In today’s heavily carbonised world, most buildings contribute to harmful emissions instead of environmental sustainability. While environmental sustainability is most commonly expected to come into practice from sustainable business practices, the building sector and infrastructure development also play a significant role in ensuring environmental sustainability. Akin to sustainable business practices, the concept of green building introduces the reduction in carbon emissions from buildings, either from their infrastructural designs or activities happening in the building.
Here, the term’ green building’ refers not only to plantation mechanisms in new buildings but also to energy-efficient practices while constructing a building. Nonetheless, the US Environmental Protection Agency or EPA defines green building as: “…the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” On the other hand, The World Green Building Council introduces green building as one that “reduces negative impacts and produces positive impacts on the environment and climate by preserving natural resources and improving the quality of life.” Therefore, buildings that are environmentally friendly will significantly contribute to a reduction in carbon and global house gas emissions.
According to Coalition for Urban Transitions’ 2019 report, buildings produce 30-40 per cent of city emissions. And to cut 90 per cent of emissions from cities, emissions from buildings need to be reduced by 80 per cent. Moreover, the WEF report also highlights that construction operations and materials contribute to three-quarters of building emissions. Therefore, energy-efficient solutions should be the top priority of architects and civil engineers. Energy efficient buildings tend to focus on four components: 1. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the energy demand itself; 2. Use of renewable energy resources instead of fossil fuels; 3. Use of sustainable raw materials; 4. Energy sector coupling with industry and infrastructure.
Moreover, green buildings focus on low consumption practices and more automation features to incorporate error-free assessment and operation.
The process of green building revolutionises construction patterns because it involves a radical shift in building operations, materials and components, manufacturers, stakeholders, designers etc. Generally, the construction or demolition of a building is considered to have a significant environmental impact when it comes to its operations. In this arena, sustainable buildings not only have environmental benefits; furthermore, green infrastructure can promote green businesses and use technological ways that can further contribute to a country’s economy. Moreover, when it comes to the material of the building, the components from natural substances would contribute to the overall health and well-being of individuals, i.e. enhancing productivity and creativity of individuals. Apart from health and economic benefits, environmental benefits include providing clean water, better air quality and a pollution-free environment, greener spaces, protection of species and biodiversity, and restoration of natural resources. Thus, green buildings and infrastructure can improve the overall quality of life.
One example of green infrastructure is Emerald Necklace Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a landscape architect. A network of parks in Massachusetts was built for water management in low-lying areas. The network of green spaces offers a dose of nature for passersby to enjoy and rejuvenate on and a chance to use nature for human benefit. It’s a win-win situation; a water-front park that can tackle flood issues and proficiently provides aesthetic beauty and climate preservation. Thus, green infrastructure is a quintessential aspect of benefiting from nature while fulfilling desired purposes.
Another example of green infrastructure is the Toronto Tree Tower. This residential block is green, with plants sprouting from its balconies. According to the designer of the building, Chris Precht, the future of humanity is information-driven. However, the question of human emotionality remains. Connection to nature and aesthetic beauty will provide the emotional connection that humankind will need. In Precht’s own words: “Knowledge for smart cities will be important, but so is consciousness, emotions and our senses. We will achieve that by a connection to nature and integration of plants.”
Furthermore, Singapore’s Park Royal Hotel Pickering also offers a case in point. The four-storey hotel building with sky gardens offers green meals and plant-based foods. Also, it uses biodegradable napkins. The building contributes to environmental sustainability by preserving the natural environment.
When it comes to building designs, sustainable buildings offer a win for not only the environment but also the owner and the occupants. A survey shows that 55 per cent of firms chose green buildings because of how it increases the productivity and well-being of individuals working in the firm. Green system uses a building approach containing radiant floors, which offers heat to occupants either through electrical tubing or solar systems. Also, grey water recycling, a process in which condensed water from air conditioners is used either for irrigation purposes or fueling boilers, is used to benefit from maximising water resources. In addition, sustainable buildings use solar energy to meet many energy needs.
Moreover, solar energy is an excellent source of renewable energy that is economically cost-effective and highly profitable. Tesla’s solar roofs are a good case in point. Solar tiles offer the maximum solar energy production. Besides, energy-efficient windows are a source of heat and cold inhibition. These windows protect against heat and cold loss and secure the natural light from the environment.
Green building and infrastructure is going to be common practice in future. Architects, designers and builders can benefit from utilising green practices while constructing a green building. From reducing the load on non-renewable energy resources to protecting the health and well-being of people to preserving the natural environment to reducing carbon footprint, green buildings and infrastructure offer a wide range of benefits. It can settle the environmental impact of buildings and is a reliable source of energy efficiency and sufficiency. In short, green infrastructure brings nature into work for human benefits ranging from economic, social, environmental and health benefits.
The author is a research scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and is pursuing his research studies in the field of psychology and neuroscience
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not reflect the view/s of Business Standard.