What is a zero carbon building and is it the only way forward 


Climate change is here and we are already experiencing its impact. In his opening remarks at the ongoing COP27 at Egypt, UN Secretary General António Guterres mentioned, “We need all hands on deck for faster, bolder climate action. A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow shaft of light remains. We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return. The global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch….Humanity has a choice:  cooperate or perish”

India is the third highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the world as of 2020 global analysis. The GHG emissions from building sector both direct and indirect reached 21% of global GHG emissions last year. This is a matter of huge concern. The engineers need to stop designing and building inefficient buildings to reduce fossil fuel and focus more on ‘Zero Carbon Buildings’. India made two significant commitments at the recently concluded COP27: It promised to meet 50 per cent of its energy needs from renewable fuels by 2030 and transition to a net zero carbon economy by 2070. By all accounts, the country is well on course to achieve its short-term target. Accomplishing the decarbonisation target will, however, require tackling much stiffer challenges.

In this contnext REDECON 2022 (Recent Development in Design and Construction Technologies) had 14 eminent personalities deliberating on main themes related to Sustainable Development for two days in Bengaluru recently. The seminar addressed trending issues and disseminate necessary technical know-how to reduce the carbon footprint, achieve net-zero water and net-zero energy, improve air quality, reduce pollution, save natural resources including water, evolve strategies to mitigate global warming, etc

The event was organised by ACCE (I), Bangalore centre and supported by the Department of Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics of Government of Karnataka. REDECON 2022, brainstormed to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Speaking on the occasion Mili Majumdar, MD, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and Senior Vice-President, USGBC , expressed concern over rising pollution in the construction industry. “Entire infrastructure industry should work towards reducing carbon footprint by deploying renewable technology and creating ‘green inland’ in the urban areas where the temperature can be lowered by 5 degrees. The building sector can mitigate up to 61% of emissions if it follows three important factors namely Sufficiency, Efficiency and Renewable. Sufficiency in producing less carbon emitting materials, efficiently using them and in turn reusing them to lower the impact on the environment.”            

Shrikant S. Channal, Chairman – ACCE(I) Bengaluru, felt “Sustainable is unavoidable & worldwide we are discussing about it.  Construction is one of the highest contributors to climate change. To achieve sustainable goals right professionals should be engaged in construction at grassroots levels. To engage right professionals, the civil engineering profession should be regulated by enacting “Karnataka Professional Civil Engineers Act” in line with Gujarat.. Unprofessionalism in government departments should be stopped immediately”.

Ajit Sabnis – Past President, ACCE (I), said “Today 195 countries have agreed that pollution is the major threat for the growing global population. The air quality has drastically reduced and climate change is already there for us to experience. After 35 years of discussion and observation the air quality Index is now being revised and climate impact disclosure has been drafted. The 17 Sustainability Development Goals that are adopted by 195 member economies under United Nations act as pointers to sustainable development. The young entrepreneurs have understood and implemented sustainable technology in their core business and have created network platforms for the younger generation for effective implementation”

Vasudevan Suresh – Vice Chairman, National Building Code of India, said “The past decade has been the hottest recorded decade in human history. We need to cut GHG emissions by half by 2030 for capping global warming to under 2 degrees. We need to facilitate the development of ‘carbon footprint standards and label’ for each product used in the infrastructure industry. There has to be major state-specific climate change impacts and policy decisions for facilitating the low carbon growth and development of the country. India’s urban housing shortage has increased drastically, we need to build 20 million urban houses by 2030”. 

To reach the net-zero destination, we require collective action by the policy makers in the government and all the stakeholders engaged within the construction industry. Following are a few suggestions by the ACCE (I)-Association of Consulting Civil Engineers (India):

Make NBC 2016 and other Sustainability Codes mandatory.

Set realistic targets as compared to established baseline values.

Make climate impact disclosures mandatory

Make climate finance disclosures mandatory.

Improve climate financing

Establish sustainability rating system of construction material products. 

Optimise site potential, energy use, building space, material use, lifecycle cost and efficiency in every activity.

Protect and conserve water and reduce wastage.

Use low-carbon, low-embodied energy construction materials.

Strategise sustainability adaptation as business opportunity.

Improve sustainability awareness at all levels.

Encourage investments that are more aligned to sustainable pathways.

Provide / pepare Inventory of alternative materials.

Focus on renewable energy.

Research programmes in universities to focus on and address societal challenges rather than becoming shelf-research programmes. This calls for active interaction between the three primary stakeholders namely, industry, government and educational institutes.

Bring professional discipline by enacting appropriate acts to regulate the profession of construction & civil engineering.

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