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Tag Archives: US Green Building Council

Green Buildings – How most of them are really made, the inside story.


Reams of paper wasted, air-condition switched on even when there is not a soul in the room designated as the architectural design office attached to the site  –  A Green Building which is pre-certified Gold is being built. Firm which is building it takes pride in announcing that all its buildings are LEED certified and it in now their CSR.

Sound familiar ? Welcome to the real World of building Green.

” ‘Green’ certification has become mandatory for buildings above certain meter square area. So, we are just following the law. How our building following guidelines will help save the World, I don’t understand when so many buildings being built are non-green. It is just another head-ache I tell you” – said the architect I befriended and was having an ice-cream soda with.

“So are you really following the guide-lines, like planting 3 trees to every one you need to chop down ?” – I ask.

“Sure we are’- says he, ‘only we have reported 7 trees instead of the actual 23, else we would be having a jungle instead of a building we need to build you know.

“Could you not have designed something which could have avoided cutting some, thus reciprocal planting could have been avoided?” – I asked.

“I could have,but I’m just an employee. The Bosses want a cost effective design and fast. So if we follow the all the guidelines as written, we would be finished. Say for example we  stack top -soil ; with the project taking 3 years to build do you really want us to maintain the top-soil and follow all those mandatory points and jack up the cost of construction? Get real man.We do what is minimum required for documentation purpose. Can’t follow all the rules all the time. We architects need to deliver, unlike you who have loads of money and don’t have the pressure to work and earn a living” – he said mockingly. Somewhere in his eyes I could see the designer who had visualised  a classic sustainable design, but it got quickly extinguished by the sound of his blackberry phone ringing.

The Client has sent back the good for construction design; they want some changes. It seems that they have just hired a new guy who will be in-charge of this project. Had worked in Dubai on tall buildings. Says the new additions will make the building have more saleable area.” – he said while folding and stacking up a neat bundle of size A-0, fine quality drawing sheets. ” Here take this for your baby daughter to draw, with the changes asked all these drawings are defunct.”

“Could you not have sent them soft copies? I mean, till all the drawings are frozen, why do you guys start building ? Have your client not have heard of 3-D walk through and all the modern design ideas. Buddy, I even wrote an article on it. Green Business Ideas : Virtual World Design can save the real world losses. Did you read it ? – I cried out.

“Ha ha ! You are a very funny guy. Your virtual design ideas are just that – ideas for the virtual world.  Welcome to the real world buddy. Here we still work in the  most practical and economical manner, with high degree of efficiency and work ethics. – He rose to leave, turned and said – “nice talking to you. Don’t mind, you are a good guy but your ideas are a little foolish. There is no such thing as Sustainable construction.”

He walked away. I got up and put back the CD, I had got for him to view the SREX  report and the Stern Review. Which gives the horrifying view of a World hurtling towards destruction of the  life-style we all know and live in. And all due to human induced Climate change.

Yes! there is no such thing as Sustainable Construction….not until we have a Fukushima happening on our very own land. And then perhaps a few more would be required. After all we are a large land mass, with an equally large population. The death of a few thousand …it’s just statistics. Easy to forget.

 

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Recession is the best time to go Green


Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and Chair of the C40 Cities
Climate Leadership Group (C40) says- “For the first time in history, half of the world’s people live in cities and together are responsible for more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas production. Collectively, the C40 cities account for approximately 21 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product. Roughly 12 percent of the world’s carbon emissions are produced in our metropolitan areas. And nearly one of every 12 people on Earth lives in or near our cities’ limits.Granted there is no single solution for confronting global climate change. Still, the best scientific data tells us that it is long past time to address this challenge, and that cities must lead the way. This report represents a critical first step in our leadership – as individual Mayors and as a collective – towards a common, sustainable future.” C40 cities report city-wide GHG emissions totaling 609.5 million* metric tons CO2-e. This figure is equivalent to the total emissions from a country like Canada.

World over there is a slump in the Realty market. With many a nations almost folding over in Europe and the US yet to recover form the disaster of 2008, there are many who would want to toss the wisdom of Environmental concern for short-term (disastrous) gains, in almost all sectors of business.The conventional “wisdom” prevails over more slower yet saner approach. In this context when the exponents of Green Building try to move their agenda forward, all they get is a patient hearing. And it more often than not, ends there.

As per Nielsen Report on Sustainable Efforts & Environmental Concerns Around the World -“There are many possible reasons for declines in concern about climate change/global warming. Focus on immediate worries such as job security, local school quality, crime and economic well-being have all diminished media attention for climate stories in the past two years. In the face of other pressing concerns, a public “caring capacity” for climate change has been tested,” said Dr. Maxwell T. Boykoff, Senior Visiting Research Associate, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. “Without continued attention paid to global warming/climate change in the media, such concerns may have faded from the collective public conscience.”

So when consultants who wants to promote as President Barak Obama says – “Better Building Initiative” not many takers are available.This is happening because while Governments all around are good at providing  lip service to Global Warming & Climate change, strong policy decisions are not being taken. Now it is also a well understood fact that should one choose to do an Energy Efficient Building -‘Green’ Building as it is popularly known, up to 20% CAPEX; 20% OPEX & 20% GHG can be reduced. This is something which even the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), the Green arm of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and compatriot of LEED – United States Green Building Council;  too agrees.

It is also a well known fact that 40% of GHG emissions and 60% of waste which is detrimental to our Ecosystem comes from Buildings or building related works.So there is clear & present danger. This danger must be addressed by all who understand the Environment Impact in our daily lives.

