The increasing trend of sustainable construction is amplifying the scope for innovative technologies and widening the array of available eco-friendly materials, writes CHARU BAHRI.
A wave of green construction is taking India by storm. According to the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), 1,900 green buildings with a total area of 1 billion sq ft are coming up across the country. This number, quite clearly, spells a bonanza for vendors of green products and technologies.
Greater awareness is driving the green building movement. According to Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, Vice President, Kohinoor Hospital, a LEED-certified Platinum building, "The fact that the green building concept is fast catching up in India is a reflection of growing concerns for the environment and energy."
Today, green buildings are overall 5-8 per cent more expensive than conventional buildings. But users are fast realising the payoffs from going green. Take the case of Kohinoor Hospital. "In reducing the building's energy consumption, green features have cut our operational costs by 30-35 per cent vis-a-vis non-green buildings," adds Dr Boudhankar. Based on current prices, T Chitty Babu, Chairman & CEO, Akshaya Pvt Ltd, notes, "Platinum-rated green buildings have a higher payback period of five to seven years, while Gold-rated and Silver-rated ones have a payback period of three to four years."
Energy-efficiency apart, green buildings also boast of healthier indoor conditions. Not surprisingly, such sustainable buildings have higher value and command higher rental and sale prices. "Market dynamics are changing," avers A Ravi, Head, Business Development-Special Projects, Electro Mechanical & Refrigeration Business Group, Voltas Ltd. "Tenants and lessees are demanding green and net zero energy buildings and multinational corporations are taking the lead in creating demand."
A positive is that green investment returns are kicking in faster as prices of green materials fall. "Prices of green products are much more competitive now than a decade ago, especially if you consider the lifecycle cost in relation to the cost of substituting a natural resource," observes Srinivas S, Principal Counsellor, LEED & IGBC Accredited Professional, CII-Godrej GBC.
Developers can look forward to further price cuts. According to Sasidhar Chidanamarri, Environment & Building Technologies Practice, Frost & Sullivan, "Many green buildings in India have now become a benchmark and case study; there's immense opportunity as this niche segment evolves. This niche segment is expected to grow at an enormous rate and the costs of the green products will come down as volumes soar."
On the back of a growing trend, Srinivas expects the market for green and other building materials and products to grow to $120 billion by 2015. Popular green materials include high-performance glass, wall and roof insulation, low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, adhesives and sealants, CRI-certified carpets, FSC-certified wood, high albedo roofing material, flyash blocks and eco-friendly chemicals. Systems coming into vogue include waterless urinals, high CoP chillers, CO2 sensors, root zone treatment plants and wind towers.
An offshoot of the growing demand is that vendors are diversifying their offerings. Known for its HVAC solutions, Voltas Ltd is now offering developers design-and-build services for complete electrical and mechanical solutions for LEED certification.
Its ambit extends to indoor air quality solutions, electrical systems, fire protection systems and water and wastewater treatment systems.
"We commit to a certain number of points to achieve the desired LEED certification rating, and select appropriate technologies," says Ravi.
Another player, Asahi India Glass Ltd, positions itself not only as a glass manufacturing company but a partner of architects to visualise and provide customised solutions for their projects. "Our 4G solution has Asahi take on the role of manufacturer and green consultant," says Senthil Kumar, National Sales Head-Projects, Asahi India Glass Ltd.
Green = sustainable
To build green is to construct sustainable structures, in context to the resources they consume - energy as well as water. Buildings consume about 40 per cent of the energy produced worldwide and contribute to 21 per cent of all CO2 emissions. But sustainable buildings consume an average of 30 per cent less energy than conventional structures
Advanced design - encompassing building shape, form and orientation - plays a big role in making a building sustainable. As do incorporating appropriate systems (water management, air-conditioning) and green materials and technologies.
According to Hans Brouwer, Founder, HB Design, "One key aspect is the design and performance of the external envelope, a multi-layered system." As an example, the building envelope of Marvel EDGE, a 1-million sq ft LEED pre-certified Platinum office complex in Pune, starts with a double-glazed (vacuum) glazing system, is followed by a large interstitial space (2.4 m) with terraces that shade, and finally a perforated metal sunscreen that cuts out over 40 per cent of direct sun, lowering glare.
Popular energy-efficient building envelope elements include cavity walls, double-glazed units, roof insulation and flyash bricks and blocks. Also, it's not enough to choose green materials - a lot depends on interior placing. For instance, in designing an office of Standard Chartered Bank, Amogh Sule, Director, Sankalpan Architects Pvt Ltd, ensured that the floor plate gets maximum light penetration from the external glazing. "Care was taken to ensure that the enclosed offices were not stacked along the external glazing," he shares.
Glass is a vital building block nowadays and is often used as the primary exterior building material. Green buildings need high-performance glass such as solar control glass, solar control low-e glass and low-e glass, which can save 30-50 per cent of energy consumption.
