Construction may see degrowth of -6.5% in FY2021
Forecast for GDP growth now -6.4 per cent for FY2021: CARE Ratings. July 2020
Photo: For representational purpose.
Did you know that we lose 35 lives a day to fires? That over the last four years – 2015-2018 – we have lost 60,500 lives due to fire? The National Building Code 2016 has guidelines issued to all state governments to incorporate the recommendations of the latest NBC 2016 Part-IV Fire & Life Safety report into their local building bye-laws; the code also now incorporates the Energy Conservation Building Code developed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. The World Green Building Council estimates that green buildings could generate higher returns. We know that additional costs could be lower by 0.5 per cent to 12 per cent; operational costs up to 37 per cent; green buildings could achieve sales premium of up to 31 per cent and faster sales times; occupancy rates could be higher by 23 per cent and rental income by up to 8 per cent.
Construction World organised a free webinar on ‘Building Safety and Efficiency Post COVID-19’ with a distinguished panel of experts to discuss and deliberate on this topic. The webinar began with presenter Pratap Padode, Editor-in-Chief, Construction World, welcoming the guest panellists to the session. The panellists included industry stalwarts –Ashish Rakheja, President, International Fire & Safety Association of India; Sanjay Seth, CEO, GRIHA Council; Richie Mittal, National President, ISHRAE; and Vishal Kapur, Chair-Technical Committee, ISHRAE.
Most recently, on June 10, the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA) also put out a list of ‘most dilapidated’ buildings in the city. Eighteen buildings, including the Esplanade Mansion, have been marked as ‘dangerous’ for living.
On another note, he remarked that buildings use nearly 40 per cent of a city’s electric power and have begun to offer myriad services, including indoor air quality—expected to become a major performing metric—besides HVAC, maintenance services, security and, notably, fire detection.
He added that the current pandemic really highlights and shows us the state of play of how vulnerable we are and what we really need to do, so that we adhere to the planning and the design and don't obviate any of these, and follow them as close as possible. Seth believes that one of biggest challenges will be the dampened spirit of the real estate sector due to the pandemic, the lockdown and the issue of migrant labour. “It will take about 6-12 months for it to really revive or may be even more to be picking up the same speed at which we were growing earlier. We need to really start looking at transformational changes in the kind of buildings that we were designing. There would be paradigm shifts in the way we design the various segments in real estate.”
Here, added Vishal Kapur, Chair-Technical Committee, ISHRAE, “I'm a little pessimistic in some cases. I find Indians have a short memory and we worry about air quality right now because of COVID. In another 6-12 months, when it's all over, we would have again forgotten about it. Unfortunately, a lot of us in India are using air quality protocols, norms or the suggestions only possibly to getting some points and for ratings, but the real requirement from a long-term perspective is missing. Some buildings in the construction and commercial sector put in the right filter in an air handling unit based on the recommendation of a consultant or a designer, which is the requirement. You go to the building after a couple of years and you realise the filter has disappeared. I have walked into hospitals during COVID and they have air handling units running that are throwing in air converted into 100 per cent fitted fresh air unit, which means that a 100 per cent outdoor air supply and the filter is just not there! So the unfortunate thing for us in India is going to be are we going to be forgetting this after six months or one year? Or are we now going to be taking this seriously for the future?”
We have 1.2 million deaths because of air pollution, and yet, how many of us are really concerned about the air we breathe? “Most people in the world are not bothered about the air they breathe, and that needs to change going ahead, not just because of COVID but permanently – whether it comes in as regulations, as a combination of self-consciousness,” added Kapur.
“What we are recommending as guidelines coming out of ISHRAE or other guidelines is basically reinforcing the basics that were always part of the design; just that they have been forgotten,” highlighted Ashish Rakheja, President, International Fire & Safety Association of India. “If you look at the green building norms, they also talked about the same thing. Whereas the larger buildings were still following it to some extent, the problem was in the small shops, the window ACs, VRS – that's where the real understanding of the subject would start coming in. That shift in the market is now coming in.”
So, added Kapur, “ISHRAE put together a COVID Task Force covering academia, designers, manufacturers, etc, across the country and brought out this guidance documents for air-conditioning operations, and we basically covered indoor environment conditions – applications like residential, commercial, industrial, healthcare, operation and maintenance including start-up and restart-up of facilities, and safety do's and don'ts for technicians. This document has got major acceptance across the country, for example, from the CPWD, MES, state governments, facility management organisations, green rating agencies, healthcare organisations, private companies, etc.”
In this technical document, added Kapur, “we have broadly given our recommendations for temperature, for humidity, and finally, going back to what was always supposed to be there – the three key aspects of the system: Ventilation, filtration and pressurisation. If these three are taken care of, whether it is a hospital or an office or a residence or any kind of application, we are more or less safe. Especially for commercial establishments and industrial facilities it becomes even more important to understand how to operate an air-conditioning system. The mechanical, ventilation and filtration, which can be provided by a central air-conditioning system or any air-conditioning system, can actually perform this function far more effectively compared to simply opening the windows, because a mechanical system will actually properly ventilate the space, will improve the indoor air quality with the outdoor air filtration. So even in COVID, air-conditioning and ventilation systems can be safely operated in residential, commercial, healthcare, etc, with specific controls for temperature, humidity and the right amount of outdoor air coming in, maintaining the hygiene levels, improving filtration points, and taking care of all other aspects over there.”
Green buildings provide an evidence-based framework to ensure that our future building stock is not only resource-efficient but also low carbon. “At the same time, it is important for people to be understanding that there is this myth around the incremental cost of going green, which is completely wrong,” highlighted Seth. “In fact, if you were to evaluate right from the planning of these buildings to their operations, even during construction, the costs of these buildings don't go high and there are enough case studies which, if evaluated, show that the capital cost doesn't go up in going green.”
The pandemic is also knocking on our door to tell us that we cannot afford the luxury of not going green any further. It is very important that we adhere to the green norms. “The Government of India has already issued various guidelines in their role, but thereafter following them is our own responsibility – as occupants of buildings or those involved in development of buildings,” said Seth. With the current crisis, green buildings become a huge opportunity for the economic revival as well.
The biggest gap Kapur sees is that people who understand the technology do not understand the applications, and people who understand the applications do not have knowledge of the technology – and therein lies a very big gap, and hence, clients are sinking. “You do not have the right people operating the systems, you do not have the same person understanding the technology and the application. This gap being narrowed down is the only way clients can actually get the benefits. The biggest reasons why clients are not going for these systems are not cost but because they are not getting the full benefits out of an automation system or any intelligence system of any technology as what they thought. That education of the entire spectrum – from the operator to the designer to the implementer to the person who is conceiving the whole system has to be totally thorough. Till such a time, I do not see technology improving much in India.”
On a concluding note, Padode thanked the panellists from this successful discussion.
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