GREEN BUILDINGS; A TIMELY NEED IN SRI LANKA

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“Go green”– is the buzz word, today! – a word that was almost non-existent back in the day. Why is the world pursuing this green building concept since of late?

Dr. T. L. Pradeep from the Department of Civil Engineering, Open University of Sri Lanka has an explanation for that.

“Back then, we were in the green. Today we are living in a man-made environment. The effort now is to find nature within this man-made landscape,” he says.

Simply put, to sustain people’s lives in an artificial environment.

While environmentally-friendly and resource efficient green constructions have far reaching benefits for the environment as well as the society, today, when you enter a premises there is no guarantee that it is in the optimum level for humans.

“Today the single person consumption has fast increased, this is true to both residential and commercial buildings. While businesses use energy for production, we use energy for day to day lives.”

Creating energy efficient buildings no doubt add value to a businesses, given that such sustainability practices are often valued by the environmentally-conscious clients.  Additionally, the close nexus between energy efficiency and production cost result in consumers getting\more competitive rates for products and services.

The commercial constructions can adapt this concept ideally at the design stage, explains Dr. Pradeep adding that proper solid waste management, the energy sources, resource management, human comfortability and safety  – (latter being one of the key parameters of a green construction) are vital to creating a greener commercial environment.

Green theories can be applied at the demolition and renovation stage too with  material converted as low grade resource- for example concrete used in the column can be used for floor concrete.

Making a residential building a green environment is no huge challenge, says Dr. Pradeep adding that, every individuals has the responsibility to think how their action would impact the eco balance. A simple example he cites is the purchasing of household goods for daily consumption- how you dispose them must be thought about before you make a purchase, he insists.

How popular is this green building concept in Sri Lanka?

While in the Sri Lankan context green building concept started receiving significant consideration as a marketing tool in the recent years, it is timely that we think of reaching the next level, says Dr. Pradeep.

“This should begin at the City planning level. For example we put up hundreds of apartments, but making a single unit greener would not make the entire city greener. I believe this initiative is to be taken from the local authority which has the power to give the people direction on how their individual residence or apartment units can be transformed into greener living.  From the apartment or individual housing unit to the city, the entire nation can be then transformed into a greener environment.  We also need a proper zoning – in Colombo, the industries, residences, offices; you find everything constructed in an ad hoc way. But look how well the city planning had been done in ancient cities like Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa,” he says.

As regards commercial component, in the pre tendering process, following the proper mechanism is mandatory in order to get the approval for the construction but once the building is built, if the industries are following what they have suggested at the pre tendering stage  needs to be regularly monitored in order to help businesses carry out their operations in a sustainable way.

“Behind Each and every environmental conflict, is a sustainable solution as well as a quick solution. The sustainable solution is costly and time consuming but has long-term benefits.”

While IMF Head Quarters, UN Head Quarters are some of the landmark buildings that fit into this green definition, Sri Lanka needs to adapt this global concept to suit local conditions, rather than mere replication as population, land extent, weather, differs from country to country.

Central to green building concept, is the aspect of energy efficiency in buildings.

What are the ways in which energy efficiency in buildings can be improved?

Conducting an energy audit is a must, says Dr. Pradeep adding that this will help assess if the material used meet the stipulated standards, human comfortability- that way you can make the building greener at maintenance stage.

Where energy efficiency is concerned, solar power is considered a great source of renewable energy.  Of the varied sources such as hydro, wind, solar, some energy sources are very limited. “Solar is a hassle free energy source, abundantly available- that’s why the entire word is going solar now,” he adds.

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