AIS is conducting research into high-performance glass to bring out glass that balances aesthetics and efficiency, and suits Indian climatic conditions (with lower U-value) while matching international quality standards. It has recently launched Ecosense, a range of spectrally selective glazing specially launched for architectural purposes. Ecosense Enhance is solar control glass (with lower solar factor) and Ecosense Exceed is solar control low-e (emissivity) glass. According to Kumar, "Informed designers are using simulation to evaluate and validate their (glass) material selection for a certain building design"
Paints and anticorrosive coatings impact the performance of the building envelope. "Paints must address the need for low-VOC products and low solar absorption (LSA) material requirement in green buildings," asserts Shailesh Rajan, National Manager-Construction, Akzo Nobel India. Dulux WeatherShield SunReflect, an AkzoNobel brand, is one such BIS-standard compliant, solar reflective emulsion that can minimise building heat gain and energy demands, thereby lowering the surface temperature by up to 5¦ vis-a-vis conventional paints. In turn, Dulux Super Smooth Colour Bright interior emulsion paint can cut indoor artificial lighting energy needs by up to 20 per cent. Based on LumiTecTM technology, it works by reflecting twice as much light falling on painted walls (instead of letting such light be absorbed by the wall).
A healthy green paint is Dulux Guardian, which has low odour, low-VOC and anti-bacterial properties.
Green construction is a holistic approach. One product or technology impacts another.
"A high performing envelope plays a massive role in reducing HVAC loads," observes Brouwer.
Increasing demand for HVAC is addressed through the use of more efficient products. "Voltas Ltd is using internationally accredited energy-efficient chillers consuming environment-friendly refrigerant R134a, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems with refrigerant R 410A, and variable frequency drives for air-handling units and pumps," notes Ravi. To address demand, Voltas has also come out with indigenously made ARI-certified screw chillers, energy-efficient VRF systems, cogeneration vapour absorption machines (VAM) using waste heat as input for refrigeration, and solar-based VAMs.
Other companies are innovating as well. Siemens has recently introduced demand flow for chiller plant optimisation, a patented technology. In the US, this technology hasbeen successfully implemented in around 150 projects, each of which has achieved savings ranging between 20 per cent and 50 per cent.
New HVAC technologies are also gaining ground. "Radiant cooling technology is 30-40 per cent more efficient than conventional air-conditioning systems," says Srinivas. "The use of earth air tunnels and geothermal cooling, a passive approach to cool buildings, can reduce indoor temperature by 8-10° C."
Growing awareness about renewable energy is also growing takers for solar air-conditioning, a step forward from building-integrated photovoltaic panels and solar street lighting systems.
Typically, 35 per cent of the energy consumed in buildings is for lighting. That's why smart lighting controls that automatically switch lights off in empty spaces and adjust lighting levels based on the amount of natural light are essential in green buildings - such products can reduce lighting needs by 70 per cent. A growing market is amplifying opportunities for lighting vendors. Akash Kakar, Director, LSI, a newer player, is seeing users put a lot of emphasis on energy-efficient and aesthetic lighting. "Euclide, iPro and iWay are a few of our cost-effective products for LEED certified green buildings," he reveals. "We are continuously working on adding products to our zero up lighting range."
Industry stalwart Philips Electronics India Ltd is continuously bringing out innovative energy-saving products. Light Balancing in partnership with Somfy - a leader in automated blinds - helps ensure a good balance between artificial and natural light. Accoustics SoundLight Comfort from Philips and Ecophon is an acoustic ceiling panel integrated with LED lighting. LumiStone is a Philips and PLH Architects innovation combining appealing design, superior light quality (25 per cent indirect) and major energy savings. Another positive is that developers are opening up to new lighting concepts. According to Srinivas, "Light pipes and sun pipes are gaining ground as a means for harvesting daylight in basements, service cores like store rooms, etc."
With multiple building engineering systems in operation, a need arises to stitch together these components to manage the interplay between them. Building automation plays a huge role here, by intelligently connecting sensors and software. Lighting and shading, heating and cooling can then be controlled in a way that achieves optimal energy efficiency and user comfort, which also increases productivity. In particular, Siemens building automation systems can be controlled from centralised management stations. They go beyond controlling energy consumption, integrating safety and security functions such as fire safety, access control, video surveillance and intrusion detection.
Automation can reduce the energy needs of a green building by a further 10 per cent to the 30 per cent savings kicked in by virtue of being green.
According to S Ramakrishna, CEO, Building Technologies Division, Siemens Ltd, "For over two years, our Building Technologies Division worked on automating Taipei 101's building automation and energy efficiency to achieve a 10 per cent saving in electricity usage, water consumption and waste. The building's energy consumption became 30 per cent more efficient compared to an average building.
In monetary terms, it converts into a cool $700,000 of savings in annual energy costs"
Sustainability in context of buildings also means that they conserve, harvest and recycle water. A positive development is the creation of Water Efficient Products-India (WEP-I), a set of recommendations for the design, engineering, manufacturing, selection, installation and maintenance of water-efficient plumbing products for domestic and commercial applications. WEP-I is an initiative of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and the India Plumbing Association.
