Sustainable Development in Construction – The Concept and Future

India is experiencing a boom in the construction industry due to rapid urbanization over the last few decades.  While the construction industry is the major contributor to the growth of the socio-economic sector in India, the unsustainable facet of huge resource consumption and the generation of manmade waste have posed the challenge of environmental pollution.  Rapid consumption of energy, resources and building materials caused by the increased demand for residential and commercial buildings are responsible for the upsurge of carbon footprint. All major metros in India have already started experiencing environmental issues such as a change in the weather pattern, Drought, Flood, pollution and more.

What is Sustainable Development in Construction?

The concept of sustainable development urges the need for nature conservation and encourages environment-friendly materials & technologies without compromising the need of future generations. The building lifecycle begins with raw material extraction, production, construction planning, design, construction, and maintenance. Sustainability is defined when the resources such as water, energy and raw materials are efficiently used as well as when the construction methodologies are practiced with minimal impact on the environment in the entire process of construction. It helps the living inhabitants to survive with healthy conditions throughout the lifecycle.

From the perspective of an engineer. “Sustainability is all about following suitable practices in terms of choosing materials, their sources and construction methodologies as well as design philosophy, so as to be able to improve performance, decrease the environmental burden of the project, minimize waste and be ecologically friendlier, taking into consideration environmental, socio-economic and cultural values”

 Sustainable construction can be conceptualized from four dimensions

  1. Economical Sustainability: Fix the cost of materials and services through full-cost accounting and real pricing approach to accomplish efficient use of resources
  2. Social Sustainability: Give attention to the quality of life and living environment which comprises health, education, generation equity, and cultural values.
  3. Environmental Sustainability: Plan the construction lifecycle to save the environment with the usage of renewable resources and minimize the use of water, energy, materials, and land
  4. Technical Sustainability: Focus of quality, durability, and performance of the materials and building practices.

Approach to Sustainable construction?

Several approaches are recommended to forge the construction industry more sustainable which includes decreasing the energy intake to operate buildings (defined as lifetime energy), minimizing the waste generated during the process, re-using the wastes to produce construction materials, cutting down the emissions during the manufacture of building materials, capturing carbon to turn to a reusable building material like rock or carbon fibre and using durable materials for construction.

 In simple terms, sustainability can be achieved in 6 steps

  1. State strong objectives concerned with sustainability issues.
  2. Rigorous effort during the planning and design stage to accomplish these objectives
  3. Devote greater attention to decisions like plot selection, building plan, design, etc
  4. Selection of materials that are recyclable after use
  5. Choose the right construction methods in terms of energy and resource efficiency
  6. Develop an efficient building operation and maintenance that cause minimum impact on the environment.

Sustainable Materials & Sustainable Technology

The choice of raw materials for construction reins the environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions, the chemical composition of wastes given back to the bio-geosphere and recyclability of wastes.  A careful selection of building materials helps integrate sustainable design principles easily while construction. Sustainable materials affect the comfort of the residents, lifetime energies, and durability of the building. A few of the sustainable building materials include Lime Plaster which replaces cement, Fly Ash bricks which reduces the carbon emissions, and Bamboo which is as strong as concrete.  

With new developments in technology, it is possible to attain sustainability, to reduce, re-use and recycle. Sustainable technologies like Flush toilets, composting toilets, solar water heating, and cool roofs can be used to improve efficiency and eliminate waste.

We will discuss more information about the Sustainable Materials and Sustainable Technologies will be discussed in the next blog.

The Future

Achieving Sustainability is complex; as it has to be well planned and applied in every aspect of the construction lifecycle.  Innovative new materials and Techniques will help engineers and architects to construct structures that hold greater value as they would be pleased to use, live in and sustainable. The below can be explored and experimented for future scope 

  1. Innovations in Technology automation like microprocessor-based systems can boost the performance of Integrated HVAC & Electrical systems and Solar panels
  2. Explore the scope of Agro-waste as a substitute for sustainable materials in construction.
  3. Composition of non-conventional materials like cellulose fibers to create a sustainable construction material for engineering applications
  4. Application of digital technology for a sustainable design tool for the building material applications

 Developed countries that have mature economies are being able to build sustainable dwelling units by reforming the present building stock through the use of innovative technologies/methodologies for material and energy savings. Developing countries like India devote a greater focus to social and economic sustainability, why the level of implementation of sustainable construction is still low.

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