Over the last few years, eco-friendly solutions have become quite popular. This is because people are beginning to realise that our planet will not be sustainable if we keep on using its natural resources at the current rate. According to the United Nations, 68% of the human population will live in cities by 2050. While these cities represent a small part of the earth’s surface, they consume 78% of the energy and produce 60% of greenhouse gases. It is, therefore, now more important than ever to consider the green building concept during construction. But what exactly is a green building?
Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Green Building?
A green building is a building that was either constructed or contains features that improve the quality of life of the environment in which it is located, meaning that it has a positive impact and reduces the negative impacts on our climate and natural environment. A green building does so by achieving a high level of efficiency, i.e. minimising pollution and reducing the consumption of water, energy and other natural resources.
Any building – house, office, school, hospital etc – can be a green building, given that it contains certain features. These are:
- Use of renewable energy
- Use of non-toxic and sustainable materials
- Waste reduction measures
- Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
- Building design, construction and operation that considers the environment and quality of life.
Green Building in Pakistan
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, more commonly known as LEED, is a green building certification that is used worldwide to determine if a building can be classified as green. Developed by the non-profit US Green Building Council (USGBC), it includes a set of rating systems for construction, design, maintenance and operation of green buildings. There are four levels of LEED certifications: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
There are currently 37 LEED certified buildings in Pakistan, covering an area of about 7.7 million square feet. 62% of these buildings have the ‘gold’ certification, 18% ‘platinum’ certification and 18% ‘silver’ certification. Some of the notable LEED certified buildings include the British Council Library in Lahore, the NCC building in Karachi and the World Bank Country Office in Islamabad.
The Pakistan Green Building Council (Pakistan GBC) is a non-profit organisation that is directly under the umbrella of the World Green Building Council, a union of 98 councils from around the globe, that promotes sustainable construction methods and develops Pakistan specific green guidelines.
Importance of Green Building
As technological advances now take into account the importance of sustainability and eco-friendliness, the benefits of adopting greener practices when it comes to construction can help us take the maximum advantage of economic and environmental performances. Green construction methods combined with sustainable design can have a number of benefits, such as:
- Conserves natural resources
The construction sector has one of the largest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-saving practices, integration of renewable energy and use of alternative fuel can help reduce up to 84 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050.
- Protects ecosystems
By ensuring efficient use of natural resources and incorporating renewable energy, as well as by added methods for reducing pollution and implementing proper waste management, green buildings help to protect ecosystems from further harm.
- Reduce wastage of water and energy
Green buildings with LEED certification tend to consume 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-green buildings.
- Increase building value
According to Dodge Data & Analytics, both new and renovated green buildings tend to have a 7% increase in asset value in comparison to traditional buildings.
- Boosts productivity
A study by UCLA found that buildings with green certifications have employees who were 16% more productive. Similarly, a report by Harvard School of Health states that people working in green buildings were 44% better at making decisions that achieved workplace goals.
- Helps mental health
Buildings with green roofs reduce noise by up to 25 decibels. This, in turn, lowers the psychological stress of environmental noise. Furthermore, studies show that buildings that are designed to maximise light can reduce winter depression. The happiness levels of employees in a building with sustainable lighting was 23% higher than those who worked in traditional buildings.
- Conserves natural resources
How can you make your buildings green?
As awareness about the benefits of green buildings spread, the demand for eco-friendly construction and design methods will only rise. Already people are looking for low energy use solutions for their homes and renovations. Here’s how you can ensure that your house construction or remodel is green:
- Opt for roofs that lower temperature
Sustainable roofs are made of materials that cool, insulate and even clean the air. Cool roofs are made of a highly reflective paint, rubber polymer, reflective shingles or a sheet covering that helps reflect sunlight and absorb less heat than normal rooftops, hence providing energy savings of 7-15%. Green roofs are the roofs that are completely or partially covered with plant vegetation. This not only cleans the air and adds insulation, but also reduces rainwater runoff and even increases the lifespan of the roof itself.
- Install plumbing that conserves
A greywater system can reuse the greywater throughout the home, allowing the water from sinks and washing machines to be redirected to toilets and to be used in the gardens for landscape irrigation. In addition to that, you can opt for water conserving furnishing for your bathroom, such as a dual flush toilet (a toilet that gives you two options – a light flush for liquid waste and a heavy flush for solid waste), a faucet with flow restrictor, or a low-flow shower head.
- Use eco-friendly flooring
The longevity and material of the floor is important. Materials such as bamboo, ceramic, glass and stone are eco-friendly. Use a low- or a no-VOC (volatile organic compound) sealants in bathrooms and kitchen will also help keep the floor water resistant and sustainable.
- Opt for sustainable cabinets and countertops
Countertops made from recycled materials such as glass, steel, aluminum, or salvaged wood are not only eco-friendly but they are also aesthetically unique. Similarly, cabinets made from salvaged wood or bamboo plywood help conserve natural resources – and also reduce indoor air toxins.
- Use eco-friendly paints
Traditional paint products are often oil-based with a mixture of adhesives, hardeners, plasticizers, pigments and contain an unhealthy level of VOCs. Eco-friendly paints, on the other hand, are designed to have low levels of VOCs and are often water based. Some companies even use clays, milk proteins or citrus as the base of their products. Some eco-friendly paints contain ultrafine titanium dioxide, which turns painted areas into air purifiers, thus helping in fighting pollution and improving the indoor air.
- Install smart appliances in your home
Modern appliances, such as ovens, air-conditioners, freezers and dryers, use less energy than old appliances. For instance, new energy-efficient refrigerators use about 40% less energy than older models of 2001. You can even connect these modern appliances to smart home managers and energy storage systems connected through mobile apps to ensure maximum energy savings.
Even the tiniest changes in design and maintenance of a building can have a massive impact on the environment. Even if you do not wish to rebuild your home, you can always implement a few green changes to ensure that you are cutting down on your usage of energy and natural resources. In turn, not only will these measures help you protect the environment but also promote a healthier lifestyle for your family and even save money. Green building, after all, is the future of a sustainable, eco-friendly construction industry.