate in Environmental Engineering (Sustainability, Nature-based Wastewater Treatment, Climate Change).
He has extensive experience in research, having developed research proposals and conducted technical conferences at national and international levels. He is also highly skilled in Circular Economy, Impact Assessment, Waste Management, Disaster Risk Reduction and ESG Strategies.
Priyanka Kale, Civil Engineer
Priyanka Kale is a BE (Civil) graduate and an Advance Construction Management postgraduate from NICMAR University, Pune.
She is a Project Coordinator for Residential Projects with extensive experience in planning (primavera p6), billing, estimation and contracts. She has also completed certifications for Lean Six Sigma and IGBC-AP.
Ever wondered which sector is one of the leading energy consumers in the world?
Surprisingly, it’s not automotive or manufacturing.
It’s the buildings we live or work in – including residential, commercial, institutional and hospital. According to the World Economic Forum, building operations use 40% of annual energy production.
In India, the energy demand for building appliances such as cooling, heating and lighting, among other uses, is growing as the standard and comfort of living improve.
This energy demand is quickly becoming a significant cause of carbon emissions as 45% of the energy comes from coal; other energy sources include natural gas, oil & gas, and biomass. Additionally, the government is under rising pressure to focus on sustainable development initiatives and encourage responsible energy consumption.
One of these initiatives is the green building concept.
Green Buildings: The Future of Sustainable Living
‘Green Building’ focuses on five areas to reduce the environmental burden – landscape, energy, water, construction material and waste management. The benefits include good quality ambience (natural and indoor environment), better air quality index and aesthetically pleasing building spaces.
From a commercial point of view, the green building concept increases the return value of properties, reduces operational costs via lower electricity and water bills, and fast-tracks property leasing or renting.
India has adopted several rating systems for green buildings in the last few decades — Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), Green Rating in Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) and Leadership in Energy Efficiency (LEED), among others — to improve health and cost efficiencies of buildings.
Developing Green Buildings
The initial investment for constructing buildings with green concepts and materials is higher than conventional methods. But considering operation and maintenance costs, green buildings are 60-70% more cost-efficient over a longer term.
Building a structure using green environmental standards is challenging, as all stakeholders must be fully aware of site conditions.
If you plan to build a home or buy a green-rated flat, here are some things you should consider:
Site Selection & Planning
Sites must be selected away from natural disaster zones, polluted zones like landfill sites, rivers and streams, and flood-affected areas. A site with a matching road level is preferable to one near amenities like a bank, airport, highway, school and hospital.
It would be best if you undertook site planning with minimal disturbance and maximum protection of natural habitat and ecology.
You can harvest rainwater by constructing a water tank in an open space, such as a garden or terrace, where the system can divert water runoff to the tank.
If you choose a park, partial tilling reduces surface runoff and increases groundwater discharge. For gardening, the sensor-based drought irrigation installation is suitable for avoiding evaporation and runoff.
Most times, plumbing fixtures and leakages in buildings contribute to water wastage. You can implement sensor-based plumbing fixtures with an acceptable flow rate in basins and washing areas to solve this problem.
As it’s hard to meet daily freshwater demand in metro cities, provisions can be made to treat the wastewater onsite for minimal cost.
A motor reduces the hardness of water and maintains its Ph level. You can fix this motor to the rainwater tank and use the water for secondary uses such as flushing, washing vehicles and gardening, among others.
You can use a septic tank with primary and secondary treatment systems to treat the wastewater. You can then utilise the treated water for flushing by fixing a motor for water uptake.
If you’re wondering where you’ll find all the materials, don’t fret. Nowadays, several products for domestic greywater treatment are readily available in the market.
Household appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators and heating appliances release Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that is known to damage the ozone layer, contributing to global warming.
To reduce emissions and save electricity costs, you could use 5-star-rated air conditioners that use a halon-free fire suppression system recommended by IGBC and green rating consultants.
Moreover, applying solar panels, wind towers and geothermal systems can generate onsite energy and reduce the power bill. A benefit of this is that the government provides subsidies for occupants who opt for onsite energy generation.
There are two more factors when considering how to control energy use for heating, cooling and other operational activities.
Building Envelop & Material
Every material possesses properties to absorb heat or dampness and have a cooling effect. You can use these materials to control a building’s insulation and indoor temperature.
Remember to check the High Solar Reflective Index (SRI) when selecting the materials. SRI materials generally come in light colours like off-white and polar white. In addition, high SRI roof coats, high emittance roof paints and coating solutions are available at affordable prices.
High eminent and SRI values will save the building from absorbing heat and keep the indoor environment comfortable.
- Window & Openings Envelop with Low U-value Material.
Similar to roofs, there are sustainable solutions for insulating walls and windows.
U-value refers to the coefficient of transmission of heat or coolness from walls, windows, roofs or other building surfaces—the lower the U-value, the better the building’s indoor temperature.
To maintain the indoor environment, you can check the thermal co-efficiency of the material for windows – with double-glazed fibreglass, cavity walls, thick brick wall and plaster.
- Building Material & Resources
Green-rated materials have several uses, such as for tiling or wall designs. In addition, various green bodies use these and locally available materials to minimise the negative environmental effect by eliminating substantial transportation costs.
You can reuse construction waste like broken tiles, window frames and doors to avoid buying new materials and direct wastage. Solid waste can be categorised as wet and dry waste. You can also utilise waste to make compost for gardening.
Indoor Environmental Quality
Damp walls raise the risk of air pollutants, leading to breathing difficulties for occupants. In addition, if the ventilation is misdesigned, it disrupts fresh air intake and adversely affects indoor environmental quality.
You can avoid this by using wall paints with low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) coatings and green-rated paints or coatings. These contain natural elements to maintain a healthy indoor air quality index.
Some indoor plant species act as microbes, killing polluting agents in the air while aesthetically enhancing the space.
Building openings with natural light illuminates spaces and reduces daytime lighting needs by at least 50%. An added benefit is that they also provide proper air ventilation around the building spaces.
Here’s a quick flowchart for understanding all of the above consideration factors:
U-value : the coefficient of transmission of heat or coolness from building surfaces; SRI: Solar Reflective Index; VOC: Volatile Organic Compound
It may seem overwhelming and hard to design a home based on the ‘Green Building’ concept, but it’s worth spending a little more effort to create your dream home for better air quality, lower bills and healthier life.
Ayesha is a freelance writer and editor with 5+ years of experience building brands online. She works extensively with B2B businesses in SaaS (Sales, Marketing & Ecommerce) and Sustainability. Previously a social media manager, she now loves writing long-form articles backed by meticulous research. Connect with her on LinkedIn.