The energy consumption in the buildings sector is one of the highest. They provide us with a huge opportunity for energy savings. In India, experts say that close to 70% of the buildings that will exist in 2030, are yet to be built. The ambivalence in that statement is quite natural, as the task is daunting and at the same time comforting. Since the opportunity exists to make those upcoming buildings as green buildings, right up front.
A building is called “green building” if it is designed and constructed in an environmentally responsible manner. Green Buildings run in an energy efficient way, throughout its entire life-cycle. This includes the construction, building materials, processes, renovation and most importantly the operations and maintenance of the building. The main strategies to make an existing building as green includes, reduced energy consumption, water conservation, recycling waste, conserving natural resources and providing healthier spaces for occupants. With our energy demand outgrowing current production, I’ll be focusing mainly on the aspect of reducing energy consumption.
Where are we Today?
As per Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), there are more than 4.4 billion sq. ft. of green buildings registered with them. Green buildings as a movement has started in India, and today we see all types of buildings are going the green way. Offices, residential, airports, SEZ’s, banks, IT parks, hospitals, factories, schools, etc, are going green. We have a long way to go still. Many architects, builders and consultants, are using and promoting the concepts of green buildings. They are leveraging it as their core value proposition. The more popular it becomes, the less selling it would need. As I always say, for any concept to gain momentum, we need awareness at every level and we need it fast. So, by talking about the benefits of a green building, we can fasten the process of adoption.
Why Green Buildings?
Some of the key benefits of having a green building are increased rental rates and asset value. There is a reduced risk of depreciation, higher tenant attraction & retention rates. The reduced energy leads to lower operating costs. These are all measurable financial values. Green buildings increase employee productivity and well-being, to name a few of its benefits. They have lesser environmental impacts and helps organizations meet their corporate social responsibility goals.
How far is this from Reality?
Since reduced energy consumption is one of the major benefits of a green building, lets talk about the changing Indian energy landscape. Renewable energy, especially solar, is rapidly becoming more affordable. With the convergence of information technology and building technologies, we will soon be on the path of net zero energy. Better still, even positive energy buildings. Smart grid is another reality that India is witnessing. The buildings of near future should be ready to converse with the smart grid. They would be able to manage their loads as per the demand-response programs of their power utilities. With roof top solar, buildings can generate and store electricity, and push it back to the grid when the grid needs it most. A smart building knows how to respond to peak energy load and pull from the most renewable source of power.
It Lies within our grasp
Green buildings’ costs are not as high as we think they are. More and more builders and organisations are realizing that building a green building from concept to construction. This is actually far cost effective in the long run. The voice of such builders and organisations has to reach the millions who can adopt the same concepts. According to the International Engineering Consortium, only about 25% of total life cycle cost of buildings occurs during the design and construction phase.
Since most of a building’s cost is associated with its ongoing operations, a proper operations & maintenance schedule helps in saving a lot of energy and avoidable costs. That’s why I say that certifications do not guarantee a high-performance building.
Moreover, the choice of equipment is another major factor which determines the efficiency of the overall building. Chillers, UPS, motors, fans and pumps, all comes with rated efficiency at particular loads, which makes it easier to take an informed decision. Collecting and analyzing data at all levels helps us make good use of an energy efficient equipment.
Green building strategies are evolving rapidly, as people, processes and technology combine. They are driving innovation and creating a truly sustainable future. Therefore, it’s worth stressing again that ongoing monitoring, analysis and improvements drive sustained performance. Green building pays for itself and its lower energy use increases its competitive edge.