Now having these above numbers it makes enormous sense that during recession one must adopt the practice of making more Energy Efficient Buildings. Whether they follow the matrix set out in LEED rating system or India’s National rating GRIHA is more a matter of choice. A cheaper building a better living standard would almost always reduce expenditure in areas of   Safety,Health & Environment.

India which strives to be a Global player is as usual set to miss the bus, while Brazil & South Africa have taken the lead in taking the initiative for the C40 Cities for CDP, India has not and is in the same boat as China. For India it would be better to pursue the Environmental policy vigorously because of some fundamental reasons, the most important being that while the world was in turmoil in 2008 India was not greatly affected. This gives it the chance to become a leader in the Renewable Energy space by creating policy both at the power plant level but most importantly at the tail end level of roof-top RE. With the Indian people still woefully short of basic needs like Electricity & Water, having a strong Environmental policy and effective implementation of Green Building measure would keep India in good stead in every sense of security and prosperity a Country requires.

 

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How to buy a Green Home – A Guide


 

U.S. Green Building Council

Image via Wikipedia

Mankind as a race has prospered because it has always been able to find solution against impossible odds, right from the era of cave men to the present city dwellers living in sky-scrapers. While there has been spectacular progress with the rise of each civilisation, a  great stress on the natural resources of this planet has taken its toll. So much so, that nations have come together to take action in every sphere of activity we as a modern society are engaged in, for saving this only Living Planet and to keep it Sustainable for the future generations to come.

As more and more people understand the devastating results of climate change which global warming could bring; they are willing both in their personal & professional life to give back to Nature its due. It is in this backdrop, “Green” Building as Energy Efficient & Sustainable Buildings are popularly known, is slowly making inroads into every day life. In the following paragraphs we will discuss the processes of buying the right Green Building.

To the common man let me first put you at ease by saying that almost always, the house in which your Grandfather or Grandmother was born, in your native village would if rated today under LEED, achieve the GOLD or even the PLATINUM standard Green Building Certificate. So if you still live in it, you need not worry too much [ unless you have completely modified it ]. Even if you do not live in it but visit it once a while you have hope. All you need to do is follow the basic design of that house and make or modify the one you live in. But if you live in a flat in some high-rise building then I suggest you read this article and any similar to it with great attention.

By now nearly every home buyer in the most Metro are aware of the term ” Green Building”. Nearly all Builder/ Developer claim that their building is a Green Building. This is relevant both in the US and India where the popularity of LEED Certification is growing by the day. Now, how much is “Green” & how much is “Green-wash” ? How should the humble buyer who is unschooled in the jargon used by the builders as is, now get to understand high-end technology that goes into designing and construction of Green Buildings?

The process of choosing a Green Building must begin with one surfing the net and learning as much as one can, from the official website of the rating system. Most Green building rating organisations have a definition posted in their site. The next most important information you will find in the site would be a list of already completed projects. This is your most important page. From this list you will get the details like names of builder / developers who have already completed a green building project. Next you should look at what is the rating it has achieved. In LEED the rating starts from CERTIFIED – for projects which have been able to muster the basic minimum requirements, SILVER – for projects which have attempted and achieved more than the basic minimum, GOLD – a fairly good position to be and finally PLATINUM –  building which has achieved all that is required to be a true green building.

Now you would also notice a column which says “Pre certified”. This one must read with care. A “pre-certified ” rating would usually be given to projects which are registered with the governing body like the USGBC ( United States Green Building Council ) or if you’re in India its the IGBC. It is not necessary that a pre-certified SILVER building would be inferior to say a pre-certified GOLD. It just states the intent of the builder as to what his engineering & architect team think it would be possible to achieve through design & construction. This decision is taken at the initial planing stage when all the facts and factors may not be at hand. It is only when the project is complete and verification done by the Council that the true rating of the building can be derived.

Now if this leaves you in confusion as to which project to choose from while buying yourself a Green Home, cross check the Pre-certified list with the completed and Certified list. There you must identify the builder who is most consistent in achieving a rating and then choose that builder /developers project from the pre-certified list. Next you should try to visit some of the actual Green Homes in your area and speak with the occupants to understand their experience. This will give you a fair idea of what you should expect in your dream Green Home.

But before you negate those who are first timers in the pre-certified list you must also pay attention to the brand name of the builder/developer. I personally have experienced many a good builder/developer who had chosen not to register their buildings for Green Certification. Although they had accumulated a lot of Goodwill over the years with quality projects and have in fact built edifices which even now if rated easily get SILVER; did not agree to hire me as a Green Building consultant. They said they did not need someone else to tell them whether or not they build quality homes. Their architects, very senior and experienced echoed the same sentiments. Today they have begun registering their projects as the market demands and awareness makes Green Homes certification popular.

What you must be careful of, are the fly by night or hobby builders. These are a lot who essentially are investors with some spare cash and usually mushroom during a boom in the business. Their only interest is to do a single or if  successful with the first, a few projects and sell it for maximum profit. They usually have very limited understanding about the discipline of building industry and would normally resort to all available means of advertisement to highlight their project. Pre-Certification as Green Homes is a prestigious announcement and the best advertisement a builder can get. Sadly people try to exploit it. Therefore a project which during launch may have a pre-certified tag of GOLD may end up with just CERTIFIED.

But this does not happen often as most Green Council have an inbuilt check & balance system to weed out the unscrupulous.

 

 

 

 

 

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