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Green building in India

Green building is becoming more and more of a force in the Indian building industry. India's cities have for a while been known for their high levels of smog and air pollution. The country has grown rapidly in a relatively short amount of time, and this has led to environmentally harmful practices.

However, the nation's builders and investors are realising the benefits of green construction, and sustainable practices are growing in popularity. In part, this is to tackle the rising levels of pollution; however, there are other practical considerations that are being taken into account by the construction sector.

With India being responsible for 1.83 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions - the third highest of any country in the world - it has seen that clear action is needed in its industries, particularly construction.


India's problems

The rapid growth of unsustainable buildings has caused a number of issues beyond pollution. In Indian cities, the increasing population has led to large numbers of high-rise buildings being constructed, as the settlements expand upwards. However, these are not necessarily the best option for Indians.

Many of these buildings lack access to sunlight, meaning they have to use artificial lighting all day long. They are also not designed to deal with India's extreme heat, meaning many residents have to resort to buying air conditioning units in order to stay cool. The market for fitting these units in existing buildings is growing by as much as 15 per cent a year in India.

Ashok Lall, an architect specialising in low-energy design, told Building.co.uk that adding two air conditioning units to a building can increase its energy consumption by 250 per cent. India already has an issue with power generation, with rolling blackouts common in large cities due partly to this increase in energy consumption.


The sustainable solution

Aasheesh Srivastava is an architect in the Indian city of Lucknow. Talking to the Times of India, he said of India's construction issues: "Most of these problems can be solved by adopting the green building code." In his mind, environmentally friendly construction can have impressive positive effects on India's buildings.

Developers are generally reluctant to commit to constructing green buildings due to perceived notions about cost. Mr Srivastava noted: "Commercial viability rules all projects. The basic lessons like orientation of a building are ignored in its construction which is wrong."

However, the costs overall are less than is expected. Making a building eco-friendly is generally thought to add an average of three to four per cent to its cost. However, the reduction in energy costs can be as much as 30 per cent.

This perception is not helped by the fact that a high portion of India's current green buildings are large, non-residential offices, making Indians assume sustainable construction is only for the rich. Challenging this assumption is key to encouraging sustainable construction throughout the nation.


How this is being implemented

Of course, many construction projects in India are already using sustainable building practices, and a large number of structures have been built to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green rating. In fact, India has the second-highest number of LEED Green buildings in the world, behind the US.

This is not without its problems, of course. LEED is designed for buildings in the US, for example, and sometimes does not take into account the Indian climate. However, it is clear that firms are more committed to constructing eco-friendly structures, including in India's 100 planned smart cities.
International companies are also helping India develop a larger culture of sustainability. Brookfield Multiplex is one of these. It has recently announced it is partnering with Indian firm Tata Projects, and said it is "committed to introducing world-class sustainable working practices to the Indian building construction market".

For more information on green building, read our article on Indonesia.

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