The Real Estate Sector has a Critical Role in Ensuring Carbon Footprint is Minimised

India is the seventh largest energy consumer in the world. Rapid urban transformation and development in recent times have meant that 33% of the nation’s energy usage goes towards building blocks for commercial and residential purposes. Moreover, this is growing 8% each year. Studies have also revealed that almost 5% of humanity’s total carbon footprint is a result of activities in the construction industry. This is unlikely to come down as demand for residential and commercial properties continues to rise unabated. The real estate sector has a critical role in ensuring that the carbon footprint is minimised.

Adarsh Developers, a real estate company in Bangalore has started utilising their sustainability practice to support and create a green environment. According to Rajagopalan TS, Vice President, Projects, “We are committed to making our construction process and our buildings sustainable. This is something we incorporate in our thought process right from the design stage.”

Adarsh’s interest in sustainability started many years ago when it was installing an STP (sewage treatment plant) for one of their projects and using the treated water for landscaping and in toilets for flushing. They also diverted stormwater to a nearby lake thus replenishing water in the lake and increasing groundwater. From then onwards, Adarsh has taken many initiatives to be sustainable. Their newer projects  follow the IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) parameters and are pre-certified.

The company undertakes many actions that make their buildings sustainable, many of which are around water use as Bangalore invariably suffers from water shortages. By substituting traditional flush equipment with modern ones, the water requirement is reduced from 20 litres in traditional flushes to about 3 litres at a minimum. By installing smart meters, quantification of water usage helps homeowners to conserve water. Also, a dual piping system ensures that treatable water can be used for non-potable purposes like bathing and kitchen. The provision of aerators in water fixtures also helps reduce water usage. Rainwater harvesting systems with recharge pits are created and roof rainwater used to reduce consumption of freshwater. Stormwater ponds are designed to collect overflow from rainwater harvesting pumps. Underground recharge wells are provided below the rainwater harvesting pump to raise groundwater levels. Instead of using interlocking or rigid pavers, Adarsh has started using flexible pavers for internal paths. This promotes water percolation leading to recharging of groundwater. By substituting Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) with blended cement, both water usage and carbon footprint is reduced. The company known for its landscaping uses drought resistant plants so as to reduce water consumption.

Although water tends to be the focus for Adarsh, it pays attention to other areas as well. To reduce timber usage, it is replacing woodenwindows with recyclable UPVC material. Wooden doors are replacing engineered doors – instead of sold blocks of wood waste thus reducing dependence on timber. Use of variable concrete cast bricks minimises the weight of the building improves thermal insulation and reduces carbon footprint. Use of clay tile for roofing provides thermal comfort to the residents. The use of GGBS (Ground-granulated blast-furnace slag) concrete reduces its carbon footprint. Home automation provides both safety as well as promotes the conservation of resources. Rajagopalan TS says “Our actions are not governed by regulations alone. We believe that we need to do something for the environment.”

The construction industry contributes to increased suspended particulate matter levels in cities leading to poor air quality, “We take this very seriously and take numerous measures to combat this” says Rajagopalan TS. Vehicles carrying materials are covered with tarpaulin to avoid dust generation. The approach road to the projects is either asphalted or paved to ensure that fugitive emissions are reduced. Barricades of sufficient height are provided to prevent construction dust from travelling outside the site area. Regular sprinkling is undertaken on open grounds to ensure that dust remains settled.

With the growing importance of sustainable living, the focus is squarely on the construction industry to provide buildings that have a long service life and promote high performance by minimising environmental impact and maximising recycling of materials. Although the real estate industry has read the signs of the times and is changing course, the pace of change is far slower than desired.

(Based on a conversation with Rajagopalan TS, Vice President, Projects, Adarsh Developers. For the Responsible Futurescape Blog