Grey to green: How sustainable construction techniques now define the real estate sector in India.

For the first time in history, more people are living in cities than in villages. This transition to urban life is slowly becoming prominent in India as well. While urban life offers vastly superior access to essential services like healthcare, this is often at the cost of access to green spaces. The prominent use of concrete and steel in urban planning has created what is known as ‘grey’ infrastructure.

It is not possible to be completely reliant on green infrastructure. However, the balance of grey and green must be established to offset the environmental impact of how we live, and how our homes are created.

The real estate sector is held accountable for 22 percent of India’s annual CO2 emissions, responsible for global warming and poor air quality. The construction industry uses 30% of all natural materials, and 20% of water – and the Indian scenario follows these trends. The impact of construction is also severe. According to a 2015 Assocham study, construction activities are directly responsible for soil erosion and contamination, air contamination by asbestos particles, dust, and noise pollution.

Looking at the benefits of green infrastructure, India must develop a more progressive, sustainability-first outlook for the sector. Site wastage of resources such as energy, soil, and water is mitigated greatly with more efficient options, thereby bringing down our footprint.

There is also a clear economic benefit. Energy efficiency from green methods delivers cost savings, and water efficiency can offset operation costs. While these ensure a lower overall cost, a ‘green’ tag will appeal to prospective homeowners. In the long run, water and electricity planning for sustainability will ensure lower stress on these utilities, as well as a marked reduction in pollution to enhance public health.

Acknowledging these benefits, the sector has begun to transition to greener practices. This can be seen in the increasing adoption of technologies like Pre-cast, Reinforced Hollow Concrete Blocks (RCB), Gabion wall, GFRG wall and Mivan. Alternative materials like fly ash, AAC blocks, gypsum plaster, bio enzymes and curing compounds reduce project’s environmental impact. Modern residential plans also maintain the natural topography, so that the biodiversity, beauty, and green cover is not compromised.

Smart home features are also aimed at improving energy and water efficiency thereby reducing carbon footprint and overall recurring cost to the customer.

Locally sourced resources for construction purposes can reduce carbon footprint and the cost of transportation.

One of the most definitive changes of future living will be the proliferation of zero-carbon and zero net-energy homes. Without burning any fossil fuels, these homes will be part of a global commitment to ensure sustainable development. This can be achieved through technologies such as solar light fixtures and energy efficiency appliances, as well as rainwater harvesting, plantation of drought-tolerant species in the landscape of the property and grey water treatment for use in construction and flushing are all key developments.

The real estate’s strength lie in translating a blueprint and a vision into a concrete reality, at scale. It is time to ensure that green thinking is a key component of all planning. This will involve also fundamental rethink from homeowners, who must become environmentally conscious about their residential spaces, as well as the sector which must ‘unlearn’ its fundamentals. This new paradigm will involve new thinking, skills, and a unified commitment.