3 mins | Sustainability | 12 July 2022

Green Buildings - What are they

‘Green building’ became a buzzword several years ago as a benchmark of good developers offering customers sustainable lifestyles. The green building revolution has taken the country by storm with predictions that India will have the world’s largest footprint -around 10 billion sqft of green certified development -by this year-2022 (ref: India has achieved 75% of the 'Green Building Footprint' target in 2020 | Business News (timesnownews.com)). 
But what really are green buildings and why do they matter? Customer understanding of what makes a building green is of paramount importance to driving the green building market. Even reputed developers are finding it increasingly difficult to find commercial clients to lease their non- green commercial spaces. However, surveys of residential customers’ perspective in the past, have usually yielded an understanding that green building features relate to landscape, greenery and other such amenities and this in turn has led to residential development generally having lower certification levels than commercial. Let’s put this perspective right. 
Green buildings as their name infers focus to a large extent on reducing the adverse environmental impacts of the building. The green building process starts right at the very beginning when choosing brownfield land parcels to avoid destroying virgin land and vegetation and goes on through the process of design, construction and occupancy of the building. There are generally 5 salient features of green development frameworks: 

  1. Sustainable sites 

  1. Material & resources use 

  1. Water efficiency 

  1. Energy efficiency 

  1. Residential health 

Sustainable sites’ aims to preserve nature, topsoil, biodiversity and reduce adverse human impacts by orientating buildings for the best natural light and ventilation reducing air conditioning and lighting energy and avoiding car use by building in areas with good accessibility to amenities and public transportation. 
Materials & resources’ ensure that the materials used for construction use less energy during manufacture, contain recycled, renewable (like wood), eco-friendly or locally sourced materials as much as possible. The design of the building should be optimised to use the least quantity of materials and reuse waste construction materials. The building should have a waste management plan for occupancy as well to ensure that residents can dispose of their waste responsibly. 
Water efficiency’ is an importance aspect of green buildings as it serves to conserve the precious, limited resource of potable water while reducing the energy and hence carbon emissions used to transport, dispose and treat the water we use. Green buildings are required to do this by harvesting and reusing rainwater in-situ, metering different water uses, minimising the municipal water entering the building through efficiency water fixtures- such as taps, showers and flushes and recycling and reusing water for non-potable purposes such as irrigation and flushing. Most human water use does not depend on water quantity and hence by increasing pressure we can reduce the quantity of water used. 
Energy efficiency’ requires extensive energy modelling using digital tools of the to-be built structure to minimise the energy demand and incorporate renewable and alternate energy sources to reduce the carbon emissions of the building during occupation. All the points discussed above pertain to protecting the environment. 
Resident health’ on the other hand incorporates healthy living into the ‘green’ building concept. This aspect requires the highest natural daylighting and ventilation in regularly occupied spaces of the building to promote resident health while reducing glare. Interior materials such as paint, adhesives and materials must have no or low VOCs (volatile organic compounds)- chemicals that can cause serious respiratory disorders. Usually, green buildings require a no smoking policy in the common areas of the building to avoid second hand smoke from affecting non-smokers. An important aspect of this section is the requirement for physical health & wellbeing of residents by providing access to the natural outdoors and fitness facilities such as a gymnasium, swimming pool, meditation or yoga centres, etc. 
Green buildings thus contribute many more benefits than just natural elements in the landscape for the occupants. They act as major contributors to minimise adverse human impacts that cause environmental degradation, loss of species and climate change. This understanding has led to a growing demand for an evolution in green building frameworks from environmental protection to promoting human health and net zero buildings - being captured in building frameworks such as WELL, FITWEL, Living Institute & LEED Zero. The future of sustainable buildings is bright and evolving and we can only expect this trend to continue.