According to the UN Global Health Observatory data, 54% of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 2014. It is estimated that by 2050 nearly 75% of the world will live in urban townships; India expects to add 300 million new urban residents by 2050. Rapid urbanization has led to a swift growth in the consumption of resources such as energy and water in cities and metropolises.
It is believed that nearly two-thirds of the world’s energy is currently being consumed by urban areas and, commercial and residential buildings consume around 60% of the world’s electricity. In the face of such unprecedented urbanization, sustainable construction is key to conserving our resources. Construction practices that employ techniques and materials suited to climatic conditions and strive for durability are the need of the hour.
Sustainable construction is not a new concept to India. Traditional Indian buildings were designed factoring in local climatic conditions. Some examples are the sloping roofs of houses in the Konkan that enabled rain water to run off, the open courtyards in the havelis of Rajasthan that allowed for ventilation and sunlight and jaali windows that diffused air to cool interiors in tropical climates. In addition to this, the building materials used were ones that were locally available and facilitated comfortable indoor conditions. In the South, for example, clay tiles, commonly known as Mangalore tiles, were widely used for roofing. They kept out the rain and the heat in the warm, humid climate.
In the last few decades, however, many global practices and design trends have come in vogue in India, and traditional practices have slowly gone into decline. While global practices enable the construction of high-rises, essential to cater to our extremely high urban density, many of these are ill-suited for Indian weather conditions. The prime example is the excessive use of glass facades, a bad choice of material in tropical weather conditions since it traps heat. This leads to higher energy consumption to keep temperatures comfortable. Global practices and trends need to be better adapted to suit the local climate.
With an increasing drive towards sustainability across the world, many companies are innovating in construction to make their buildings longer-lasting and more environment friendly. Smart construction practices go beyond just reducing energy consumption for cooling. Durability and the use of resources that are easily available, and react well to the environment condition of the region are the other significant aspects. In simple terms, it is far better for our planet that we create buildings that use lesser resources and last longer. Even building protection techniques like green walls where vegetation is grown on wall surfaces—a measure that both protects buildings and improves air quality—or rain screens that deflect rain and prevent moisture seepage contribute to the life span of the buildings.
Here are some materials and techniques that are being used by companies to make buildings more environment friendly:
High strength concrete. Structures built using high strength concrete are more durable, require less maintenance and last longer. Additionally, the use of high strength concrete enables taller buildings that are increasingly needed for our densely populated cities. A famous example of this is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828 meters and contains a total of 180,000 cubic meters of concrete. The high strength concrete used for its construction can withstand the extreme conditions of the Middle East where temperatures swing between 10°C in winter and 50°C in summer. Estimates suggest that the concrete used in the Burj Khalifa withstands a pressure equivalent to the weight of a small car resting on an area the size of a big toe. This degree of concrete strength ensures the durability the structure.
Smart dynamic concrete. With increased urbanization, mass housing is one of the great challenges that India is facing When rapid construction is necessary for a burgeoning population, building material that is strong and suitable for fast construction is the need of the hour. Smart dynamic concrete (SDC) is one such material. It flows under its own weight, allowing it to be easily and quickly worked into different structures which are as strong as regular concrete. It is durable, helps save construction resources and time and reduces the need for maintenance, thus reducing overall carbon footprint. Its use is becoming more popular lately, especially in mass housing projects. In 2010, the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB) undertook an urgent mass housing project in Bangalore where they had to provide over 5000 homes for slum residents. The homes needed to be built quickly since the existing tenements of the slum residents had been broken down and they had been relocated temporarily. The use of SDC that had been supplied by BASF played an important role in the project being successfully completely in time.
Waterproofing. Moisture can infiltrate buildings and cause serious damage to the structure. Additionally, moisture can be a breeding ground for dust mites and other allergens. Efficient waterproofing is an integral part of sustainable construction as it can seal out moisture, help increase the lifespan of the building and improve indoor air quality. A great example of quality waterproofing can be seen in the Delhi Metro project. As the largest urban mass rapid transport initiative in India, the Delhi Metro project required an extremely safe and durable construction. Most traditional waterproofing systems require a setting time of around 12 hours that make them prone to easy contamination. However, the system used in the Delhi Metro immediately set within 2 minutes after spray application, drastically reducing the chances of contamination. For high investment projects such as the Delhi Metro, where just the first two phases were achieved at a cost of just over Rs. 29,000 Cr, ensuring quality and durability is critical.
Insulation. An efficient insulation system will lower the energy demands of heating and cooling systems in buildings. Sophisticated insulation techniques can improve indoor air quality and reduce sound too. For example, Infosys approached BASF to provide a thermal insulation and waterproofing solution for its campuses that would reduce their energy and maintenance costs. Infosys’ buildings were facing severe leakage problems and the structures required excessive air-conditioning to cool the interiors. BASF devised an end-to-end solution for both waterproofing and thermal insulation and managed to reduce the seven layers of insulation previously used in the structure to only three layers. Using the right material can have significant impact. In Infosys’ Chennai campus cafeteria, BASF used a revolutionary thermal insulation polymer called Basotect. This not only reduced the energy consumption, but also absorbed noise and reduced the noise levels of the cafeterias. Infosys has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2018 and BASF is one of the key partners in their quest to realize this.
Sustainable construction technologies employing faster and safer processes that lower the energy consumption and increase productivity can play a big role in determining the future of our cities. BASF wants to contribute to a world that provides a viable future with enhanced quality of life for everyone.With products like MasterGlenium, used to build Burj Khalifa, and the MasterSeal waterproofing system, used in the Delhi Metro, BASF is innovating to meet the needs of our environment. To learn more about BASF’s construction related products, see here
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.