The construction industry significantly impacts the environment through resource consumption, waste production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Eco-friendly materials provide a sustainable solution to reduce environmental footprints and improve building efficiency, performance, and quality.
Deben Moza, Sr. Executive Director Head of Project Management Services, Knight Frank (India) Pvt. Ltd was of the view that in current times, there are resources and data available to help us to make informed decisions, benefitting both the projects, end-users and the environment. The designers and developers need to explore various facets of eco-friendly construction materials, including their environmental advantages, economic feasibility, and creative approaches to overcome practical obstacles.”
Ashish Rakheja, Managing Partner, AEON Integrated Building Design Consultants LLP, informed on the relatively new topic of carbon neutrality. “Despite the substantial progress made globally in discussions, debates, and standards on decarbonization, most of this progress has been confined to operational carbon. This is evident in most companies' decarbonisation targets. However, embodied carbon is still under development, both nationally and globally. At ISHRAE we are currently developing standards for decarbonization, reflecting our progress to date and the work still left to be done.” Simplifying the definition of embodied carbon, he added, “Throughout a building's life cycle, distinct phases produce carbon emissions. An initial surge occurs during construction due to material usage, followed by a consistent emission rate over 15-20 years as the building utilizes energy from carbon-laden sources. A midlife refurbishment results in another emission increase due to embodied carbon in materials. Lastly, material disposal at the end of life creates a final spike, so one must consider either cradle-to-cradle or cradle-to-grave methods.”
Pressing on the need for eco-friendly affordable housing, Anagha Paranjape-Purohit, Partner, VK:e environmental LLP, said, “At our current stage of economic development, the priority is to provide affordable housing for the underprivileged. Consequently, this sensitivity to cost impacts the construction sector. Efforts to decarbonize building materials will likely increase expenses, which will in turn affect the customer. While addressing this issue may become feasible once a certain development level is reached, the question remains: can we afford to wait until then? With India's housing needs alone contributing significantly to carbon emissions, it may be necessary to pursue cost-effective decarbonization solutions for fulfilling basic societal requirements.”
Rakesh Bhatia Sr. Vice President, Ecofirst, added, “We currently find ourselves in a similar position as we were 20-23 years ago when the green building movement began in India. Initially, concerns revolved around high costs and technological limitations; however, the ecosystem adapted over time, focusing on operational efficiency. Presently, as our attention shifts to embodied carbon, we must raise awareness and develop a supportive ecosystem to meet this new challenge. Although this process may involve higher initial capital expenditure, the market will eventually adjust to accommodate lower embodied carbon materials.”
In response to the maturity and preparedness of consultants in advising on various aspects of green construction to the clients and managing service-focused construction endeavours, Pankaj Dharkar & Associates (PDA), Presidential Member - ISHRAE & FSAI, Fellow member of ASHRAE & IGBC, National Chairman of Assocham – GEM, stated, “I concur with the optimism about the progress of the Green Building Movement. It began 23 years ago, and though it took 20 years for discussions to gain traction, we have now established a serious dialogue in this limited forum. The current trajectory indicates rapid growth and increased focus on sustainability, as evidenced by discussions even among the lower strata of construction as well as other industries and sectors. Although specific numbers from manufacturers may not yet be readily available, a confident outlook remains regarding collaboration with architects and consultants to drive change. Progress is evident; however, the rate of change warrants further evaluation.”
Shabnam Bassi, Deputy CEO-cum-Secretary & Treasurer, GRIHA Council, added, “As a growing country, we acknowledge that 70% of our construction remains in progress, contributing 11% to emissions. Despite advancements in energy conservation codes and sustainable practices over two decades, further aspects must be considered. Our sector has evolved and public knowledge of eco-friendly materials has risen. Fully addressing embodied and operational carbon during construction is essential for decarbonization efforts in the coming 40-50 years. This challenge calls for cooperation and implementation of local technologies to build a greener future.”
