Training on Safeguarding the Future: Balancing Circularity and Efficiency in Built Environment

The Sustainable Habitat team conducted an onsite training on 'Safeguarding the Future: Balancing Circularity and Efficiency in the Built Environment.' The training took place at the Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) from February 13 to 16, 2024, and was attended by 24 participants, including government officials, academicians, and researchers. The training program focused on identifying and assessing risks in urban environments and proposing sustainable strategies aimed at promoting circularity, improving resource efficiency, conserving energy, and achieving climate-resilience.

The training program commenced with Mr. Rajneesh Sareen initiating an interactive exercise where participants shared their perspectives on city ownership and responsible authorities. Following this, he provided a comprehensive overview of vulnerability assessment, elaborating on the three critical parameters - exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity - used to evaluate vulnerability. He thendelved into various drivers of heat gains in an urban contextand explained potential mitigation measures. He further provided an in-depth exploration of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) across various sectors in urban environments.Following this to demonstrate on-ground implementation, a tour of the AAETI campus was conducted, highlighting its sustainable features and their effectiveness in reducing environmental impact and contributing to circularity of resources. The site demonstrated how the natural topography and soft landscaping in the form of vegetation throughout the campus, are strategically utilized to reduce overall heat gains, minimize damage from weather extremes, and facilitate waste water treatment, among other benefits.Other features, including the choice of materials and considerations regarding building orientation, etc. were also showcased during the tour.

The next part of the day was dedicated to lectures on waste management. Mr. Rahul Jain provided an overview of the potential of bio-CNG as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. He explored its scientific aspects, capacity in India, carbon credits, and the existing policies and financial considerations related to its implementation. Following this, the merits and demerits of waste-to-energy technologies were discussed, addressing their effectiveness in managing waste at an urban level. The final lecture of the day, by Ms. Mitashi Singh, provided an overview of India's strategies for addressing climate change. She offered insights into multiple sectors, including waste management,energy, urban development, and air quality.

The second day commenced with the theme of air pollution/emission reduction, material circularity, and dust mitigation. The first session of the day by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen, provided an introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for building and construction projects, specifically addressing the 'air environment'. Following this, Mr. Sugeet Grover elaborated on the management of construction and demolition waste, outlining good/best practices and presenting case study of various C&D recycling plants for a comprehensive understanding. The lectures emphasized on-site dust management practices, and enhancing circularity in terms of material reutilization. Ms. Sayani Sen then discussed the value-trade chain in C&D waste managementand illustrated it with the case study of Kolkata. She also conducted a participatory exercise, encouraging the audience to establish a typical construction timeline for a construction project. This was aimed at comprehending emissions and identifying their sources at each stage of the construction.Another associated issue concerning waste, particularly C&D waste, is its substantial impact on water flow, leading to urban floods. Ms. Sayani Sen explained the process of assessing flood vulnerability in urban areas, which was followed by a series of expert video lectures on the subject.

The next area of intervention considered was 'heat mitigation'. Mr. Sugeet Grover and Dr. Nimish Gupta jointly addressed the drivers influencing heat dynamics, exploring both increases and reductions, as well as sources and sinks in urban areas. The session also elaborated on the tools and datasets available for assessing the intensity of each factor.This was followed by a field visit organized to illustrate how various factors affecting heat, such as shading, exposure, materials, and green/blue infrastructure, are observed on-site, along with an explanation of their impacts on surface and air temperatures. Further, adaptive and mitigative solutions were discussed, considering a detailed overview of heat resilience, energy efficiency, and material circularity. Mr. Sugeet Grover introduced participants to how climate change is driving a shift towards increased utilization of non-recyclable materials with higher embodied energy, presenting a significant challenge. He also highlighted how hybrid technologies (combining traditional and modern approaches) could help alleviate these issues. Dr. Nimish Gupta then provided comprehensive information on cool roofs as a part of intervention in the roofing material, and briefed the participants on the Telangana cool roof policy 2023-2028. Following this, Mr. Sugeet Grover explained how materials and planning aspects could contribute to achieving circularity and resilience to heat. To support this, he presented several case studies from CSE’s research on the cooling web, offering detailed insights into cooling initiatives implemented across various institutions. Next, the participants were divided into groups, and Dr. Nimish presented a problem statement on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a residential project. Each group was tasked with identifying potential impacts throughout the project's construction and post-construction phases, recommending practices to minimize them, and suggesting alternative technologies or materials based on criteria like recyclability, availability, cost, energy usage, and climate suitability. Within a 45-minute timeframe, groups discussed the project and presented their perspectiveson the given problem.

On the final dayparticipants were taken for a site visit to witness a construction project that uses recyclable and low-embodied energy materials, in order to demonstrate the synergy between material intervention and circularity.The architect responsible for the project elaborated on the use of traditional and eco-friendly materials in constructing the house. Additionally, she provided hands-on session on preliminary soil testing procedures conducted during the construction phase.The site visit contributed significantly to enhancing the participants' comprehension of the project's efficient resource utilization, use of materials with lower embodied energy, and the benefits of fusion technology for construction in a typical urban scenario.