Sustainable buildings, lifestyle and resource use
Our personal choices about the level of comfort we want and the means of getting that comfort decides sustainability of our lifestyle. Our small decisions on -- how do we light and air condition our home, offices and shops, use water, dispose waste define livability.
Buildings are the core of all our demand – water, energy and material. It also creates waste. But just by changing the design, material, and the operations of our buildings we can make enormous difference, avert environmental consequences and achieve green code of living.
This is a challenge in a growing economy that has escalated demand for residential, commercial and institutional space and is pushing the market towards high end building structures with level of comfort that are resource intensive. Demand for housing and commercial space will explode in India and lock up enormous carbon and energy. The construction industry already 10 per cent of the GDP, is growing at an outstanding rate of 10 per cent over the last ten years as against the world average of 5.5 per cent per annum. Buildings are one of the largest in terms of economic expenditure, use of raw materials and environmental impacts.
This demands strong public policy to promote efficient use of resources, give the right market signal to prevent guzzling and inefficiency, and promote building designs and structure that help to reduce demand for energy and water.
Break the insidious link between resource use and building Centre for Science and Environment’s green building programme is designed to create policy and public awareness for aggressive steps to cut the resource imprint of the building sector.
Energy use in buildings
The energy demand for the building sector has already increased from 14 per cent in the 1970s to nearly 33 per cent in 2005 due to a near consistent 8 per cent increase in annual building energy consumption growth. The residential and commercial sector consumes more than a quarter of the total electrical supply usage of the country and major portion of this is utilized in the buildings. Commercial development is witnessing rapid growth. Malls, multiplexes, housing conglomerates are springing in cities. An effective environmental management of building provides the opportunity to reduce overall footprint of urban consumption.
What must we do?
Set vision for energy efficiency in buildings: India aspires to reduce the energy intensity of its economy by 20-25 per cent by 2020 to strengthen energy security and to foster climate friendly growth. This in many ways will also set the terms of action in different sectors of economy including the buildings. There is considerable potential for energy savings in buildings. A conventional building in India typically has the energy intensity of 250 kWh/m2/year of energy. The official energy conservation building code for buildings expects to cut this to 140 —170 KWh/m2/year. The very high performance buildings can achieve a target of even 75 KWh/m2/year. This programme will therefore push for effective policies to enable stringent targets as well as aim for extensive coverage of buildings under the official energy codes.
Push and track policy development for effective implementation: Green building policies have begun to take shape in India. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat under the National Climate Action Plan has a significant focus on the energy efficiency of buildings. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, has released the voluntary Energy Conservation Building Code, 2006 (ECBC) that covers design, construction and operational energy requirements of large commercial buildings; The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures by the Ministry of Environment and Forests address large building construction projects. These policies are opportunity.
Water and buildings
The building sector represents the worsening demand side crisis clearly reflected in the fact that buildings are responsible for large shares of resource use and waste generation. Beside energy the second most critical issue concerning the building sector, governments, consumers and environmentalists today is possibly water. Infact, water use in buildings accounts for almost 20 per cent of the total water use, which is significant. Rampant lifestyle changes are accompanied by spiraling demand for water for existing uses along with new ones. Water guzzling rain showers, Jacuzzis, heating and cooling systems, swimming pools etc. are not anymore luxuries in the urban aspirations.
What is been done?
India in its National Water Mission document has made a commitment of increasing water use efficiency by 20 per cent in all sectors including domestic. Similarly National Mission on Sustainable Habitat has also emphasized on reducing leakages and improving water efficiency and water reuse in buildings. The growing scarcity of water has led to a renewed focus on reducing water use, recycling and reusing water apart from increasing its efficiency. The discussion on creation of a bureau of water efficiency on the lines of BEE is a reflection of the changing mindset. Buildings offer a huge opportunity for reducing water use and making it resource efficient. Just by replacing regular water fixtures with water efficient ones can reduce water consumption by 30-40 per cent. The inclusion of rainwater harvesting in the building bye laws of several cities is also seen as a step towards water conservation and reducing dependence on dwindling piped and groundwater supplies. Though water is still several notches behind energy in terms of policies and regulatory reforms, but has ample opportunities to learn from it too, quickly though.
Voluntary green rating programmes for buildings have also started. But scale of its application is still very limited.
This programme aims to achieve mandatory energy efficiency requirements in buildings. As a first step the ECBC will have to be the defining parameter of the energy savings steps in the building sector. To enable this all concerned polices both at the national and state level will have to be harmonised and also aligned with the national building code for effective implementation and coverage. The scale can be achieved only if multi-stakeholder interest can be aligned and a larger consumer awareness programme can be enabled.
Awareness campaign to create demand for green buildings: Green building movement in India can be successful only if people understand the tangible benefits from resource savings that offset the costs of investment in resource efficient buildings. This programme is designed to create public and consumer awareness to build the critical mass of demand for green building. Enable consumer movement through an information network built around the strategies for fuel savings, availability, costs, financial incentives, energy efficiency labelling of the products, water auditing, environment friendly building designs, labelling of products based on efficiency etc. \
Convene network of stakeholders for experience sharing and knowledge creation to enhance capacity for sustainable buildings: Energy management in buildings is relatively a new area of governance. A growing community of regulators, urban designers, planners, architect, building developers and financiers, are increasingly coming within the vortex of this. The programme creates and mobilizes networks for experience and knowledge sharing in the public domain to support and strengthen grass root action.