Every aspect of human society has had a profound impact on the environment so it is of no surprise that our buildings can also affect our surroundings. Architecture does not exist in a vacuum, therefore understanding how our buildings interact with the world around us is very important because in most cases the impact tends to sway towards the negative. A measured and regulatory response to this crisis in design is the introduction of the concept of ‘green buildings’. It is an eco friendly architecture which tries to demonstrate that the modern design does not have negative impact on the environment.
‘Renee Cho’ saying, (author of an article – The how and why Green Building published in Columbia Climate School Buildings around the world account for more than 40 percent of energy use and almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Environment Programme projects that if we continue with business as usual in the building sector, these emissions will more than double by 2030.
What is a green building? Green buildings, as referred to both as a protocol and a structure, allows for a level of environmental accountability to be assigned to different buildings throughout their operational life.
This accountability requires the regulation and close cooperation of all the stockholders at all the stages that go into the construction of the said building including the architects, contractors and clients. Through the efficient usage of resources like energy, water and waste reduction, one can promote sustainable outcomes in the whole supply chain without sacrificing the utility, durability or comfort as a whole.
8 Goals of Green Buildings
‘Charles Lockwood’ (author of an article – Building the Green way Published on hbr.org) Green buildings, as many know, have less negative impact on the environment than standard buildings. Their construction minimizes on-site grading, saves natural resources by using alternative building materials, and recycles construction waste rather than sending truck after truck to landfills. A majority of a green building’s interior spaces have natural lighting and outdoor views, while highly efficient HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials like paint, flooring, and furniture create a superior indoor air quality.
Green buildings are a goal-oriented phenomenon with several factors contributing to making it a sustainable architectural piece; let’s have a look at the features of green building, green building benefits, need of green building, environmental benefits of green building and economic benefits of green building:
01. Life Cycle Assessment
Life cycle assessments are tools used by designers to calculate the wide range of environmental impacts from the building’s inception to extinction which include all the processes in the supply chain from resource extraction to transportation.
Green building extends further than just implementing construction good practices but also includes a scientific examination of the real-world performance of a building.
02. Structure Design Efficiency
The efficiency and sustainability of the structure can be optimized the most in its conception stage. Therefore, increasing the efficiency of every variable that goes into construction to increase the structure design efficiency is a crucial goal to achieve.
03. Energy Efficiency in Green Building
Green buildings should be careful to include measures that can help with the reduction of energy they consume both through the processes that lead to the construction of the building as well as through the maintenance of its many services. Therefore, to reduce how much energy is used by the buildings as whole, precautions like maximizing received sunlight through window placement optimization and natural ventilation systems should be implemented.
04. Water Usage
Efficient usage of water not only relies on its consumption aspects but also on the general effect construction can have on water quality. Therefore, practices that can decrease a building’s dependency on the water it uses and processes on-site can be of great use towards reducing its overall impact.
Materials used in a structure can contribute to how eco-friendly it is. Usage of sustainable materials like bamboo, engineered wood and other products can largely reduce the negative effects of construction. Sustainability in materials also comes through in the construction process. Local sourcing materials or using vernacular materials that are native to the area rather than exporting them from across large distances reduce much of the carbon footprint of the building.
Additionally, reusing and recycling materials from previous products would not only cut down on costs but also significantly reduce construction waste that ends up in landfills.
06. Operations and Maintenance Optimization
Long term sustainability of a project is heavily dependent on how the structure is maintained and operated. Therefore, ensuring that the operations and maintenance staff are trained in common sustainable industry practices and also in the ability to replace existing technologies with new more efficient ones is essential.
07. Indoor Environmental Quality Enhancement
The comfort and health of the people that reside in a building are extremely important as it is paramount in assessing what role the building plays in maintaining societal integrity.
The IEQ encompasses parameters within a building such as Indoor Air Quality, aesthetics, potable water surveillance, ergonomics, acoustics, lighting and electromagnetic frequency.
It is the overall quality measurement of all the different aspects of a green building. One that has good quotients for each of the aspects i.e. advantages of green building would not only be an efficient building but would ensure the life cycle of the structure with respect to the amount of usage.
08. Waste Reduction
This can be also optimized by reducing and processing waste more efficiently. How biological waste is handled and how grey water is treated on-site can also be defining steps in the whole quality assessment of a building.
Why Are Green Buildings Important?
The importance of green building is listed as follows:
- Environmentally speaking, acknowledging the effect of buildings on their surroundings opens additional avenues for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems around the world.
- Promoting sustainable resource extraction processes can also improve the overall quality of life of people involved in the construction process as a whole.
- Concentrating sustainability efforts inwards can considerably reduce the strain a building will transfer onto its surrounding infrastructure as it produces significantly lesser waste which will require processing by local establishments. Moreover, it can also increase its self-sustainability in water and energy resources. This can be maintained either by integrated water treatment plants or alternative sources of energy, which further decreases the overall impact on public services.
