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Green revolution of a concrete kind

According to reports, Chennai is seeing a spurt in development of green building spaces – commercial and residential space – earning it the qualification to be called a green city. Increasingly homes and offices are seeing the benefit of sustainable construction techniques and operation and maintenance of built-up space.

Sustainable building, also known as Green building, is the practice of creating structures created using environmentally responsible and resource-efficient systems and processes. It encompasses factors such as site selection, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction. The aim of designing a green building is to reduce the overall impact on the environment, on human health and the natural environment.

Interest in the green building concept rose from the requirement for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly construction methods in the 1970s. The construction of a green building brings social, economic and environmental benefits. Modern design proposals provide ideas for both new constructions as well as renovation of existing structures.

One of the simplest definitions of a carbon footprint states that it is the “total set of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions caused by an organisation, event or product.” Four main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride – have been the focus of emission controls. As carbon is the most common of the GHGs emitted by humans, the carbon footprint is based on the mass of carbon dioxide in kilogrammes or tonnes. The energy used at a building site is usually the main contributing factor to its carbon footprint. This energy is most commonly in the form of electricity. The carbon footprint is thus affected by how the electricity is generated. Studies have shown that coal has the highest carbon emission a kg while hydroelectricity and nuclear energy have the lowest.

Another important element in the assessment is transportation. When a building is designed, it is possible to make considerations that reduce the use of energy and consequently the emissions from transport-related issues. These measures could include locating the building in a transit-friendly area, encouraging the practice of walking or the use of non-polluting vehicles to reach the property.

A third factor contributing to the carbon footprint of a building is the amount of energy expended to treat and transport potable water to the structure. It is estimated that a building’s water supply contributes over 29 per cent of the carbon associated with operating energy.

The carbon footprint of a building is also measured by calculating the emission due to materials used in the building. The amount of recycled materials used in the building is also taken into account while measuring the carbon footprint. These measurements account for the energy expended in the creation of new materials for use in the building.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognised green building certification system. It grants independent, third-party verification that a building or large property was designed and built using methods aimed at improving energy savings, water efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions and improved indoor environmental quality. The LEED Certification process was developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and provides a concise framework for recognising and executing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

The LEED-India Green Building Rating System is an India-specific and accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

In India, the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) provides LEED ratings to structures and aims to make the country one of the leaders in green buildings by the year 2015. The Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) is the National Rating System of India. It has been conceived by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) and developed jointly with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. It is a design evaluation system for green building and is intended for all kinds of buildings across every climatic zone in India.

Thanks to the gradual spread of awareness about eco-friendly constructions, there has been a considerable rise in the number of registered green buildings in India.

Today more and more developers are coming up with Green construction as it is beneficial for them with regards to the construction time and also the cost of the materials used. Chennai is considered to be a green city, with many green buildings when compared to the whole of India.

Apart from having many residential green constructions, there are also a lot of companies such as Turbo Energy Office Complex in RA Puram, Menon Eternity in Alwarpet and Shell Business Service Centre.

Chennai takes pride in having more than 45 structures certified as eco-friendly green buildings by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

Green Landmarks in Chennai – Olympia Tech Park, Guindy, which was rated the largest Green Building in the world when certified. A few of the gold-rated buildings in Chennai include Anna Centenary Library, Express Avenue Mall and the New Tamil Nadu Assembly building. And a few of the pioneering residential property developers are Green Homes, Akshaya, Pelican Group, Pacifica, Urban Tree and Vivendi Villagio, etc.

In Perungudi, the Rane Institute for Employee Development (RIED) building is a silver-rated green building, which is equipped with low-flowing showers, sinks and makes use of solar PV cells to cut down on energy and water consumption.

(The author is the Managing Director of Olympia Group and Vice Chairman of the Indian Green Building Council, Chennai Chapter)

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