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Property Plus — Chennai

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GREEN buildings

How green is your brick? And how earthy is your mortar? You should visualise concrete structures not only from the civil or architect's angle, but integrate energy, water, material and air to derive a wholesome natural effect. SHANTHI KANNAN on the emerging concept.



The CII Godrej GBC Building at Hyderabad

THE LIC building in Chennai was an icon of development for Chennaiites born and brought up in the earlier Seventies.

It was a transition from lime and brick construction to concrete columns.

Today, the same LIC building may not pass the test of green building certification. If the LIC building were to be reconstructed as the tallest building in Chennai, people won't be able to count the number of floors, as it will be only glass all over.

Glass is not only used for decorative purpose, it is also used as a reflector of daylight, thus conserving the energy needed for air conditioning.

Of course, the building would also have other environment-friendly values incorporated in its construction. In other words, it would be what is called a "green building".

What is a "green building"?

A green building is one that incorporates the use of clean and renewable energy, efficient use of water and use of recycled or recyclable materials, and provides for healthy indoor air quality.

Buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of the world's energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The green building concept helps to conserve energy, reduce CO2 emissions and avoids global warming.

Today the world requires high performance, low energy buildings offering long-term sustainability, says Ramesh Kymal, Managing Director, NEG Micon (India) Private Ltd. The company's building is a standing example for a green building in Chennai.

Mr. Ramesh Kymal says he adopted this idea because he was in the business of installing wind power projects that generate green power. And it was quite natural for them to go in for this concept.

The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, in a recent study has stated that in developed countries the energy consumption is marginally higher than the population growth rate. For example, in the U.S., energy consumption is projected to grow at 1.3 per cent while the population is set to grow at 0.8 per cent. In contrast, in developing countries like India, the population is expected to grow at 1.3 per cent while energy consumption is slated to grow at 4.3 per cent.

This development will strain the energy sector considerably. Being a major energy consumer, the building sector can play a big role in addressing this issue.

In this context, "green" buildings offer the promise of a 30-40 per cent energy saving, says R. Parasuraman, Chairman, Indian Green Building Council, and Vice-Chairman, World Green Building Council.

Mr. Parasuraman points out that the general awareness of green buildings in India is low and scattered. Though architects have been toying with concepts such as passive architecture and natural air-conditioning, an integrated and holistic approach towards construction of green buildings is yet to emerge.

A green building can offer both tangible and intangible benefits. The most tangible benefit, according to Parasuraman, is the reduction of operating energy and water costs from day one during the entire life cycle of the building. The saving could be 25 - 40 per cent, depending on the extent of green specifications. Intangible benefits include better health and safety of occupants, increased productivity and a green corporate image. A green building looks like any other building, says Rajan Venkateswaran, Chief Architect, Engineering Design and Research Centre of ECC Division, L&T. The difference is only in the approach, which revolves round a concern for extending the lifespan of natural resources, providing human comfort, safety and productivity.

Mr. Venkateswaran said when L&T took up the construction of its ECC building, it adopted nearly 10 per cent of green concept into its building. The 10 per cent included energy saving equipments, double glazed glass to reduce heat, sun shading roof and automotive switching off of light among others. Now L&T is planning to construct EDRC-II building, which would be 100 per cent green, he said.

Some of the green initiatives by L&T of ECC Division include EDRC Office at ECC campus in Chennai, L&T Construction Training Institute, Chennai, and Andhra Pradesh Secretariat Building at Hyderabad. Mr. Venkateswaran says that constructing a green building may be 5 - 30 per cent expensive compared to a normal one. Getting the local material such as energy saving equipment, lights and air-conditioners and environment-friendly construction items is dearer. He feels that if the concept has to pick up, these items will have to be made less expensive. Mr. Kymal said his company had also incorporated the following green concepts in its facility at Sholinganallur near Chennai.

* It includes natural lighting in the building, which results in substantial savings in energy consumption.

* Insulated walls and double-glazed glass windows for lower energy consumption.

* Green lawns around the building — improves the quality of air inside the building premises.

* Use of non-toxic house-keeping materials - green seal approved products. Natural manure for plants such as neem-based pesticides.

* Water recycling

Besides these, his company also recycles the wood which is used for packing. The used batteries and broken glass are sent back to the manufactures for recycling. The building also has heat reflective tiles on the roof resulting in lower energy consumption.

Mr. Parasuraman said to facilitate green building construction in India and steer and guide building activities, the Confederation of Indian Industry and Godrej GBC have taken a "green" step forward and formed a separate national level council called the "Indian Green Building Council."

But the challenges are no less says, Mr. Parasuraman. There are no proper local codes for builders or green products. The cost economics has not been worked out properly so far by the Indian industry. The most important factor was lack of awareness of the LEED certifications. However, the main aim of the council is to make India into a world leader in green business by 2015.

* * *

Healthy living

THE GREEN building movement is very strong in the U.S. and is driven largely by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

This non-profit organisation has a diverse membership ranging from building owners, building material manufacturers, insurance companies, architects, builders, utilities, local government to even the Press.

The USGBCs mission is to promote the design and construction of buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and are healthy places to live and work in.

The USGBC defines "green design" as design-and-construction-practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of buildings on the environment and occupants in five major areas — sustainable site planning, safeguarding water and water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy, conservation of materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

As per statistics available on the website of the USGBC (www.usgbc.org) , buildings (commercial and residential) account for 65 per cent of the total electricity consumed in the U.S., 30 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, 136 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste and 12 per cent of potable water.

Little wonder then that the green building movement is fast catching on in the U.S., especially in the last decade. Interestingly, a research paper in the same website says that the concept of green buildings goes back by more than a Century. Structures such as the Crystal Palace in London and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan used roof ventilators and underground air-cooling chambers to moderate indoor air temperature. Some well-known buildings such as the Times Building in New York, built in the early part of the last Century, used deep-set windows to shade the sun while the Rockefeller Center used operable windows and sky gardens.

For those of you interested in more information on green buildings, the following websites may be worth checking out:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/

http://oikos.com/index.lasso

http://greenbuilding.ca/

http://www.epa.gov/ greenbuilding/

http://www.sustainable.doe. gov/buildings/gbintro.shtml

http://www.cagbc.org/

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