In November 2022, The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) announced that its 13000 plus member developers have pledged to become 100% carbon neutral by 2050.
CREDAI pledged to explore the best practices available to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint by 25% before 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. The pledge makes CREDAI the industry’s first association to facilitate an ecosystem and lay a strong foundation for a sustainable realty in India. This also accelerates its commitment to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030.
Reducing carbon emissions in buildings will be critical to achieve climate goals and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Built environment contributes almost 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which includes 28% in operational emissions and 11% in building materials and construction. It should also be noted that global building floor space is projected to double by 2060 and only 3% of investment in new construction is green and efficient, locking in high emissions for decades. Renovation is still less than 1% which is less than a third of the rate needed to meet the Paris Climate goals.
The physical manifestations of climate change are increasingly visible across the globe, and India is not untouched. More than 75 percent of India’s districts—home to 638 million people, or 1.4 times the population of the European Union (EU)—are categorized as hotspots for extreme climate events already.1 India has acknowledged this threat in multiple forums, has set ambitious targets and is taking bold measures to address the risks.
So, what can be done ? If we consider the whole life cycle of a building (approximately 50 years) there are different phases on which companies from the building sector (construction and real estate) must have an influence: design, construction, usage, renovation and demolition. Throughout the life cycle of each building, good practices addressing operational and embodied carbon footprint already exist and are progressively becoming standard.
In terms of design and construction aspects of real estate, designers, planners and project managers have multiple options to achieve carbon efficiency. Some of them are :
- Increase the proportion of bio-based vernacular materials (wood, clay, wool and even straw) usually available locally.
- Pay attention to more mainstream materials carbon footprint.
- Think in terms of “Cradle to Cradle” (C2C), using modular techniques, which can reduce up to 40% of the environmental footprint and/or foreseeing the deconstruction phase.
- Lean on BIM technology for more efficiency, and form “material banks”
- Produce energy on site (solar panels etc.)
Decarbonization of buildings focuses mainly on net zero-emission in terms of facility use. First, considering life cycle perspective, a major issue is to use any existing building for as long as possible, assuming good energy efficiency status. Sometimes, a good solution is to find another use for existing buildings without major renovations and adaptations. This reduces the carbon footprint of the construction and reconstruction process. Second, increase the intensity of the building’s usage. Indeed, many buildings have only one usage, therefore, they are only partially used during the day and night. Considering that the coatings of buildings are significantly improving, transferring heat or cold trough smart ventilation systems from office to housing at night could generate vast energy savings. Third, one of the most rapidly developing branches of technology is the Internet of Things (IoT). It has the potential to reduce the cost of consumed energy by controlling the lighting and temperature of rooms that are currently not occupied. The system allows to control the basic functions of the building from the mobile phone or other gadgets.
I trust, we should start looking at smaller steps which may include :
- Plan before the plans.
- Invest in passive and effective HVAC systems
- Design for maximum day light usage.
- Integrate renewable resources.
- Let the vertical surfaces speak – experiment with walls and its treatments.
- Use vernacular materials as much as possible. Eg. – Stabilized Earth Blocks.
- Detect early on new opportunities to control the cost of building operations and to stay one step ahead in the market.
- Attract investors whose appetite for green assets is far from being satiated.
- Digitalize, digitalize, digitalize. Because potential energy savings from smart buildings is significant. Please note that India’s building sector will account for 55 percent of electricity demand by 2047 if smart and digital ways of conserving energies in various forms are not adopted.
Before long, green, low or zero-carbon housing will be the only acceptable property developments both under the law and with consumers. Start making changes now to stay ahead of the competition and capture the attention of eager eco-buyers.