- Besides the aesthetic improvements, vertical gardens and efficient green building designs can provide a project, on an ethical basis.
- Green buildings can allow past generations to transfer a much greener legacy to the future generation, which is set to bear the biggest brunt of climate change. By using fewer materials as a whole, a much more productive approach towards infrastructure building can also be pursued.
Green buildings in itself is a great boon to the economy as it introduces and boosts a green jobs market that is growing in relevance each coming day. The process reduces the costs of operations and the systems implemented into it have the capability of improving occupant productivity. Green buildings also enhance asset values as these types of structures are much more viable in a market and have a large impact on the real estate market. The complete life cycle in terms of economic performance would also be optimized.
The Outreach of Green Building Programs
In the United States alone, it is estimated that 39 per cent of total energy use and 38 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to buildings.
These statistics show the role that buildings have to play in influencing global warming and environmental degradation, urging the widespread adoption of green building. Hence, green building programs were formed in order to regulate the environmental impact of buildings.
There are several Green building certifications available, according to each country and state. These certifications have been a core reason to fuel the progress of Green Buildings. Even the user group has now been acquainted with the subject and are urging developers to opt for green buildings due to their growing demand and well, awareness!
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the primary rating system for green buildings in the world developed by the U.S. Green building council. It defines green building as “the planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings with several, foremost considerations: like energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material section and the building’s effects on its site.”
LEED is a certification program that has played a major role in the proliferation of green buildings as a concept because it provides a framework on which modern architecture and buildings can be assessed by all the stakeholders involved.
The Green Built Homes Certification Program is a US state-wide green-building certification system that is controlled by the Green Built Alliance.
The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) handles the certification process in India and also provides a wide range of services that include designing new green building rating programmes, certification services and green building training courses. The group also hosts Green Building Congress, a yearly flagship event on green buildings. Their rating system however is more western and needs to be customized to Indian climate, culture and technology.
The IGBC is based out of CII-Sohrabji Green Business Centre, Hyderabad which was declared India’s 1st Platinum rated green building and has rated more than 2,126 projects which have resulted in saving up to 15,000 MWh of energy per million sq. ft per annum.
Projects That Are Actively Adapting Green Methods
Architects and developers from all over the globe are setting a benchmark in architecture by creating structures that are breaking new barriers for sustainability.
1. Taipei 101 by C.Y Lee & Partners
Project Type: Multi Storeyed Building
Location – Taipei, Taiwan
Currently, it is considered the world’s tallest green building as measured by LEED standards. The structure was designed to have double-pane windows which can reflect external heat by about 50 per cent and recycle 20-30 per cent of the water that meets the building’s needs.
Additionally, the tower is set up to save 18 per cent of its energy which is 14.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity with an expected cost saving of US$1.2 million per year. The change in wiring, water and lighting equipment that led to its platinum rating was hence estimated to recuperate its cost in just three years of operation.
2. The Crystal by Perkins + Will, Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Arup Group
Project Type: Event Venue
Location – London, UK
The Crystal is regarded as the most environmentally friendly event venue and the largest exhibit on the future of cities. It was the first structure to be certified as both BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum. The crystal features abundant natural lighting as well as an advanced energy management system that is linked to an exterior weather system that regulates all electrical and mechanical equipment.
Ground source water pumps provide practically all of the heating and most of the cooling demands, resulting in no heating expenses. It is one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, thanks to advanced technology and integrated active and passive design components.
3. Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre by Karan Grover
Project Type: Business Centre
The Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre is the first-ever LEED platinum-certified building that was ever made outside the US.
Using passive design strategies, the plan, shape, forms, materials and different elements like doors, windows etc. all play a huge role in minimising the use of energy. Most of the roof is green, the rest being covered with solar panels that power the entire facility. Rainwater harvesting systems are implemented in the gardens that feed into the ponds.
Traditional building techniques like the use of jail walls and a wind catcher play huge roles in controlling the radiation and heat on the site. A combination of local materials, as well as recycled materials, were used across most of the surfaces.
How Are Green Buildings Making The World Better?
The built environment has a significant influence on the ecosystem, human health, and the economy. We can improve both economic and environmental performance by implementing green building solutions. From design and construction through rehabilitation and deconstruction, green construction practises may be included in structures at any step. The greatest efficiency increases, however, may be realised if the design and construction teams work together from the beginning of a building project.
The growing number of green buildings worldwide show the staying power of sustainable design and green architecture as a whole. Through the emerging global consensus on the importance of reduction of emissions and reduced environmental impact, green buildings can pave the way for a much more sustainable future.
Green building regulations continue to be a driving force in the conversion of structures into ‘living buildings’ which are seamlessly integrated into their environment and there is no doubt about their importance as a tool for change. Green buildings slowly but surely are becoming the norm and soon there might come a day where they become the rule, which indeed will be a much greener future.
Saili Sawantt – She is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession. Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals, both national and international. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai, due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog ‘The Reader’s Express’ and is a practicing Architect & Interior Designer.