Environment Consciousness: Why Sustainable Practices Are Required at Each Stage of Construction

A report “Global Construction 2020,” says that after China and USA, India will be third largest global construction market. According to a study by Timetric’s construction intelligence centre (CIC), the annual growth of the Indian construction industry is expected to increase from 2.95% in 2011–2015 to 5.65% during the coming five years.

The government’s flagship programmes like smart cities mission, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna, i.e., Housing for all by 2022, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Make in India and Power for all coupled with population growth and rapid urbanisation – all act as growth drivers of the construction Industry in India.

In fact, the industry is forecasted to rise from a value of US$428.1-billion in 2015 to US$563.4-billion in 2020 (measured at constant 2010 US dollar exchange rates). Residential construction is expected to reach 30.6% of the construction industry total worth by 2020.

Favourable factors like government spending and initiatives for infrastructure, increased private investment and FDI, all has made India one of the top ten spending nations on construction in the world.

What is sustainable construction?

As per United Stated Environmental Protection Agency, sustainable building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from design to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

Basically, sustainable constructions aim to meet the present day demand of housing and offices without compromising with the availability of resources to the future generations. They are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.

A report by Mckinsey and company suggests that India is yet to build approximately two third of its commercial and residential buildings to meet its demand in 2030. While other developed countries have almost reached to the point of saturation.

Buildings already consume 30% of India’s energy. This puts India at a lower foot as it anyhow has to seek alternatives to meet energy demands for the construction and then for operations which include cost of lighting, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.

It is imperative that the country should analyse and take into account the price which future generations might have to pay for our over utilisation of energy, materials and water resources. Or India should consider construction, architecture and processes that are not only environment friendly, but also the cost of living and working in those buildings is low on our pockets.

The future of our world is at stake due to negligent and extensive usage of natural resources, greenhouse gas emissions leading to extremities of temperature change. In fact, a report says that GHG emissions are likely to increase to approximately 6.0-7.0 tons of CO2 in 2030, of which currently India is responsible for 1.83 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions. Hence, the time is right for the Indian construction industry to move towards green and choose sustainability.

“Sustainability is not just integrating a solar energy plant or harvesting rain water, but studied sustainable practices are required at each stage of construction”

And, for this the Indian construction industry needs a grade system for each process involved.

Examining the current construction practices

Researchers say that the wastage in construction industry is approximately 30%. And, for a developing country like India this challenge must be addressed and mitigated immediately as these wastages intake resources, but create zero value to the nation.

Developed nations follow lean construction practices in order to minimise the resources (human and natural), and waste for maximum output. While the government of India has announced certain initiatives to reduce this waste, but the country definitely needs a solid and focussed forum to tackle the issue.

Sustainability at planning and designing phase

Driving sustainability at the designing and planning phase help sort many environmental issues. A proper layout of the design, processes involved, material to be used and planning to waste management is all what is to be considered at this stage.

At the planning stage, considerations should be given to minimise the energy usage during the construction and operational phase of the building, by effectively and efficiently utilising the natural resources available. Also, the emphasis should be to use eco-friendly and sustainable materials and methods.

Selection of eco friendly materials

As per statistics, the country consumed 324 million metric ton of cement in 2015 and concrete is the largest synthesised material which has a per capita consumption of 1.5 tons per annum in India. Concrete and cement are the major energy exhausting materials due to its huge volume of production and requirement.

These are equally environmentally unsustainable as they emit huge amount of CO2 in its manufacturing. Hence, it is inevitable to search for substitutes which are equally strong and are environmentally responsible.

Use of eco-friendly construction materials like clay hollow bricks, bamboo, terracotta roof tiles, etc., will not only help in sustainable construction, but will also help reduce operational costs of the building at later stage.

Innovation and Acknowledgement

The construction industry must encourage, invest and produce new innovations to bring sustainability in the field. It must encourage innovations to reduce consumption of resources, mitigating wastes, formulating resource management processes. It must also help to identify innovative construction materials which are eco-friendly, take less time and benefit the owner and the earth as a whole.

“But, for the holistic approach in the construction industry to bring sustainability, it is very important that the people working in the industry are aware of what is harming them and the earth”

India is a rapidly growing economy and the construction industry will also witness huge demands in the coming decades. As a result, the pressure on the nation to use natural resources to meet out the coming demands is self explanatory.

Thus, looking for alternatives and creating some stringent laws for eco-friendly construction is what authorities must focus on, because we have no right to endanger the future of forthcoming generation by providing them with depleted or no resources.

Authored By: Anusua Mitra, Marketing Manager, Wienerberger India Pvt Ltd.

The article was originally published on EPC&I Magazine 

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