With each passing day, we see rising sea levels, the century-scale rise in the average temperature, melting ice caps and depletion of the ozone layer, all in the light of climatic change occurring as a result of global warming. These issues have been identified as a wide platform by the global community as a whole. The Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has 195 signatories and has been ratified by 170 nations. This is in itself evidence enough that the issue is now recognized as an inherent threat to the very existence of mankind and urge all individuals to save the planet.
To combat the pressing issue of climate change in this age of industrialization, modernization and urbanization, it is absolutely essential that apart from the micro- level activities like raising awareness, an expansive approach of sustainable development is taken so as to strike a balance between environmental responsibility and infrastructural development, which are vital for the overall progress and development of nations over the globe. The common myth that infrastructural development is antithetical to being environmentally responsible needs to be busted. Worldwide, countries have begun to recognize this false belief and, it is the time that the developing country, India also falls suit, by recognizing and introducing a green building code.
A green building code is a standardized metric that is used for qualifying a particular building as a green building, or not, which is led to mean that the building must be an energy-efficient structure that aims at sustainability and self-sufficiency.
The code necessarily needs to be in existence to ensure that first, qualification of green buildings is set and second, that when such qualification is met, there is a distinction regarding the high-efficiency levels maintained by the building.
In the status quo, there are green building codes that are recognized over the globe like the Philippine Green Building Code, GreenEmirates project in Dubai, California Green Building standard Code (2012), etc. However, India is yet to adopt an effective and comprehensive code of this description.
The entire green building concept revolves around an expansive approach towards challenging the way the architects perceive a building, conceptualize, design, construct, utilize, maintain, revamp and raze, targeting at all stages of the construction, the aim of sustainability, i.e., construction of a building in an environmentally- responsible manner with maximum energy-efficiency levels which has long-lasting impacts over a prolonged period
The introduction of a green building code shall thus lead to the achievement of this objective of sustainable development, leading to a balanced approach in the realm of development in the modern society by boosting and promoting increased construction of green buildings.
By 2020-2030, there can be a reduction in emissions up to 30%-80% in the existing buildings and zero net-emissions in new buildings if this sustainable approach is resorted to. Furthermore, the depletion of a huge quantum of natural resources put to use during the construction of a building and further on during maintenance and working of the building can be avoided, by incorporating processes like a recycling of water by water harvesting, reduction in drawing electricity by designing open spaces for ventilation and saving on air-conditioning. In the light of the matter that non-renewable resources cannot be easily replenished and that renewable resources are constantly being affected by climatic change, it is imperative that the limited resources are used extremely judiciously.
Astonishingly, no high or exorbitant initial costs are needed to implement this code as a comprehensive green building code shall enlist the materials that can be used and further highlight smart architectural designs. This will bring to light the misconception surrounding the fact that the construction of green buildings is a costly alternative. In fact, smart combined usage of materials, limited resources and techniques can go a long way in reducing the “premium” construction cost and the working of the building in the long run as well.
To cite two examples:-
Usage of rammed earth as the primary construction ingredient is way more resistant than the use of bricks and cement. This alternative is less expensive than conventional construction as well.
The cost of electricity can be reduced by a staggering 30% if energy-efficiency is incorporated in the green buildings.
It must also be taken into consideration that in the status quo, there are no means of knowing what a green building is since different parameters are set out be different systems, this confusion can only be solved by the introduction of a code that is standard for the whole country. In addition to this, the current systems are highly commercialized which is why a shift to a standard code shall be highly desirable for all the stakeholders.
Apart from the above considerations, the fact that there is tapping of a new market and new employment opportunities is another benefit that can be accrued by the implementation of such a Code as a new environmentally responsible market shall be created in India, thereby, giving impetus to R&D in the fields of production of solar panels, rainwater harvesting methods, construction materials, etc. This will also further on create ripple effects in the field of smart architecture, wherein architects shall have more focused efforts towards green architecture and come up with smarter designs and techniques that are environmentally sustainable.
Suggestions for an inclusive green building code that aims at effective implementation would include:
- A nationalized green rating system established under the Code that can categorize a building into a minimum of four classes as a green building, as is done by LEED.
- There should be the establishment of an independent body by the government that consists of multi-stakeholders having the requisite expertise in the field of environmental responsibility including corporation heads, environmentalists, and ministers of the MoEF, etc., to implement the law laid down.
This is similar to the concept of the Bureau of Indian Standards established under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
- The compliance to the Code and abiding by the green rating system shouldn’t be made mandatory; however, it must be ensured that an application to the impartial and independent Green Board is made while an application for building a project under legislation like RERA is underway.
- The implementation of this code needs to be an organic process and not something that is necessarily forced down the throat of industrialists and builders. Instead, we can refer to approach taken by countries like New Mexico wherein tax credits are given to corporations having green buildings. Even in India, for buying solar panels in grid zones, there is a 30% cut in the tax imposed. Hence, by way of incentivization by subsidies and tax cuts in the status quo the implementation of this code may be achieved.
- Yogesh Kumar, Code for Green Buildings: Need of the Hour, August 2014
accessed on 05/02/2018
- Jesse W. Abair, Green Buildings: What It Means To Be "Green" and the Evolution of Green Building Law, accessed on 05/02/2018
- Background paper for Sustainable Buildings and Construction for India: Policies, Practices and Performance Influence of Indian buildings on Climate change, accessed on 05/02/2018
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