The design and construction industries are growing exponentially, and their impact on our environment is staggering. To mitigate these effects, the practices of sustainable design and green building techniques have steadily emerged. These practices are incentivized through the process of ‘green rating’. A ‘green building rating system’ is a tool that evaluates the performance of your building and its impact on the environment. These rating systems encourage designers and construction industry professionals to use green strategies and reduce their impact on the environment. LEED, Passivhaus, Living Building Challenge are few of the international rating systems. The predominant rating systems in India are GRIHA, LEED, and IGBC.
Here are 10 simple ways to increase the green rating of your building.
1. ENERGY USE OPTIMIZATION
A building perpetually consumes energy from the time of its inception to the end of its life cycle. This is a major contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases, which consequently contributes to climate change. We can significantly improve the green rating of our building by optimizing its energy consumption through pre-construction analysis and providing proportional solutions.
Strategies such as the use of energy-efficient equipment and the integration of renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, thermal energy systems) can achieve the same.
2. WATER MANAGEMENT
Water is a life-giving resource. While water covers seventy percent of our planet’s surface, only a small percentage of it is potable. While these statistics seem bleak, rains are an important contributor of freshwater. Water management is thus a vital aspect of sustainable design.
Conventionally buildings depend on local government bodies for their water supply. Through the means of rainwater harvesting, buildings can achieve self-sufficiency. Another strategy to reduce dependency on government water supply is through wastewater or greywater management. Greywater is the water that is discharged into the drainage system after its cycle of use. Through proper treatment, greywater can be re-utilized for non-potable purposes. We can thus improve the green rating of our building through the proper management of water.
3. WASTE MANAGEMENT
The waste generated by buildings is proportional to the enormous quantities of energy they consume. On-site waste management is an effective technique to improve the green rating of your building. Providing infrastructure to manage waste on-site must be incorporated within the design process. Segregation of waste at source, composting of organic waste, and recycling of non-biodegradable waste are methods that can be enforced to effectively manage waste.
4. OPTIMIZED SITE PLANNING
Incorporation of site topography/ contours and other natural features of the site into the design process can help improve the green rating of your building. Site contours, when incorporated in the design, can reduce the need for cutting and filling, subsequently preserving the topsoil. Using the natural contours also helps preserve the natural drainage of the site and helps recharge the groundwater reserves.
5. PRESERVE ON-SITE TREES AND VEGETATION
Preserving the vegetation existing on-site is a simple way of improving the green rating of your building. Incorporating existing vegetation into the design is an effective and sustainable solution. We must take care to avoid the cutting of mature trees to accommodate the design. If we cannot alter the design, the conflicting tree must be safely transplanted within the site. If transplantation of the tree is not possible, we must take care to plant multiple trees of the same native species for every tree that is cut.
6. PLACEMENT OF FENESTRATIONS
Placement of fenestrations or openings by studying the climatic conditions can help control the heat gained annually by a building. This can further help optimize the need for active cooling or heating, making the building energy efficient. The windows/ openings can be planned in a way to facilitate cross ventilation and optimum daylight to reduce dependency on artificial light and ventilation.
7. ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS
Material choice is an important aspect of sustainable design. Choosing recyclable or biodegradable materials can improve your green rating score. Recyclable materials help reduce the ever-increasing dumping of waste in landfills and the carbon footprint of your building. Locally-sourced materials reduce the need for transportation.
Fly ash bricks, rammed earth/Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks, local stones, bamboo or wood are a few alternative materials that can be incorporated into your design if they are locally available.
8. OCCUPANT COMFORT
Occupant comfort implies the interaction of the building and the people using it. The four major aspects to ‘occupant comfort’ are natural light, thermal comfort, and air quality. The quality of indoor air is a direct result of the chemicals emitted by the materials used. Using non-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials can help improve indoor air quality. Achieving optimum comfort conditions inside the built environment increases the green building rating.
9. ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL
Incorporating barrier-free design, as per the recognized standards, in the design of your building can help improve your green building rating. Universal design goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. Ensuring access to everyone fosters a safe environment. Provision of ramps, disabled-friendly spaces, tactile hazard surfaces is a few examples of barrier-free design.
10. METERING AND MAINTENANCE
Post-occupancy monitoring goes a long way in ensuring the proper functioning of the building. This helps in reducing the breakdown of accessory mechanical services. Metering of energy and water consumption can help designers analyze the building performance. Using these methods of post-construction monitoring can improve the green rating score.