ONE of the effective strategies for being more competitive in the construction industry is to take into account the sustainability issues. The green building trend has increased rapidly worldwide in recent decades as a means to addressing the growing concerns over climate change and global warming, and to reducing the impact of the construction industry on the environment.
Green building is energy and water efficient, with high quality and healthy indoor environment, integrated with green spaces and constructed with eco-friendly materials.
A sustainable building designed to save energy and resources, recycle materials and minimise the emission of toxic substances throughout its life cycle, as well as to harmonise with the local climate, traditions, culture, and surrounding environment; and to be able to improve the quality of human life while maintaining the capacity of the ecosystem at the local and global levels.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, new technologies and materials are constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener structures. The common objective is to design green buildings so as to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by efficiently using energy, water and other resources.
Thus, developing new technologies based on renewable energy in the construction industry can be essential for energy conservation, environmental protection, and even the future of the earth. The US Department of Energy estimated that buildings in the United States accounted for 73.6 per cent of total electricity expenditures, and 40 per cent of the total carbon emissions in 2012.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, green building is the ‘practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.’
Sustainability is increasingly becoming a key consideration for constructors to increase economic efficiency, protect, and restore ecological systems and improving human well-being.
Unfortunately, greenhouse gases are not the only harmful pollutants that buildings emit. Indoor levels of air pollution may greatly exceed outdoor levels. Indoor air pollution is particularly important given that we spend most of our time indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that indoor levels of pollution may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor air pollution levels. This pollution can come from a wide variety of sources.
Green buildings can address the problems of sprawl. Finding or determining an appropriate site is normally the first step in the design process of a green building. Ideally, the site for a green building should be strategically located. So it is close to mass transit and fits into the master plan of a community to reduce car dependency and sprawl.
Although sustainability is generally defined as the extent to which the current needs can be fulfilled without compromising the needs of future generations, the problem arises with the sense of ‘needs’, as it turns out to be an entirely subjective term that involves judgments mainly relating to standards of living.
Furthermore, there are other sustainability issues of great significance such as the adoption of green hierarchy, the implication of energy types as well as embodied energy values in materials for human consumption.
The green building design process begins with an intimate understanding of the site in its beauties and complexities. An ecological approach to design a green building aims to integrate the systems being introduced with the existing on-site ecological functions performed by the Mother Nature.
These ecological functions provide habitat, respond to the movements of the sun, purify the air as well as catch, filter and store water. Designers can create features in their buildings that mimic the functions of particular ecosystems. Species that thrive in the natural community may also utilise habitats created in manufactured structures. Creating new habitat on the layout in urbanised areas is especially important to support biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem.
A report issued by the United Nations Environmental Programme 2009 has shown that the construction sector uses about 40 per cent of widespread yearly energy consumption, 20 per cent of universal yearly water usage and adds to 40 per cent of worldwide yearly total waste resulting from the construction of building and demolition activities.
Following the growth in the construction industry globally, if there is nothing done now, it is evaluated that the development sector would be liable for the devastation of the natural flora as well as wildlife on more than 70 per cent of the earth’s exterior by 2032.
Environmental advantages are reduced operational energy and reduced water requirement. The lesser volume of waste water generation results in less water pollution, less material usage, longer building life, lower maintenance cost. Health and safety advantages are enhanced occupant comfort and healthy community.
Integrated design allows high benefit at low cost by achieving synergies between disciplines and technologies, reducing operating and utility costs significantly, optimising life-cycle economic performance.
Besides, environmental benefits are enhanced and protected biodiversity, improved air and water quality, reduced waste streams, and conserved and restored natural resources. Economic benefits include a reduction in operating costs, improvement of occupant productivity, and optimisation of life-cycle monetary performance.
However, ‘green buildings’ is an ever-evolving, dynamic term. Green building is the status of our efforts in attaining sustainability in construction practices.
Green buildings cause minimal pollution during construction. It prevents air and noise pollution during construction and operation and offers a minimised effect on the surrounding environment. Green building offers better safety, health and sanitation management for the workers and the residents after construction. It is time the construction industry in Bangladesh went for green buildings and the government promoted green construction by offering incentives.
Nazmunnaher Nipa is an associate editor, The Environment Review.
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