Breaking Through The Barriers To Sustainable Building

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Insights from Building Professionals on Government Initiatives to Promote Environmentally Sound Practices
By Sandeep Singh

75% of the world’s energy is consumed in cities. 40% of the world’s energy is consumed in buildings. The most interesting potential for CO2-reduction in cities from an economical point of view lays in the modernization of the building’s infrastructure. Making existing and new buildings to Green Buildings is one of the most effective levers to meet the challenges of CO2 reduction in cities. The objective of the presentation is to give a short overview of the frame conditions, the existing labels and – most important – show success stories.

“Sustainable building” is the design and construction of buildings using methods and materials that are resource efficient and that will not compromise the health of the environment or the associated health and well-being of the building’s occupants, construction workers, the general public, or future generations. Sustainable building involves the consideration of many issues, including land use, site impacts, indoor environment, energy and water use, solid waste, and lifecycle impacts of building materials.

For example, when you choose an appropriate grade of glass for the façade — there may be a cheaper product in the market — it can help you save on the power you need for air- conditioning. Builders are interested in a return on investments of less than five years and if it is an owner-occupied building they go the extra mile and are willing to wait up to 10 years. For higher levels of conformity to green building standards, the cost, as compared to conventional buildings, could be up by 3-5 per cent for gold rating and 7-10 per cent for a platinum rating. A case study of LEED-INDIA NC Ver.1.0 certified Gold Construction of the Tamil Nadu Legislative assembly building is given to showcase the importance and for better understanding.

Why Build Green?
Buildings account for:
39 percent of total energy uses
22 percent of the total water consumption
68 percent of total electricity consumption
38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions

The built environment has a vast impact on the natural environment, human health, and the economy. By adopting green building strategies, we can maximize both economic and environmental performance. Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction. However, the most significant benefits can be obtained if the design and construction team takes an integrated approach from the earliest stages of a building project. Potential benefits of green building can include:

Environmental benefits
• Enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems
• Improve air and water quality
• Reduce waste streams
• Conserve and restore natural resources

Economic benefits
• Reduce operating costs
• Create, expand, and shape markets for green product and services
• Improve occupant productivity
• Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Social benefits
• Enhance occupant comfort and health
• Heighten aesthetic qualities
• Minimize strain on local infrastructure
• Improve overall quality of life

Who judges them green?
There are a number of Standards based on which the green buildings have been investigated. They include LEED, BREAM, ESTIDAMA, BCA and many. Out of which now-a-days due to generalization, the LEED is becoming popularized. LEED is a measurement system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional and residential buildings. It is based on accepted energy and environmental principals. The intent of the LEED is to assist in the creation of high performance, healthful, affordable and environmentally sound buildings. It is a performance based system where credits are earned for satisfying the criterion.

How do they do it?
The main factors that get affected due to buildings are taken into account and studied. They include:

1. Site sustainability
2. Water efficiency
3. Energy and atmosphere
4. Material and resources
5. Indoor Environmental Quality
6. Innovation and Design

Any Classifications?
Based on the type of the building the certifications are classified under
• LEED – NC (Version 1.0 & 2.0)
• LEED INDIA NC – (Version 1.0)

For better understanding, a case study of LEED-INDIA NC Ver.1.0 certified Gold Construction of the Tamil Nadu Legislative assembly building is given to showcase the importance.



Occupancy Type Office of the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu and senior cabinet officials
Built up area 937092.31 Sq ft.
Completed March 2010
Location Omamdurar Government Estate, Chennai.
Owner Tamilnadu Government
Green consultant En3 Sustainability Solutions
Water Savings % 52.63%
Rating System LEED India NC version 1.0
Rating Achieved Gold

LEED Scores

TNLA was created with a vision to introduce a new level of environmental consciousness throughout the entire State of Tamilnadu as well as the country at large. Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Block A has become the First Assembly / Senate Building in the World to be designed and constructed as a Green Building. It has emerged as a leader in sustainable urban development and has set the tone for future developments in this region of the world. The Tamil Nadu Government is firm believer in environmentally friendly practices and the Block A building is yet another example of this belief. En3, as green and sustainability consultants have worked closely with the Tamilnadu Government and Public Works Department to incorporate various energy efficient and sustainable features in the project to make it a landmark green project in India.

• Transplantation of existing trees and protection of existing site vegetation to minimize erosion during construction.
• Stacking and protection of top soil onsite reusing the same for landscaping.
• Provision of battery charging stations in an effort to promote use of alternative & low emitting vehicles.
• Car pooling spaces provided on site to promote ridesharing thereby reducing transportation pollution.
• Green roofs to add to the aesthetic elegance of the building and to minimize impact on microclimate.
• Provision of ample landscaping and plantation to promote biodiversity & restore more than 50% of site area with native and adaptive vegetation.
• Multilevel car parks and high reflective roofs reduce urban heat island effects.

