Green practices have become a fashion statement in cities but a very few of the medium and small commercial ventures include ‘sustainable design’ in their checklist. On one side of the sphere, many renowned offices are touching new heights of eco-friendliness and on the other, many do not even consider it a necessity. It is unarguable that commercial structures are accountable for a large slice of carbon emissions, especially in metropolitan areas.
Building construction, operation and maintenance – all these activities have distinct impacts on the environment as well as the users. Sustainable design aims at reducing all such negative impacts, enhancing indoor environment as well as balancing the functional requirements with the imparted techniques. Though, some green practices cost more, they are an investment for the future as the cost efficiency rises.
“The external layout, utilities, interior planning, indoor air quality, hygiene, etc, are a few important functions of a facility manager. On the whole the entire process of taking care of the building is to ensure that the life cycle of the buildings functionality is sustained over a long period of time,” states Anand Krishnan, general manager – administration, TCS.
In commercial applications, the sustainable strategies can be implemented right from the scratch. Apart from wood, bamboo and other plant derivatives; rammed earth, composite concrete, fly ash, etc, are green materials which can be used in plenty without affecting the nature adversely. Further, recycled plastic and iron extracts are also making way in the building material industry in this regard to give rise to healthier indoor climates. The orientation and massing of a building is itself an approach to sensibility. Beside the fact that it controls the sunlight, wind and heat; it can be used as a tool to amplify the benefits of passive techniques used in building design.
Apart from better thermal insulation, techniques like multiple glazing, solar chimneys, cross apertures, evaporative and geothermal coolers can be employed for passive cooling to reduce mechanical cooling loads. Light shelves and fenestrations are largely appointed in offices to induce maximum daylight. In addition to creating spirited interiors, control systems introduce flexible schemes for making use of daylight as per requirement. Shadings, insulation and multiple glazing reduce unnecessary heat gain.
In the interiors, furnishings, wall covering, surfacing and cabinetry, fabric, etc, has emissive properties which pollute and degrade air quality. “Fit out materials introduced into the workplace should be selected for minimum ecological impact, conservation of resources and emission abatement. Minimum-emission carpets, adhesives, fabrics, paint, etc, and the use of materials with low embodied energy should be taken into account. Office equipment such as computers, photocopiers, printers and appliances should be selected based on sound ecological selection criteria including embodied energy, operational energy efficiency, durability, etc,” believes Advait Pandya, head – infrastructure and facilities, Aegon Life Insurance Company.
All infrastructural and mechanical systems working within the structure have their smarter siblings. Efficient lamps with sensors and their flexible control systems utilise least amount of energy for use. An adept lighting design directly enhances productivity and well being of the workers. Not just lights, smart HVAC systems too are ruling the market with introduction of central controllers and fault detectors. Furthermore, green roofs and living walls act as natural air pacifiers which contribute to reducing noise and providing better psychological effects on the inmates. These can also be used to act as thermal insulators to avoid heat gain from roofs, southern walls and other hot areas like motor rooms, elevators etc.
Similar to heat, wind and light; conserving water is equally accountable in sustainability. Water collected through rainwater harvesting can be treated to replenish ground water or stored underground for emergencies. Water sourced from recycling on-site and other waste processes can be used for landscape irrigation and flushing. Commenting on Kohler’s contribution in the segment, Salil Sadanandan, president - South Asia & EMEA at Kohler Co., says, “Kohler’s works towards introducing products that are designed to perform with minimum amount of water. We have products like showerheads, faucets and WCs which are designed to deliver same quality and efficiency while using lesser water. This is done by innovatively designing the waterways in these systems.”
Adopting green strategies does not end at the design stage; maintenance and operations account to almost 95% of the buildings cost through its lifetime. As per GBCI, Grundfos India is one of the examples of best performing green buildings in the operations and maintenance phase. The company has implemented various key policies such as the sustainable purchasing policy, solid waste management policy and green cleaning policy. The entire potable water usage for the facility has been reduced to 55.68% (below the LEED-EBOM baseline) by using efficient indoor plumbing fixtures and fittings. Around 52.5% of rainfall has been mitigated through storm water management strategies. An on-going commissioning program has been implemented that includes elements of planning, system testing, performance verification, corrective action response, and documentation to proactively address operating problems.
Sustainable design in a commercial space bestows lower maintenance costs with highly reduced impact on the nature, in addition to a safe and sound interior environment. Research is under process about deriving ways to utilise the renewable energy sources and producing efficient infrastructure. Harnessing solar energy has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in this segment, that’s been gaining immense momentum. Through sustainable spaces huge progress can be made towards the making of a healthier city altogether.