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES
Ashish Rakheja noted, “India targets national decarbonization by 2070 and becoming a developed nation by 2050, but we face contradictions in our development. As a potential third-largest economy by 2030, we must balance development with pollution prevention. Our focus on embodied and operational carbon will hasten decarbonization due to national commitment. With 70% of India yet to be constructed, we can expect rapid adoption of sustainable practices as we aim for economic growth within five years.”
Discussing the impact of governmental policies on the adoption of environmentally friendly construction materials, Shabnam Bassi stated, “The construction and building industry has matured over time, demonstrated through the progression from the 2007 energy conservation building code to the 2020 sustainable building code. This shift indicates a focus on not only energy, but also materials, construction practices, water, waste, and air quality. Initiatives such as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana aim to provide housing for all, creating challenges and opportunities for architects, designers, and material manufacturers to incorporate sustainability while meeting costs and technology demands. Basic comforts like basic heating and cooling are essential for all individuals of all economic segments, making designers an integral part of the process. Furthermore, the integration of renewable resources and energy conservation are key elements of government initiatives such as GRIHA and IGBC. Despite progress made thus far, there remains much potential for further improvement in creating a sustainable future for our country.”
Anagha Paranjape-Purohit cited several examples of successful projects employing ecologically responsible construction materials, emphasizing their sustainability and ecological impact. She stated, “In discussing eco-friendly materials, we must first recognize the shift in mindset required to understand their role in modern construction. Previously, eco-friendly materials were limited to options like bamboo, but today's landscape requires a broader perspective. We need to weigh each material's environmental impact and recognize that improvement can always be made – even for materials currently considered eco-friendly.
Examples of such materials include re-rolled steel and blended cement with fly ash. As more sustainable options become available, resistance to change remains due to cost, supply chain limitations and customer acceptance. The industry must focus on awareness and education while ensuring high-quality finished environment friendly products. This will involve addressing all three aspects – cost, supply chain organization, and customer perception in construction projects.”
Rakesh Bhatia added, “In discussing construction materials and building adaptation, we highlight new materials and recycling existing structures. For addressing high carbon emissions in the construction phase, retrofitting offers substantial reductions in embodied and operational carbon.”
Deben Moza added, “The carbon footprint of transporting a green product is another travesty that many do not acknowledge. Education on this subject is vital. India’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) is being revised by Energy Conservation Amendment Act, 2022 that mandates the use of renewable energy, and carbon neutral technologies; and the incorporating of sustainability aspects across sectors. Implementation and monitoring of embodied carbon face challenges, with inconsistencies raising concerns.”
Pankaj Dharkar shared that the Indian manufacturing industry, particularly the HVAC sector, has significantly progressed in recent years in terms of adopting sustainability practices. "This can be attributed to the introduction of proper testing mechanisms, enabling local manufacturers and adopting latest technologies. Investments in R&D have also led to considerable advancements in energy efficiency. However, achieving carbon neutrality requires holistic integration of architecture and engineering services, emphasizing the importance of efficient building envelopes and collaboration between architects and engineers."
THE DESIGNERS AND DEVELOPERS NEED TO EXPLORE ENVIRONMENTAL ADVANTAGES, ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY, AND CREATIVE APPROACHES TO OVERCOME PRACTICAL OBSTACLES -DEBEN MOZA
FOR ADDRESSING HIGH CARBON EMISSIONS IN THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR, RETROFITTING OFFERS SUBSTANTIAL REDUCTIONS IN EMBODIED AND OPERATIONAL CARBON -RAKESH SETIA
THE INDUSTRY MUST FOCUS ON AWARENESS AND EDUCATION WHILE ENSURING USE OF HIGH-QUALITY ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY PRODUCTS- ANAGHA PARANJAPE-PUROHIT
SUSTAINABILITY AT THE GRASSROOT LEVEL HAS TO INCREASE THAT INVOLVES A CHANGE IN MIND SET TOWARDS EVERYDAY ACTIONS LIKE USING PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION OR CARRYING REUSABLE BAGS -SHABNAM BASSI
ACHIEVING CARBON NEUTRALITY REQUIRES HOLISTIC INTEGRATION OF ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING SERVICES, EMPHASIZING COLLABORATION BETWEEN ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS - PANKAJ DHARKAR