T Chandrasekhar, director-technical, Aparna Enterprises, wants to help the cause

The COP26 (26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) saw key resolutions being made to fight the impending climate catastrophe that is looming over the world. To achieve the goal of cutting emissions by 50% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050, the building materials industry has to switch to greener alternatives, and the change has to happen now.

While the goals have always been clear, the big question was always “how”? For years, real estate, and particularly the building materials industry operated in a very traditional manner. In order to reduce emissions, and the damage it can create to the environment, the industry also has to reduce the wastage of the base raw materials. Reports indicate that developmental projects are responsible for almost 50% of raw materials consumed globally. For the industry to effectively aid in the decarbonisation mission, the key objective would be to switch to the immediate green alternative available and move upwards from there. While a complete, radical change seems far-fetched due to the current landscape of work, there are some steps that can be taken to aid this change:

*Efficient use of Exterior Façade: Big and small residential and commercial structures struggle with managing the energy efficiency of the building. A thoughtful use of exterior facade helps in managing both optimal heat transfer and sufficient natural light to manage energy efficiency inside the space and reduce energy bills. Building glazing can have different levels of tinting and reflectivity in order to deflect external heat and help improve the energy efficiency of the building.

*Switching to M-sand, from natural sand: River sand is an important part of the concrete mix as it helps in binding all the other elements in the cement mix. The construction process cannot be completed without the sand component. For years, illegal mining and excessive extraction of sand from the river beds has caused massive environmental damage. Manufactured sand (M-Sand) is a better alternative to river sand and is equally suitable for all construction activities. It is also cost-effective, so on one hand, it saves the environment and discourages the illegal trade of sand and on the other hand, it reduces the overall cost of construction

*Windows and doors made of Aluminium and uPVC: A critical step to aid in the process of de-carbonization is to cut down on the usage of wood. uPVC and Aluminium both are a greener alternative to traditional wood for windows and doors. They are completely recyclable, require less maintenance, and stay strong for years. Furthermore, uPVC and thermal break aluminium profiles do not conduct heat, so, when combined with proper glazing they can help in reducing heat transfer inside the space and in turn, increase the overall energy efficiency of the structure.

*Utilizing technology and available resources to transform manufacturing of building material: Just like the construction of a structure, much efforts are seen in revolutionizing the manufacturing process of building materials. For example the kilns which make beautiful tiles consume huge amount of energy to complete their task. Many organizations have switched to Natural Gas to fuel these kilns instead of traditional options.

*Adopting greener practices during the design process: Architects and designers today are mindful in their work and ensure that efficient use of natural resources like light, air, water and space are kept on priority. While these resources are getting scarcer by the day, their efficient utilization and conservation is pressing need of the hour. Concepts like rainwater harvesting, sewage water re-cycling for gardening, smart lighting, smart glass are widely used in projects now to make a structure friendly for both – its inhabitants and the environment.

There are still miles to go to reverse the harmful consequences of human actions on the environment. The immediate action point here would be to implement ways to limit the environmental impact during construction and other developmental projects. Quick sanctions by governments and regulatory bodies, usage of good quality materials, and a willingness to adopt emerging sustainable practices is the key to this. This decade is the most crucial to action out the plan to keep global temperatures in line with the agreement. All of us, right from the corporations to the government, to the people need to work together to build a resilient future for the generations to come.