In response to this new uniform coding system, sanitaryware player HSIL Ltd has introduced a range of star-rated water efficient closets under its Hindware brand. IAPMO-awarded star certifications help consumers make informed choices when buying plumbing assemblies, materials and technologies. A series of sensor-operated urinals are also available under the Hindware eco-range. "These use 350 ml of water for a post-usage flush and faucets with a flow rate 20 per cent less than the green building baseline specification of 12 litre per minute," clarifies RK Somany, Chairman and Managing Director, HSIL Ltd. Waterless urinals and sensor taps are big water-savers. Paharpur Business Centre actually saves 234,000 litre of water per annum through these means.
Harvesting and recycling water
By means of water harvesting, buildings can collect seasonally available water to further reduce dependency on municipal supplies.
Using the thumb rule, volume in litres equals area in square metres multiplied by rainfall in millimetres, Ayyappa Masagi of Rain Water Concepts (I) Pvt Ltd and Water Literacy Foundation, Bengaluru, has helped thousands of companies and residential complexes estimate and tap their water harvesting potential. Collecting water in storage tanks is the first step. WhatÆs more important is connecting the pipe carrying rainwater overflows from such limited capacity tanks to the borewell casing pipe to recharge borewells, with proper filtration-cum-recharge structures. Rainwater harvesting is a one-time investment, ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 for individual houses to Rs 250,000 to Rs 3,000,000 for gated communities and industries, depending on the area.
According to Masagi, "Making rainwater harvesting mandatory in Karnataka for new buildings of size 30 + 40 sq ft and above and old buildings of size 60 + 40 sq ft and above is a positive step. What would also help is introducing subsidies on the lines of those for solar devices and services." Once again, Paharpur Business Centre manages to harvest 183,000 litre a year, a significant saving. Equally important, it reuses treated wastewater for garden irrigation.
As takers for wastewater treatment systems grow, new technologies are entering the market. On-site wastewater treatment systems are more popular than ever. Srinivas observes, "Root zone Treatment systems and phyto remediation are new industry trends, denoting a completely natural way of treating wastewater that eliminates the need for mechanical energy-consuming sewage treatment systems."
With the green trend set to grow, a host of green products and technologies can expect to find even more takers.
MAHINDRA'S REVA ELECTRIC CAR FACTORY, BENGALURU
LEED certification: Platinum
Paints, sealants and adhesives: Low-VOC products from Jotun India, Fevicol SH, McCoy, Dow Corning, Asian Paints, Akzo Nobel
Wood: Forest Stewardship Council-certified plywood and laminates
Bricks/blocks: Naveen Concrete Blocks
Carpets: Dust-free carpets from Jamaal Carpets
Wall and roof insulating materials: Under deck roof insulation of glass wool, heat-resistant highly reflective paint (high solar reflective index)
Housekeeping chemicals: Diversey Green Seal standard housekeeping material
Glass: Safety V-Tuff glass to block the entry of UV rays
Air-conditioning system: Voltas and Daikin systems with a COP of over 2.5
Wastewater treatment plant: Aquachem system; treated water used in gardening and washrooms
Water fixtures: Jaquar low-flow water fixtures
Rainwater harvesting systems: 100 per cent rainwater harvested; system by Sarvashree Constructions
Water heaters: Bajaj low power consuming
Lighting: Clean Ray and Greenwich Nexen LED lighting; well-oriented building ensuring maximum use of daylight
KOHINOOR HOSPITAL, MUMBAI
LEED certification: Platinum
Paints, sealants and adhesives: Low-VOC paint and petroleum-based solvents from Jotun India
Wood: Salvage wood
Bricks/blocks: Hollow blocks, auto¡claved aerated concrete blocks and brick wall with air cavity for heat insulation
Carpets: Wool carpets and linoleum flooring made of natural materials from Square Foot
Wall and roof insulating materials: External walls insulated with over deck insulation of extruded polystyrene
Housekeeping chemicals: Sodium hypo chlorite, bacillocid, Taski chemicals (R1 to R6) Glass: Double-glazing insulated glass (DGU)
Air-conditioning system: High-coefficient water cool chiller system from Trane and low water loss cooling towers from Bell
Wastewater treatment plant: Biological sewage treatment plant
Water fixtures: Parryware low-flow water fixtures
Rainwater harvesting systems: Charging pit and borewell system from D S Gupta
Water heaters: Solimpeks solar plant
Lighting: Philips PL and LED lights
Building automation: Siemens
STANDARD CHARTERED BANK, BANDRA KURLA COMPLEX, MUMBAI
LEED certification: Gold under LEED fit-out accreditation
Paints and adhesives: Berger Paints
Wood: Green Ply, Samrat Ply
Bricks/blocks: Siporex Blocks
Glass: Saint Gobain
Air-conditioning system: Chilled water system by Parinee (developer)
Wastewater treatment plant: By Parinee
Water fixtures: Jaquar (with sensor)
Rainwater harvesting systems: By Parinee
Building automation: Honeywell