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UNEP -SBCI Quebec 2014 – things it needs to do.

19 Apr

UNEP-SBCI 2014 Annual Meeting & Symposium on Sustainable Buildings.will be held on May 12th & 13th. The symposium will focus on the role of the buildings sector on the road to Paris 2015.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP-21) will be held in Paris in late 2015, at which member states are expected to sign the next global climate agreement.  

The building sector must be mobilized to help deliver action and achieve climate mitigation.  The symposium will include Technical sessions highlighting Carbon/energy/resource efficiency metrics, and Policy sessions focusing on necessary mitigation actions, including panels of industry representatives and city officials.

 While we all understand that the building sector is one of the primary focus area. And by now the sermon – “the building industry uses 40% of the energy and produces nearly 60% waste” has become a clique; so much so that we find builders/developers who having broken, mauled and pillaged every rule in the book to degrade the environment give speech in “green conferences” which are extremely “prestigious” & have support form “venerated” media house, after sponsoring generously for it.

It happens all around the World. An accepted part of “business promotion and networking”. At times promoting sustainability reaches level so bizarre that they are a complete anti-thesis to sustainable practice!

Habitat can’t be sustainable unless all factors surrounding it change.

And if we speak India centric, do we have the wherewithal to achieve such feat it terms of mindset and political will?  For example; how does one pacify the ever growing automotive industry, especially when the luxury segment of imported cars are also making a bee-line into India to say that “Hey! let’s take a walk. It’s sustainable you know ?”

To sum it up, there needs to be a balance between aspirations and reality. We have to understand that unless there is a holistic approach, piecemeal solutions would not even make a dent in our effort to remain within the 2 degree target.

So let’s look at Solutions one by one which needs to be made into a practice within a time-frame. And if that can happen before the UNFCCC – COP in Paris 2015 all the better.

Building Design:

While design is an artistic expression. If one walks around any city of India, the buildings neighbouring each other are most often than not similar to each other in form and function. A few outward frills don’t actually make a building unique.

To rest the doubts of those who differ, there is only one Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa…the Guggenheim..rest are copies of the masterpiece. Every time.

Now having established this fact, lets take the pledge to ask for a master competition of architects and designers to show case the best sustainable buildings that can be built, across all climatic zones. Let this competition be held by the UNEP- SBCI / UNDP.

As all the projects would by default would more or less be sustainably designed, there need not be a winner but a grade which makes the projects viable based on cost inputs.

Now put them up for auction. Countries would then send in their representative companies which have a shown an inclination to build green to bid for the designs.

Thus a Green Building Developer would have say 3 design typologies which it would have bid and won, and would have the right to build the same for the next 5 years or more exclusively. He would also have the right to modify the design; thus giving employment to the local artisans, based on site conditions. As long as it remains within the original intent of being a sustainable building.

For example the builder group in Mumbai can buy a high-end, a mid-end and a cost-effective design and apply them in each project as his trade mark.

So each year, there is a design competition, making industry thrive and along with it the allied products to improve. Market forces would soon find innovative ways to percolate it down-wards.

Just as the OSCARS and Miss Universe, the Best Singer…etc etc.

Burying the mundane and celebrating excellence. And this would be the ultimate praise to the Planet. As it would win every time.

The Auto-mobile Industry:

While it has been sometime for the electric car making its début in India.It is already searching its place amongst the dinosaurs !

If we were to see any residential/commercial building advertisement on TV. One would find a fossil fuel guzzling super -luxury Car stopping right at the porch and out comes the doting husband/father from work. The advertisement would further state that the super-luxury villas have 2+ car parking space, the + indicating a Super bike?

Can a developer risk making homes which truly follow the concept of New Urbanism? It is easy for one to say that integrated township must be developed. But would it be possible to have townships which uses the concept of “new urbanism” without seriously jeopardizing the aviation/auto-mobile industry and other directly related industries like Iron & Steel, Cement Etc? ( more -Principles of New Urbanism ).

REVA Electric Car

We can’t have a beautiful township across the bay if the marina is polluted with yacht waxed to a shine..while laying a oil slick which the dark waters of the wharf hide. We can’t have a quite neighbourhood if helicopters of the rich keep landing on roof-tops.

We can’t use our bicycles if cars jostle for space amongst auto-rickshaws, motor-bikes, hand pushed trolley and Ox-pulled carts…a speciality we still see in “amchi” Mumbai (English: Our Mumbai).

Thus the first thing for the government to do would be to change the symbols of progress in advertisements. If one makes walking or bicycling fashionable, the electric car chic! Society would gravitate towards it.

The Cement, Iron & Steel Industry:

Capitalism is such that even if there’s space to grow in one sector, one would want more from the world. Both Steel and Cement can thrive while GFRG – Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum takes over the traditional methods of building walls. This must be reinforced, else we can’t reduce the GHG in the Building Sector.

Rapid Wall

It’s time for the Rapid-wall concept to thrive.  Giving a fair chance for the middle class to live in better homes than they normally get. And at an affordable price too.

For GFRG does not require your traditional water-proofing, cement plaster, block-work or even internal finishing with Plaster of Paris, because PoP is essentially Gypsum powder. And the walls can come up in 40% less time. With no cracks, warping or faulty plumb-line.

And as it is extremely lightweight and durable, use of steel and shuttering can also be reduced to some extent. In fact more than what the regular PMC consultant would advise on.

The Media:

Pick any advertisement on a residential complex/ office tower. What is the first thing one notices that it would be in a extra-glossy page/paper.
Excerpts from EARTH TALK From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine– It’s no secret that glossy coatings on magazine covers make pictures really “pop” and attract the eye, thus helping publications compete for attention on ever more crowded newsstands.The basic glossy finish of a magazine cover or inside page is usually built into the paper itself at the time of manufacture, and is typically made of either clay or calcium carbonate.“The calcium is lighter,…“But it drives the destruction of mountain tops in Vermont and elsewhere in order to get at the mineral.”….(read more) To know further how harmful the glossy paper can be read –Better Paper.

In the age of the cell phone, the archaic way of advertisement still exist, thanks to the petroleum lobby, which would love to keep producing the paints & varnishes required to print, making the virgin wood extract, already moulded into paper to reek out more toxic into the ground as the glossy brochure gets tossed to the ground, post having roasted peanuts by the road-side. Yes! in India, the “raddi -paper” as we call old news print and other printed materials mostly sold to the local scrap dealer ends up becoming the cheap satchel in which pea-nuts and other tit-bits are sold. These paper can’t be easily recycled to make hand-made paper etc. Thus pose some damage to the environment when discarded.

While there are many more factors which can be added to this, I would pause this conversation with a note to

Public Empathy:

Mumbai University hacks trees off its own ‘bat’, BMC threatens action -The varsity has hacked 15 trees on its Kalina campus as the noise made by the colony of bats residing on their branches allegedly disturbed a faculty member.

If the seat of education which is supposed to teach living in harmony with Nature, can harbour such intolerance, Mumbai as a Sustainable City has a long way to go.

And the task of UNEP Quebec 2014 is cut out for them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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