Green Technology in Construction

Updated: Nov 17

GREEN TECHNOLOGY or GREEN BUILDING, often assumed as plant-hugging, eco-radical structures, is, in fact, a sustainable practice of developing and using processes that are environmentally friendly and resource resilient.

Environmental issues and green technology benefits started gaining awareness and concern from the late '90s. Efforts towards curbing global warming and retracting carbon emissions became a USP for industries all over the world. On a similar footing, green construction also focuses on practices and issues that are environment-friendly, energy-efficient, waste minimizing.

Use of green technology in construction is a powerful option to mitigate the Heat Island effect, as the buildings are consumers of approximately 50% of the world's energy. In common parlance, the Heat Island effect is the rise in temperature observed in built-up areas than the temperature of surrounding rural areas.

Green building technology encompasses factors like site selection, designing, maintenance, renovation, and also demolition. This technology creates opportunities for erecting healthier buildings that improve human health and the environment while providing cost and energy savings.

Features of Green Building Technology

Green technology highlights sustainability and eco-friendly measures that have a lesser negative impact on the environment.

The features that form the cornerstone for green building technology are:-

1. Increasing recyclability. For example, using aluminium and steel, which have high recyclable quality instead of timber.

2. Minimizing the use of non-renewable resources.

3. Factoring the use of renewable resources in such a way that reduces the usage rate than the ecological rate of natural restoration. For example, limiting the use of timber formwork and promoting aluminium formwork.

4. Reducing the waste generation to the assimilating capacity of the environment.

5. Conserving energy and ensuring all measures to reduce carbon footprints.

6. Use of automation in building services.

Principles of Green Building Technology

While there is no discernible difference between a conventional and green building on the tangible front and its use, green buildings are much more pragmatic on the intangible aspects like operational savings, energy optimization, concern for the indoor environment, and comfort of humans.

The following principles are the pillars on which green technology in construction stands:

Sustainable Site Design: It is the prime agenda under green technology application, to limit urban sprawl with minimum environmental damage. It is imminent to avoid needless conversion of free land and open spaces into the built-up area by reusing existing spaces in occupied sites, restructuring vacant sites, or brownfields. It also aims to design high-population-density efficient spaces to preserve valuable green spaces, natural habitats, and heritage.

Other vital factors for site designing as per green building technology include:-

1. Mitigating loss of energy due to the over-illumination of external facades and common areas.

2. Reduction of heat island effect by using light-colored roofs, shading walkways and open areas with landscape features

3. Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and relative fuel consumption, by site selection that is in the vicinity of public transports

Water quality and conservation: The water is now a limited resource, and as per UN by the year 2050, 2/3rd of the world's population will face severe water shortage. Hence, it is imperative to select a site that reduces the impact on existing natural hydrological and land features and wastewater generation. Specific efforts are required to preserve areas that serve as natural stormwater and groundwater retention and recharge systems. Green building technology aims to minimize soil excavation and compaction as the compacted topsoil absorbs and harvests upto 80% of rainfall before entering subsurface groundwater systems.

Other fundamentals steps to adhere to the principle of water conservation are:-

1. Establishing a water budget for buildings that minimize potable water use with the help of low-flow plumbing, and waterless toilets/urinals.

2. Using stormwater technologies like rain gardens, concrete and bituminous pavings to support retention and groundwater recharge.

3. Harvesting and recycling rainwater, site stormwater, and gray water.

4. Use of drought-resistant, hardy trees, plants that require less or no irrigation.

Energy and Environment: Advanced energy conservation measures preserve resources and avoid adverse impacts on the environment. Green building technology focuses on establishing performance targets for maximizing the use of renewable or low impact energy and conserving maximum energy while placing less reliance on non-renewable resources. It promotes energy efficiency checks during design, construction, and operation. Using sensors for managing lighting, heating, and other operational services in buildings post-occupation.

Some of the significant approaches for improving energy efficiency and environment are:

1. Designing the building's orientation that integrates with the path of the sunlight for the effective use of natural daylight to reduce the requirement for artificial lighting and the energy load of internal cooling systems.

2. Optimizing external insulation techniques, using a structural insulated panel system, or an insulated concrete form system with aluminium formwork.

3. Installing sensors that can monitor and control perimeter lights, common area lights, and other facade lights independently when daylight is sufficient.

4. Avoiding the use of HCFC, halogen-based refrigeration, cooling and fire suppression systems

Indoor Air Quality: The green technology in construction aims to utilize the best possible strategies in terms of air quality, thermal comfort, natural ventilation, and providing an overall healthy environment to the occupants and visitors. The right to breathe clean, uncontaminated air is what green building technology stands for.

Under this principle, green technology thrives to achieve the following goals:-

1. Providing a dedicated ventilation system, independent from the cooling/heating system, for effective treatment of contaminants and providing fresh, clean air to all.

2. To use building materials such as aluminium, adhesives, furnishings that do not release or generate any gaseous, volatile organic compounds.

3. Designing building envelopes to adapt to environmental conditions such as the temperature of interior surfaces, humidity and indoor air temperature.

Materials and Resources: This principle aims to use sustainable materials that aid in the reduction of non-renewable construction materials through efficient engineering, construction, and recycling of construction waste. Maximizing the use of renewable material, energy-efficient engineered materials, sustainably managed bio-based materials.

Some of the significant approaches for improving material and resource efficiency are:

1. Optimizing the use of engineered materials such as composite materials, structural systems (concrete, aluminium), structural insulated panels.

2. Identifying recycled content materials like structural steel, aluminium formwork, floor tiles, and identifying ways to put these to reuse.

3. Using products and systems that are recyclable in some form after their useful life is over.

4. Procuring materials from locally resourced materials to reduce transportation energy use and emissions and boost the local economy as well.

Government Support for Green Technology

India stands only 2nd after the USA in green technology adoption and the number of green projects. It is growing slowly steadily with the support of the government. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) works very closely with the central and state Governments for speedy promotion and adoption of green technology in the Indian construction industry. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) and LEED India (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are the primary green building rating systems adopted in India.

Role of Aluminium in Green Technology

Aluminium plays a revolutionary role in the shift toward green technology. Aluminium has extensive use in the formwork, paneling, facade design, and structural systems while conforming with the green technology principles. Properties of aluminium such as durability, non-toxicity at high temperatures, reusability, energy efficiency in erection, environment- friendly make it a suitable pro-green technology metal. Successfully integrated into the low-cost mass housing project of the Government - the PM Awas Yojana), aluminium has a strong stand in the implementation of green building technology.

On a concluding note, adopting green technology in construction not only factors environmental concepts, it equally focuses on the efficient results of proprietary aspects of investments and returns. It accelerates growth in the abstract side of benefits in the form of requirements of design teams and consultants. Investment in green technology might be a heavy expense, but considering the urgent need for sustainable development it is the most appropriate choice.