Should you choose Green Architecture?
With global warming being one of the ‘hottest’ topics right now, almost all professions are undergoing some form of change. Industries are recycling materials and businesses are promoting reuse. Thrifting and renting has become more popular than buying new products. An average consumer is looking to reduce their carbon footprint in practical and affordable ways.
While products have become more organic and eco-friendly, real estate and architecture are not any behind on sustainability. According to research, 36 percent of global energy is devoted to buildings, and 8 percent of global emissions caused by cement alone. 33% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are emitted by buildings making them the single biggest global emitter by sector. Architecture is a culprit in this scenario, which calls for immediate and effective solutions. Green architecture is extremely popular across the globe, as well as in India now.
Green architecture refers to a sustainable method of building. The environment is an important factor of consideration, and the design and construction are done in a way that ensures minimal damage to the environment. This kind of model is usually created by understanding the earth as a macro model based on which buildings can be designed. A ‘green’ building could not only reduce detrimental impacts on the environment but also contribute positively to the ecology of the site. This can particularly be useful in developing economies like India. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) estimates that if all the buildings in Indian urban areas adopted green building concepts, India could save more than 8,400 megawatts of power, which is enough to light 550,000 homes a year.
What are the features of green architecture?
There are no specific requirements that a building has to fulfil to be green; the larger goal is for it to be sustainable. Some of the commonly found features are:
- Energy-efficient lighting and appliances
- Water-saving plumbing fixtures
- Green roofs or landscaping with native vegetation
- Minimal harm to the natural habitat
- Alternative renewable energy sources like solar power or wind power
- Non-toxic and eco-friendly materials
- Locally obtained and responsibly harvested woods and stone to eliminate unnecessary transportation
- Adaptive reuse of older buildings
- Efficient use of space
- Rainwater harvesting and grey-water reuse
Experts often discuss how a stunning building with fancy materials might not be green, and alternatively, a green building might not be visually appealing. In green architecture, the architect must always attempt to strike a balance between appearance and sustainability as one does not come at the cost of another. It is also important to keep in mind that green architecture does not mean just an eco-friendly output, but encompasses the entire process of construction and the house itself. A great example of this would be the 2012 London Olympics which was constructed using a 12 point green idea including dredging waterways, strict sourcing of building materials, and recycling concrete; they used railways, and waterways to deliver materials.
What are the advantages of green architecture?
Green architecture aims at creating a durable structure that reduces pollution and is also efficient. It focuses on water and material efficiency and is instrumental in improving the quality of air around the building as well. Green architecture uses alternative sources of water such as rainwater through rainwater harvesting systems. Such buildings also aim to reduce water wastage through the installation of plumbing fixtures. It also uses renewable sources of energy such as solar power which is not only eco-friendly but pocket-friendly as well. People using these structures get a lot of financial benefits as the only cost involved are initial expenses, and the operation cost is very low. It has also been found that such residents can also hope for high property value if they ever plan on selling.
Green architecture involves eco-friendly ventilation by using features like larger windows which have a positive impact on the mood of the space, thereby increasing efficiency. The non-toxic method of construction by using only safe materials also massively reduces the possibility of any health hazards among the residents. For example, eco-friendly construction companies avoid using plastic by-products that have been found to release toxic materials like carcinogens that not only cause significant breathing difficulties but also increase the chances of getting cancer.
What are the challenges in adopting green architecture?
While green architecture is quite alluring, it does have a few downsides to it as well. The initial cost of designing and constructing a green building is often higher than that of a conventional building. This is because the cost of the materials could be high, and the availability of such eco-friendly materials might also be less. It also takes a longer time to be constructed as the method of construction must also be mindful of environmental damage.
These buildings would also not have the conventional cooling and heatings systems as air-conditioners are among the largest sources of carbon emissions. Hence, one would not have access to conventional and immediate cooling systems. Furthermore, green architecture cannot be adopted everywhere as it requires sources of renewable energy like the sun, which makes it a little difficult in rain-prone areas. Nevertheless, there is a steady advancement in the realm of green architecture, and we will have eco-friendly solutions to all these problems soon.
How feasible is green architecture in India?
Now, if you have decided to go green, the final question would be to understand the feasibility of green architecture in India. India is definitely exploring sustainable architecture - we have an ambitious target of having a 10 billion sq ft green building footprint by 2022 which is expected to increase the footprint by around 10%. The Economic Times observes that almost 14 lakh houses in India have chosen to adopt the ‘green building’ tag amounting to about 6.33 billion sq ft.”. Top real estate and construction firms in India have realized the importance of green architecture which is constantly reinforced by the Indian Green Building Council. Suresh.V, the chairman of the Indian Green Building Council states- “It is important to have hospitals, schools, and all other buildings having a green base. India needs a green revolution to ensure that the impact of pollution is mitigated.” India is currently ranked third in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the US Green Building Council. Hence, adopting green architecture is not just a feasible, but a very profitable decision in India.
Sustainability does seem quite daunting in terms of finances as well as the very possibility. However, with technology advancing at an unimaginable rate, one can be confident that we will have affordable options to practice sustainable living. Green architecture is a practical and long-lasting step you can take towards reducing your carbon footprint. It is highly adaptable and customizable- the World Green Building Council encourages different countries to pursue models that best suit their interests. There is no right way to adopt green architecture, but taking this step is definitely the right thing to do!
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