The Challenge Of Converting Existing Buildings Into Energy-Efficient Structures

The Challenge Of Converting Existing Buildings Into Energy-Efficient Structures

The Challenge Of Converting Existing Buildings Into Energy-Efficient Structures
(Dreamstime)

Market estimates suggest that India will be adding 11.5 million homes every year thus, making it the world's third largest construction market by 2020. With rapid urbanisation and strong economic growth, the construction industry is becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in India providing employment to nearly 18 million people.

The sector is becoming one of the highest contributors to the country's carbon emissions. It alone accounts for 22 per cent of India's total carbon emissions. It is expected that this impact to increase further with the efforts to combat housing shortage affecting more than 60 million households in the country, adding to the huge resource and energy footprints of the sector.

In today's time, India's construction industry is burgeoning and with the development of more new buildings, it is likely to increase India's CO2 footprints significantly. However, it can be eased to a larger amount through implementation of strong rules and regulations for building design and construction activities. Though the main challenge will be of converting existing buildings into energy-efficient green buildings.

The market players should take into consideration that in the process of building sustainable homes and cities as well, the number of existing buildings is huge. Since an opportunity to reduce primary energy use lies within the existing building stock, retrofitting of old buildings is one such solution to answer queries about energy efficiency. To improve energy efficiency, it is a proven high-volume, low-cost strategy that can help in tackling one of the major causes of climate change.

The current status suggests that only two of total buildings in the country are certified green buildings, whereas the remaining continue to consume huge amounts of energy. This alarming situation, made the country take this issue stronger and witnessed a spurt in the number of construction projects aiming to be recognised as a green building.

Techniques that can be easily applied to the existing building

  • Effective lighting, air conditioning and heating system
  • Water conservation and competent water management
  • Active use of natural light and air by re-orientation of the windows and openings
  • Employment of efficient insulating building material for reduction of heat convection as well as radiation
  • Efficient occupancy based control of lighting and air conditioning loads

 Additional methods that are effective at the same time

Other combining methods can be the usage of rooftop solar system and solar wind hybrid systems. Both can easily balance the requirement of fossil fuel-based energy, thus, reducing carbon footprint. Another great option can be of using more recycled materials. Recycling and reuse of waste water with the right treatment, making use of organic as well as inorganic solid waste for more purposeful uses like composting and power generation, can complement further in converting existing buildings into green ones.

As estimated by the Indian Green Building Council, at present there are only 2,204 certified green buildings in India, but it is projected to rise to about one lakh by 2025. These certified green building will include offices, hospitals, hotels, IT parks, banks, airports, residential complexes, special economic zones (SEZ) and townships. The role of public policy and leadership can trigger the industry in constructing more green buildings. Considering the hidden costs and market failures that describe the construction industry, stringent regulatory measures are likely to be the most effective and cost-efficient in bringing about a green transformation of the sector.

The policy of net zero metering for electricity and water (considering rainwater harvesting) can encourage masses to go for the green building concept. Additional enticements like extra floor space index (FSI), lower municipal taxes can boost the great initiative further.

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