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The health and well-being benefits of green buildings

The health and well-being benefits of green buildings

As India is fighting the coronavirus pandemic, green certified buildings and facilities will provide tremendous health and well-being benefits apart from resource conservation says Mala Singh, Chairperson & MD – PEC Greening India.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on nature?
As a result of coronavirus and restrictions imposed, we are seeing the benefits of air getting cleaner, water bodies being in good condition. Due to the lockdown, human intervention is less and we are finally seeing nature in its truest form. For example, you can see clear and pure water, Himalayan hills can be seen from Jalandhar (Punjab) and the Air Quality Index (AQI) has improved in urban areas, chirping of birds can be heard in the neighbhourhoods. Apart from Covid-19, there is another challenge of handling with millions of locusts entering into five states across India and is posing a threat to the food and agriculture industry and it will affect economy and livelihood. The time has come, we must learn how to build green and live green with a positive spirit.

Could you shed some light on how various industrial sectors including construction is coping with current challenges?
All kind of industries have been affected badly including the construction sector. However, the government and private institutions have set up their own guidelines to work in the present scenario to move ahead. The migration of labour is definitely going to affect construction industry in a big way and demand of new homes and offices may get affected due to the current economic crisis. The need of the hour is that all kind of industries like hospitality, healthcare, tourism, industrial including construction must think in a different manner to handle their businesses to cope with current challenges. Considering the impact of pandemic on our health and well-being in the future, the time is to follow environmentally conscious approach at all levels.

How do you ensure health and wellbeing in the commercial, office spaces and existing facilities?
Using green building approach in the indoor spaces of work place is going to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism which may be a good solution post Covid-19 to improve the business growth. Indian Green Building Council has come up with a rating programme ‘ health and wellbeing rating’ for such kind of office and commercial spaces which will help to do the resource mapping effectively. This rating has benchmark like platinum, gold, silver and certification levels. The highest rating levels define yours best credential in the environmental and health and well-being related issues of your employees. This rating helps to improve overall built environment of your space and establish a good brand image of organistation as a responsible entity.

We are currently working from home but once the lockdown ends, employees will be going to the office for work. From now on, offices should also be treated like a home and employees should be treated like family members by creating an environment friendly atmosphere with respect to health and hygiene.

For office spaces and existing building properties, operational and maintenance and health and well-being ratings are in place. We do green audit assess and understand our present resource utilisation factors in terms of natural usage resources. Green building approach helps employees’ mental and physical well-being and his/her spiritual health. And it includes sitting arrangement, outdoor view, quality of air breath by an individual, green interiors, thermal comfort, quality of drinking water, good hygiene etc. Coronavirus has taught us an important lesson i.e. to take care of our environment is a must now because it is no use crying over spilt milk.

Building operators and facility managers can play a vital role to conserve natural resources by efficient operational practices and use of sustainable practices hence overall environmental quality can be improved and health and wellness of the occupants can be taken care.

How can green buildings play a crucial role in being healthy and environment friendly?
Green buildings not only help in resource efficiency i.e. water, energy and waste minimization but it also helps in improving health and well-being of the people. A green building itself defines five elements of mother earth (Panchtatva) i.e. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky. Green building is a living or office space, which generates less waste, optimises energy efficiency, conserves water, provides adequate daylight and ventilation to maintain health and well-being of the people and increases the overall productivity.

To cope with current challenges, such kind of green building solutions which is going to help to improve the environmental quality of the built environment and also take care of our health and well-being. Green buildings have shown tremendous growth in its green footprint as of today but that amount is too small at 2-5 per cent of the entire built environment. Hence there is a huge opportunity to transform this existing built environment into green and sustainable and also to build new building development by using green building approach.

In India, green building programme is not mandatory by the government but it’s a self driven, conscious based voluntary programme. The govt has given fiscal benefits and green incentives in some of the states to encourage developers. However, this incentive policy must be formed for all the stakeholders to get encouragement to follow green building approach. The govt should also bring policies to benefit home and office buyers also, which will have positive impact on the green building demand, green products will also get a boost including new employment opportunities will be generated in the green business and sustainability sector.

Let me conclude by saying that the growth of green building will create a win-win situation for all the stakeholders and also will save environment and preserve natural resources. Of course, good health and well-being is a result of making green buildings.

What kind of green building ratings are available in India?
In India, we have three kinds of rating systems i.e. IGBC, LEED and GRIHA. Each rating system defines a specific approach based on the building type and have various sustainability parameters to assess the overall environmental performance of the project. There is a qualitative and quantitative methodology in each rating system to evaluate the sustainability. Green Buildings are not limited to only centrally air conditioned buildings but it also address the sustainability aspect in the naturally ventilated building spaces also. The rating programmes provide tools for new and existing buildings both. The green buildings refers to passive design element, integration of energy and water efficient technologies, integrated waste management along with resource efficiency, green purchase process, minimising heat island effect by using high SRI materials/green paint or coatings, pollution reduction and providing good physical and mental health benefits to the people.

What kind of steps should be taken during the construction of green buildings?
In green buildings, health and safety aspects are being given a lot of importance to create a better environment and save resources. Post Covid-19, it is must to ensure green and sustainable practices to create safe and healthy environment. The labour who is working at the construction site should be provided good quality drinking water, periodic health check-up, labour personnel having Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), labour camps should be properly sanitized for their health and hygiene and contractors must be educated to implement all these policies. At the end of the day, the productivity of the business depends upon the health and wellbeing of labourers.

What are the advantages of using green products and technologies?
We give preference to purchase of local material and green certified products and technologies and because of it local employment is generated and the economy gets a boost. There are more than 1,000 green certified products for the construction industry and can be used in the green building market. BEE certified energy products are also available in the market to use. The developers and government is giving focus to precast technology in the construction sector as it is eco friendly and faster for construction.

People should also use green paints, adhesives, sealants, green furniture, green certified wood application and green certified housekeeping materials. For waste management, we give priority to three Rs i.e. reuse, recycle and reduce, which involves safe collection and disposal of waste. To sum up, the green building is a very holistic approach which provides us a healthy life and good quality of environment to cope with all current challenges of pandemic, climate change and global warming. We must behave responsibly for a better tomorrow.

 

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