“While talking about Green Buildings, one should be aware that there are bodies that provide this title to buildings. It is not sufficient to say that the building is green with the addition of only one or two green systems. Verify the Certification process of the building and the health and happiness of its residents”, says Ashima Banker, Director of the Master of Urban Design and Development programme, Anant National University, Ahmedabad
The concepts of building green and sustainability have wide currency today and often grace the glossy pages of magazines and textbooks. These concepts, however, need to be properly understood.
To raise awareness about this concept, Anant National University hosted the ‘Demystifying Green Building’ workshop on 22nd April 2021, Earth Day, for climate solutionaries within the field of media, who wish to report the progress of green buildings, green cities and green communities in India. Professor Ashima Banker, an expert in the field of Green Buildings and a professor at Anant National University explained the concept in detail and in conversation with her was Dr. Sunandan Roy Chowdhury, Professor of Media and Communications.
What is a Green Building?
The World Green Building Council defines the ‘green building’ as one that reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and potentially creates positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment, through its design, construction or operation. This process is accomplished with the help of skilled labours, project consultants, architects, engineers, contractors and the client.
Some of the important features of a green building are:
- Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
- Use of renewable energy, such as solar energy
- Pollution and waste reduction measures, and the enabling of re-use and recycling
- Good indoor environmental air quality
- Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
- Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
- Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
- A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment
How does one decide if a building is Green?
In consideration of whether a building is a green building, several national and international certification programmes employ a point-based credit, awarding good ratings to those constructions that have adhered to the guidelines established in these programmes.
In the first decade of the 21st century, with the advent of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), rating systems such as LEED, BREEAM, GreenStar, etc. have gained popularity and have had a tremendous impact on reducing CO2 emissions, water consumption, and material use.
What are the Green Building Rating Systems in India?
India currently has the below green rating systems for buildings.
Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA): This is the national rating system of India for any completed construction, endorsed by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India and TERI. This assessment tool measures and rates a building’s environmental performance.
Under this system, a building is evaluated based on its expected results over its full life, i.e. pre-construction stage, building planning and construction stages, building operation and maintenance stage. GRIHA provides a rating of up to five stars for green buildings and distributes points based on criteria’s met by any builder.
Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED): LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. In India, LEED is facilitated through the Indian Green Business Centre (IGBC), under the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
The LEED programme was set up by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED India encompasses rating systems for:
- Existing Buildings
- New Construction
- Core and Shell
- Green Homes
IGBC rating systems: IGBC rating system is a voluntary and consensus-based programme that has several rating systems under its umbrella, such as IGBC Interiors, IGBC Green Villages, IGBC Green Cities, IGBC Green Campus, etc.
What is the rating concept?
In a nutshell, Green Buildings are an amalgamation of several processes and systems, employed in the design, construction and post-construction phase, which help reduce the carbon footprint. If during the construction phase, the builder has used locally sourced construction materials, then they get good ratings because materials sourced from faraway places would contribute to the carbon emissions via transport.
The building will receive a good rating if the architect has designed a building that suits the climatic conditions of the region, has good wind and sun direction that help retain natural sunlight and good ventilation. A green building uses renewable energy such as solar or wind power and/or uses energy-efficient systems and wise water distribution methods.
In the post-construction phase, the building is adjudged for qualities such as maintenance of the systems and addition of sustainable side plans such as solid-waste management, recharging pits, drainage, rain-water harvesting, etc.
In the LEED rating system, buildings are classified as Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum depending upon the number of points they acquire within 6 building components:
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
- Innovation and Design Process
Are Green Buildings cost-effective?
Green Buildings are very cost-effective in both the short-term and long term. In India, the trend for green construction is rising and many architects consider green building guidelines while designing the building. Some innovative processes developed to aid certification, also lead to long-term economic benefits to the residents.
What should you watch out for while reporting about Green Buildings?
While talking about Green Buildings, one should be aware that there are bodies that provide this title to buildings. It is not sufficient to say that the building is green with the addition of only one or two green systems. Verify the Certification process of the building and the health and happiness of its residents.
How do Green Buildings add to the climate well-being?
Green Buildings are just the first step towards building a more equitable built environment. There are Green Cities, Green Communities and Green Villages which employ the Green Building concept on a large scale. With the use of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient methods, waste-water recycling, food-waste recycling, etc. we can build greener lives.