‘Code Green’ for India’s real estate sector, says Mili Majumdar
The MD at Green Business Certification Institute (GBCI) and a speaker at the upcoming Greenbuild India, 2020, on the challenges of sustainable development
Pressure on the world’s resources is rising by the hour. Recently, the Global Footprint Network reported July 29 as Earth Overshoot Day – the date human demand for ecological resources and services surpassed what the Earth can regenerate in a year.
We are at a crossroads. Rapid urbanisation, coupled with rising population, is straining our natural resources. In the coming years, cities will continue to face over-population and millions of people and trillions of dollars in assets will be at risk. Yet, every adversity is also an opportunity in disguise. While the stakes are higher, the opportunities are also greater. There is immense potential for countries - especially developing nations - to transform into green economies, ensure sustainable development and improve the quality of life.
A green economy reduces environmental risks and ecological scarcities, thus improving human well-being and social equity. As defined by the United Nations, it is low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive. A crucial step towards achieving this, is the adoption of green building and green practices in construction. Buildings generate over 40% of global energy use and one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the construction sector generates 23% of all CO2 emissions worldwide, and the construction, operation and deconstruction of buildings consumes about 15% of the world’s freshwater resources.
India is positioned to serve as a model for how developing nations can lead. We are on a trajectory of growth, and construction is one of our largest economic activities. To transition to a green economy, India must continue to adopt green building and green construction. Our government has committed to reducing emissions to 35% and our carbon by almost three billion tons by 2030. The construction sector can make a significant contribution, as it generates about 22% of our annual CO2 emissions. This number will grow, unless the industry embraces sustainability — especially since floor area in India is expected to double by 2035.
There is a huge scope for enhancing efficiency and minimising resource consumption if green building is adopted. It is estimated that energy savings in green buildings range from 20 to 30%, while water savings fall between 30 to 50%. Green buildings are estimated to decrease operating costs by 10% over a year, while retrofitting reduces costs by 11%. The payback time for investing in green buildings is just four to five years.
Additionally, green buildings ensure overall wellbeing of their inhabitants and the environment, eliminate resource waste and contribute to economic growth. They shatter the myth that profitability and sustainability cannot go hand in hand; green buildings support sustainable profitability.
Projects touching every sector in India are implementing green building to take advantage of these benefits. The LEED Platinum Jaypee Vasant Continental Hotel recycles 99% of its solid waste, saves approximately Rs.7 million in energy and water costs, and has enjoyed emissions reduction of 123 MT of CO2. The LEED Platinum ITC Sankhya Data Center is fully powered by renewable energy, incorporating variable capacity technology and a sophisticated sensor network to achieve annual energy savings of Rs.121 million.
One area that presents great opportunity is the retrofitting of existing buildings. With attention to building operations, the efficiency and performance of older buildings can be improved and optimum utilisation of resources achieved. According to the World Green Building Trends 2016 Smartmarket Report, India reports greater decreases in operating costs for retrofits than the global average, further strengthening the case for green retrofits.
Though the Indian market shows good growth, there is still a long way to go to achieve a greener construction sector. Collaboration, coordination and concerted efforts from all stakeholders are required to achieve that goal.