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Decarbonizing Construction in India with Emerging Technologies

Climate change is very much a reality and one of the most pressing challenges humankind is facing today. Its effects in form of tsunamis, wildfires, longer periods of draughts etc. are happening now and will continue to increase in the coming decades. This has led to adoption of sustainable or ‘green’ practices, which have the potential to control the effects of climate change considerably.  

India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion people and limited number of resources, is witnessing an evident shift in the real estate sector. With the projection of energy consumption to reach 4 trillion and 21 Indian cities under the potential threat of running out of water in the next decade, real estate sector has realized the monumental impact it can have on curbing the effects of climate change. This is where 'Green Construction' comes into play. 

Green construction contributes to reducing the carbon footprint, harmful impact on the environment and conserving fast-depleting resources such as water and energy. It also works towards improving the indoor air quality since walls would not be built from chemicals and mixtures but environmentally friendly materials which would lead to additional social benefits as well such as betterment of health, increase in work productivity etc. 
 
As compared to conventional buildings in India, green buildings certified by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) result in water savings and energy savings of 20 – 30% and 40 – 50% respectively. Also, green buildings reduce construction costs for the developer and increase the property value. According to a report by Dodge Data & Analytics, 2016, green buildings command a 7% increase in asset value over traditional buildings. Thus, green construction not only supports and protects ecosystems by promoting the efficient use of energy, water and other resources but also has economic and social benefits.  

But what is Green Construction? 

Green Construction, also known as Green Building, is the implementation of design in buildings that are environmentally sustainable and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life cycle, i.e., from planning to design, construction, maintenance, renovation and demolition. In simple terms, it is an environmentally conscious building structure. Unlike traditional buildings, Green Building is made up of environmentally friendly and reusable material so as to minimize resource wastage and carbonization in the environment. Additionally, all the equipment and appliances used inside are also energy efficient and run through solar/wind energy, thus reducing the day-to-day carbon footprint production at an individual level. 
  
Technologies used in Green Buildings

Real estate sector is leveraging technologies to design and construct these new-age green buildings.

Some of these technologies as observed in countries such as US and UK are -

  1. Cool Roofs - Cool roofs are designed to offer increased solar reflectance I.e., reflecting the sun rays thereby reducing the heat transfer to the rooms. They also reduce thermal emittance and thus prevent the air inside (warm or cool) from escaping. 
  2. Storm Water Management - It involves designing and developing systems such as grass paving, rainwater reservoirs, infiltration fixation in parking lots, vegetated rooftops etc.  to manage the surface runoff in order to conserve water resources. 
  3. Geothermal Heating – Geothermal Energy is an efficient source of renewable energy that's far more environmentally friendly than traditional sources of energy. It can be used for direct power generation for private or industrial buildings. It has its direct application in the heating system of aquaculture and heat storage as well.
  4. Solar Power – Solar power plants utilize the heat of the sun to generate electricity. The solar power plant might have a high upfront cost, but one can get free electricity in the long term. Thus, the homes generate their own power and can run without the normal electric grid. 
  5. Electrochromic Smart Glass - Electrochromic glass is an electronically tintable glass that helps in maximizing access to daylight and outdoor views leading to a reduction in energy costs. They are mostly used in curtains and windows. 
  6. Smart Appliances – These are those appliances that are energy efficient thereby consume less electricity. Some examples of the same are Smart Grid refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, micro-oven etc. 

 
Indian Innovation Ecosystem

India’s Green Building market is projected to reach US$ 30-40 Billion by 2030 as per the industry’s estimates and will create an investment opportunity of $1.4T, as estimated by International Finance Corporation (IFC). Seeing this huge economic opportunity, numerous startups are working towards reducing the construction industry’s carbon footprint and fostering sustainability by providing green solutions. 

AGNIi Mission, a flagship initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India, under the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC), actively supports many startups that are providing sustainable and cost-effective innovative solutions in green construction.

Some of these innovative solutions are as follows -

  1. Agrocrete | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - Agrocrete is a carbon-negative building material made of crop residues such as paddy straw, wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, etc. and industrial co-products from steel paper and power plants.   
  2. Geopolymer Concrete Block | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - Geopolymer Concrete (GPC) block technology offers a speedier and cost-effective environmentally sound alternative to conventional walling materials. It can be extensively used in, buildings, landscaping, container yards, footpaths, parking lots, etc.
  3. Concrete Prototyping | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - Textile Reinforced Concrete Prototyping Technology (TRCPT) is an innovative concrete prototyping technology towards green construction practices and it is a first of its kind concrete construction without the use of moulds. Using this single technology, the Textile/Fabric reinforced composite sheets are prototyped to produce many products of various shapes and forms for various structural and non-structural applications.
  4. Minion Energy Management | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - MinionLabs helps businesses to reduce their electricity costs and improve their productivity by providing real-time device-level electricity consumption insights using a Minion Energy Management Solution by leveraging on data & 5 Ai practices. Thus, making energy-efficient, sustainable and less climate risk.
  5. Carbon Tile | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - Carbon Craft Tile is the first tile to be made with upcycled carbon by using recovered carbon waste as a resource. Since this material is only used to be burnt at cement kilns, resulting in air pollution, they prevent air pollution before the pollutants reach air by embedding them into a tile.
  6. Waste to Building Material | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) -  RecycleX has developed products such as Paver Blocks, Tiles and Kerbstone that are made from 100% recycled materials. The materials include sand and aggregate procured from C&D waste, Industrial waste such as fly ash, air pollutant carbon and Plastic waste. Thus, making the process of construction carbon negative.
  7. AVATAR Small Wind Turbine | AGNIi (Igniting Ideas) - AVATAR small wind turbines can be deployed as a decentralized and distributed renewable energy solution for all kinds of users in urban and rural areas. AVATAR small wind turbines have for the first time made wind energy accessible and affordable to the common person through its multi-award-winning technology solution.

 
Way Ahead 
 
Adoption of ‘Green’ practices in construction is very much a reality and same can be seen across various metropolitan cities such New Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore etc. More than 7,128 green buildings projects have been registered with The Indian green building council (IGBC), which was formed back in 2001 by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) with a vision to build a sustainable environment for all. Many of these projects are completely operational and certified. These statistics indicate towards an immense economic opportunity with rising demand for architects, energy experts, technicians etc. who have relevant knowledge of the industry. Therefore, there is a humongous opportunity for innovators to build technologies in this emerging industrial sector and to make green construction a new norm and a new standard in this industry. 

For more information, please visit www.agnii.gov.in.

This article is co-authored by Garima Raj and Aneesh Alagh.