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What is a Green Building and its advantages?

Photo Courtesy chuttersnap on Unsplash.

A green building is a sustainable building that can improve the quality of life where it is situated due to its design and construction. It is made up of materials that make the building environmentally friendly, create a positive impact on the climate, and preserve natural resources. The features that make the green building are-

  • Efficient use of water and energy.
  • Lower carbon footprint.
  • Use of materials that are sustainable and non-toxic.
  • Recycling and reduction of waste materials.
  • Environment friendly construction.
  • Improving the quality of life of the inhabitants.

What is green or sustainable architecture?

Sustainable architecture is also called green architecture and the architects use the technology and design that reduces the harmful effects of the structure to the inhabitants and the environment. It can be observed in the buildings, construction methods, design, and resources.  The aim is to ensure energy and resource efficiency in the long term. This has various benefits like improvement in air and water quality, reduction in energy wastage, reduction in dependence on traditional energy resources, and improvement in the health of the inhabitants.

Architects who specialize in sustainability must create designs taking into consideration the sustainability of the environment. They should have complete knowledge of the use of innovative materials, the latest techniques, and advancements in construction to ensure the final product is effective and cost-efficient.

The Green building materials that can be used in construction include-

In the construction of building bricks, concrete and wood have been used traditionally. For the construction of a green building following materials are used –

  • Precast concrete slabs.
  • Bamboo.
  • Recycled plastic.
  • Straw bales.
  • Cork.
  • Cordwood.
  • Earthen materials.
  • Earth bags.
  • Slate/Stone roofing.
  • Thatch.
  • Composites.
  • Natural Fiber.
  • Reclaimed wood.
  • Reclaimed or recycled steel.
  • Fiber glass.
  • Plant based polyurethane rigid foam.
  • Rammed earth.
  • Natural clay.
  • Non-VOC paints.
  • Stone.
  • Terrazzo

There are different types of green energy technologies being used in the world and some of them are-

  • Solar Power

The system uses a solar system that consists of the sun’s radiation to provide electricity and heating. This reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that result from fossil fuels. Besides this, there is the use of solar power passively that uses the sun’s rays to warm homes through the suitable placement of windows and the use of heat-absorbing surfaces.

There are net-zero energy buildings that are able to produce their own power through renewable energy sources and don’t depend on the electricity grid. These buildings depend on solar or wind power and do not produce any carbon emissions.

  • Smart appliances-

The improvement in energy efficiency makes smart appliances very useful. These include SmartGrid refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, a micro oven that connect to smart meters to be completely energy efficient. Smart meters can communicate with devices and provide data and automatically run when the electricity rates are lower.

  • Biodegradable materials-

Construction requires building something new, but it also involves tearing down and disposing of the previous material. This can create a huge heap of waste products. Instead, biodegradable materials can be used that are eco-friendly and degrade naturally without contaminating the soil. Hemp is a material that is used for building foundations and insulation in buildings.

  • Low emitting materials-

The use of low emitting materials protects the environment and is good for human health. This includes interior paints, flooring, ceilings, walls, adhesives, and insulation which is good for the environment and improves the air quality.

  • Cool Roofs-

Roofs can have a lot of influence on the energy saved or consumed. During the winters the damaged roof insulation allows heat to escape and during summers heat absorbed through roofs increases electricity demand. The design of a cool roof is such that they absorb less heat with the use of special tiles and paints, which reduces the dependence on the air-conditioning system thereby saving energy.

  • Conservation of water

Green buildings always aim for the conservation of water and use systems that help in reducing water consumption. The fixtures like taps, showerheads, and toilets are all efficient in the use of water.

Some of the green buildings in India are-

1) Suzlon One Earth, Pune-

Suzlon has created one of the greenest offices in India making use of non-toxic and recycled materials. It is LEED certified with 8 percent of its annual energy generated at the site using photovoltaic panels and windmills. 154KW of energy is produced at the site (80% wind and 20% photovoltaic). 4 MW (92%) of energy is produced at the client windmills farms and the energy consumed by the project is sustainable energy which makes this a zero energy project.

2) CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center, Hyderabad-

The CII- Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center (GBC) has the LEED platinum rating. 55-60% of the building’s roof is vegetated and the remaining portion is covered by solar photovoltaic having a 24 KW capacity. All the wastewater generated from the building is recycled by a process called the root zone treatment where specially selected plants purify and filter the water that irrigates them. Water from the root zone treatment is sent to a pond to be used for domestic purposes.

3) Olympia Tech Park, Chennai-

The Olympia Tech Park is rated as one of the largest gold LEED rating buildings in the world. Many MNCs operate from Tech Park preferring the energy-saving and environment-friendly facilities at the place. The building does rainwater harvesting and recycling to attain zero percent discharge.

4) Infosys Hyderabad-

Infosys campus in Bangalore has been awarded the prestigious Ashden awards of the UK and its software development blocks are LEED Platinum rated. The building incorporates passive design principles such as minimizing heat and glare, strategically located windows, radiant cooling technology, and white-painted roofs. It also used energy-efficient lighting and an HVAC system to achieve energy efficiency.

Advantages of green buildings-

Energy Efficiency-

Everyone is aware that non-renewable sources of energy pollute the environment. The aim of the green energy architect is to use natural resources such as the sun, and wind to generate energy. To achieve their end they design buildings and windows in such a way to allow the use of natural light that increases energy efficiency. The pollution is reduced and over the lifetime the infrastructure results in cost savings.

Improved quality of life-

Green architects over the past several years, through sustainable architecture, have planned in such a way to improve the quality of life. The occupants have experienced an improvement in health and quality of life with the improved indoor environments like lighting sources, air quality, and thermal conditions.

Low maintenance cost-

Green buildings are efficiently designed for the use of water and energy which reduces the electricity and water bills. Though the construction cost of green buildings is more than the normal buildings over their lifetime they have reduced operation and maintenance costs thus making them cheaper in the long run.

Saving Water-

Water is a precious resource as anyone would have observed that in many big cities there is always a shortage of water and people are supplied water through the water tankers. Sustainable buildings increase water efficiency through recycling of water, installation of water-efficient fixtures and some even do water harvesting.

Increased Material Efficiency-

Material efficiency increases when there is efficient and minimum use of materials with less waste and a positive outcome. Green buildings use fewer materials, some of which can be recycled and they are often long-lasting.  Natural resources are increasingly protected.

Protecting the environment –

Over the past few decades, there has been increasing global warming due to the use of fossil fuels. The reduction in the use of non-renewable resources and using solar and wind power instead can promote a cleaner environment

Only 5% of the buildings in India are recognized as green. The development is taking place at a slow pace because the customers don’t demand green buildings, other than the normal parks in a building. There is very little demand for waste management systems and energy-efficient appliances. Only 6-7% of the real estate in India is organized and the small builders don’t have expertise in developing green buildings. The buyers too don’t want to shell out extra money.

The Indian government has provided initiatives like the GRIHA (Green rating for integrated habitat assessment) for promoting green buildings that restrict the use of resources by 30 percent. The state governments too have promised an increase in FAR (floor-to-area ratio) for GRIHA projects, thus providing the developer with an incentive to go green and earn profits. Some state governments have proposed incentives like reduction in property tax and stamp duty for the buildings as an incentive for meeting green standards.

The banks can also contribute to green projects by linking the interest rates with the green ratings of buildings. They can give construction loans to the developers at lower interest rates. The government and the banks together can incentivize the sector and this would result in the development of more green buildings.

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