• Water plays an integral part in the greening process. Effort has been taken to minimize water use by installing water efficient fixtures, effective Rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment plant (250KLD) that treats 100% of onsite waste water.
• Low flow dual-flush toilets, sensor based urinals and other low flow fixtures have been installed to reduce water consumption much over 52%.
• 100% of the treated water is being reused for landscaping and toilet flushing thereby minimizing the use of potable water for all these applications.

• Several measures were taken to reduce the overall energy consumption. The building’s shape and exterior cladding has been designed as a smooth arc which gleams obliquelyagainst the linearity of the neighborhood as against a standard block construction and helps reduce the direct heat radiation on the building thereby reducing energy consumption.
• The exterior of the building is a combination of shaded windows, energy efficient low-e glazing designs that reduces overall heat ingress into the building and save on energy. In line with international standards, the refrigerants used in the air conditioning system are environmentally friendly and have very low ozone depleting and global warming potential.
• A detailed metering system ensures adequate measurement and monitoring of all systems in the building to continuously monitor the building post-occupancy as well.
• A detailed energy analysis and modeling has been done to ascertain various options for energy savings in the building with cost-benefit/payback analysis.

• The project has ensured up to 96.68% of total construction waste of debris has been recycled or reused thereby diverting them from landfills.
• The project has achieved a combined recyclable content value of 11.05% of total material by cost thereby reducing virgin material exploitation.
• A number of materials have been extracted and manufactured locally/regionally thereby reducing the pollution associated with transportation

• In order to support enhanced IAQ and long-term well-being of all occupants, adequate fresh air has been planned in line with international ASHRAE standards.
• The entire building is a non-smoking building thereby ensuring the health and safety of all its occupants.
• In addition, low emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, and composite wood products have been used to enhance the indoor environment and provide superior workplace for all employees.
• Adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings used in the building are low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints thereby having minimum organic emissions that are harmful to humans.
• The composite wood products used have been purchased to ensure that they do not contain urea formaldehyde that can be potentially harmful for occupant health.
• Majority of the occupants of the building will have control over their lighting and air conditioning set points thereby giving them the flexibility to control their own environment

MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION – Does green building cost more?

Considerable research and analysis has been carried out with regard to the cost impacts of a green building. The cost could be slightly higher than a conventional building. But then, this needs to be seen with a different paradigm. The question is how do we compare the costs? There needs to be a baseline cost for all comparisons to be alike. The incremental cost is always relative and depends on the extent of eco-friendly features already considered during design. The incremental cost would appear small if the baseline design is already at a certain level of good eco-design; it would appear huge if the base design has not considered green principles. The second and rather a critical paradigm are to look at the incremental cost in relation to the life cycle cost. This kind of an approach could be revealing. Over its life cycle, the operating cost would work out to 80-85 % of the capital cost while the incremental cost which is a one-time cost is only about 8-10 %. Due to substantial reductions in operational cost, the total cost of ownership of green buildings is invariably lesser than conventional buildings. The incremental initial cost for the first few green buildings in India can be found in the following table.

The declining incremental cost over the years is evident.




Year awarded


Built-in Area (Sqft)


Rating Achieved


% increase in cost


Payback (Yrs)


CII-Godrej GBC, Hyderabad








18 %


7 years

ITC Green Centre, Gurgoan 2004 1,70,000 Platinum 15 % 6 years
Wipro, Gurgoan 2005 1,75,000 Platinum 8 % 5 years
Techno polis, Kolkata 2006 72,000 Gold 6% 3 years
Spectral Services Consultants Office, Noida 2007 15,000 Platinum 8% 4 years
HITAM, Hyderabad 2007 78,000 Silver 2% 3 years

Initiatives shall be taken to educate the staffs, building occupants, visitors and the clients on the various sustainability measures that can be taken to create more environmental friendly energy efficient spaces. Housekeeping by biodegradable materials to address health, hygiene and well being of staff make them eco-friendly. The building has been designed by En3 to showcase various green and sustainability measures and practices to ensure great amount of awareness is created by the buildings to promote green awareness to all the visitors and occupants & spearhead the green movement in the state and the country.

“Green Buildings – Cheapest Way to Slow Global Warming”

We at are thankful to Mr.Sandeep Singh for submitting this very useful project report on “Breaking Through The Barriers To Sustainable Building” to us. We are sure this will be helpful to all those who are looking for information on Sustainable construction.

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