The Financial Express

Reaping the benefit of green building

Reaping the benefit of green building

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) form a set of strategic pathways to guide our development agenda over many challenges like poverty, inequality, climate change etc. To overcome these mega challenges, we concurrently need to take different development initiatives in the country, where the 'green building' process can dynamically help us meet the many targets of the SDGs. In our efforts towards green building, we will be able to achieve about nine out of the 17 SDGs that can collectively play a vital role in laying our foundation for sustainable development directly or indirectly. To understand the significance of green building in our daily life, a study, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and SUNY Upstate Medical University, shows how the environment-friendly 100 office buildings worldwide can increase their employees' productivity and keep them in good health.

In general, sustainable or green building explores efficient use of energy, water and materials. This is a design-based process which helps conserve resources and decrease the negative impacts of resource use on human health and the environment throughout a building's lifecycle - raw material selection for construction, operation, renovation or elimination of building. The function of green buildings is much more efficient (sustainable!) than conventional buildings. In fact, such buildings can save us money, boost productivity either in office or at home, even enhance any company's financial stability and eventually contribute to demonstration of our commitment to achieving the SDGs.

Green building is a very new concept in Bangladesh, where most of the people are still unaware of the issue. But a few activities of the country's different organisations are conducted in line with the concept. For example, the Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI) of the government of Bangladesh has been working innovatively to step forward with the sustainable building concept in the country. This organisation can inspire us to adopt innovative green building by providing both technology and strategic support and sustainable raw material solution for their clients. In other ways, the SGS Group of Bangladesh is engaged in promoting the green building concept in the country within its limited scope. The SGS' green building services include client dealings, especially with the assessment of basic building design, energy management, materials testing etc. However, besides these promotion of client services, few other private organisations are implementing the concept through manufacturing their own environment-friendly products for constructing green buildings.

 We have already achieved a remarkable recognition from an international organisation. According to the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the three Bangladeshi garment and textile factories (Envoy Textiles, Remi Holdings and Plummy Fashions) have recently ranked top-listed environment-friendly factories in the world, keeping pace with sustainable demand for the green building concept worldwide. These Bangladeshi organisations are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified as per satisfactory measurements of the 'green factory' requirements, e.g. emitting less carbon with higher production, which ultimately consumes less gas, electricity and water compared to a total of another 32 green factories in Bangladesh. Apart from these, about 100 more factories are under the green construction process. This is notably a positive message for us as we can learn more about the concept from these green building models in Bangladesh.

In the context of SDG challenges and future work, the World Green Building Council has given several strategic directions to move towards green buildings. Lots of outcomes can be established on the SDGs' targets through our next green building initiatives. For this movement, the 'World Green Building Week' was observed from September 25 to October 1, a yearly event that encourages everyone all over the world to create a green building society by 2050.

Here are some ways through which we can think of our policy reformation for the country's housing and other establishments. However, making green building in the context of Bangladesh includes eight major areas of intervention such as:

  1. Taking a smart approach to energy: we have to reduce energy use in all phases of a building's lifecycle, make modern and renovated buildings with less expense and make them more comfortable, and help building users be efficient as well. Moreover, renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies need to be integrated in the buildings' energy supply.
  2. Safeguarding water resources: all types of water use devices need to be water-efficient, so that we can minimise our water harvesting, and produce less waste water from the buildings. We can use a rainwater harvester on the rooftop considering the impact of heavy water flow into a poor drainage system.
  3. Reducing and reusing waste: Fewer use of less durable materials produces less waste and resource recovery for a building's lifecycle should be promoted all through selecting the biodegradable products or materials. Sometimes, a community-based recycling process can be promoted among the green building users.
  4. Promoting health and wellbeing: A new building design considers fresh air circulation inside every room with modern ventilation, and incorporates natural light for building users when it reduces lighting energy needs of the system. Designing for ears and eyes can be considered, especially in health, education and residential buildings that really make buildings peaceful (e.g. flexible space, sound system etc). Right temperature control would be adopted in making new designs of green buildings.
  5. Keeping green space: More tree plantation and homestead gardening can make our surrounded environment green, so that the process preserves nature, land quality and diverse wildlife for our biodiversity. We have to look for more ways for making urban green spaces in Dhaka - a highly-populated city in the world.
  6. Creating resilient and disaster-friendly structures: Keeping in mind the global climate change impact, we have to ensure resilience to some of our major disasters such as earthquakes, flooding or fires. Designing dynamic spaces with enough flexibility is a precondition for making a resilient building structure.
  7. Connecting communities and people: In the context of SDGs, we have to build a worldwide network and shared platform of diverse experiences on what a building can add extra values to its local context in terms of optimum economic, social and environmental benefits. In the process, engaging the world green building communities can enhance our planning. Smart information communications technologies need to be used in the green buildings to communicate with others.
  8. Thinking about all stages of a building's lifecycle: In a new structure of a building, we have to seek how to minimise the environmental impacts through all stages of a building's lifecycle - from designing to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and ultimate demolition. The whole lifecycle of a building should have truly low impacts on using the embodied resources, such as energy or water specifically.

Finally, making environment-friendly constructions is now the country's need of the hour to attain the related SDG. The concerned people should make the community aware about this agenda. The government should come first to raise awareness among the people in ways including use of its own-created construction materials (HBRI products) in their new establishments and awarding entrepreneurs who are making environment-friendly construction materials or establishing green buildings on their own. Some of the government organisations such as the environment ministry can adopt green building policies requiring issuance of licence for any establishment to be built.

The writer is Senior Research Associate and Sustainability professional at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. [email protected]; [email protected]

Share if you like