‘Majority of the green standards available in India only talk about norms after the building is ready’
Arabian Construction Company (ACC) has been lauded as contractors for following global best practices in construction and they were recently rated as No. 2 in the world by New York based agency, Council of Tall Building and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). ACC has executed a number of buildings across the world but its project that made its way to the Guinness Book of World Records is Princess Tower, the world’s tallest residential building (a 105 storey, 414 metre tall residential skyscraper located in the Marina district of Dubai). The company is currently executing the tallest towers in Delhi NCR (‘Supernova’ of 80 storeys), Mumbai (‘World One’ of 117 storeys and 460 metre) and Kolkata (‘The 42’ of 62 storeys and 250 metres). Ani Ray Managing Director ACC India Pvt Ltd shares how there is a need to develop a complete ecosystem that facilitates going green in real estate and construction industry in India. Edited excerpts:
We all are aware of how the construction and real estate industry pleads guilty of contributing significantly to environmental pollution. Is green construction the answer to the problem?
A green construction is very fashionable term but it’s important to define what green construction is. In India, we don’t have any pan India regulation that lays down norms for green construction.
There is no guidance on what to follow and there is no incentive to follow green rules, or disincentive on not to follow it. In short, there is a complete lack of an ecosystem to enable going green.
We have Griha and Leed standards available but majority of these green standards only talk about norms to be followed, once after the building is ready. They generally look at how much elec- tricity is generated, AC load and how energy can be saved etc. They merely touch upon a few of the construction processes like construction waste has to be recycled.
Whereas in developed countries, construction norms are very clear and there are penalties for deviation.
For example, there can be no construction after sunset in developed countries. But in India, tenders specify work hours but the design of the contract and timelines is such that labour has to work well late into night.
We know that all construction activities generate high levels of dust, concrete, noxious vapours from oils, glues, thinners, and other hazardous chemicals. How can factors leading to air pollution from construction activities be controlled or contained?
It is possible to control air pollution arising from construction activities. For instance in Dubai, you cannot produce concrete on-site. You only get RMC or ready mix concrete which is concrete produced outside the city limits that can then be transported in trucks to the site.
The fact is that the concrete by itself does not produce that much waste; but it is the process of producing concrete, in which one is using aggregate, sand, cement, that there is pollution.
If you are producing concrete on the site which is the norm in India, then it definitely generates a lot of waste.
In order to save cost of logistics, if there is space, it is nearly always produced on site in India.
Air pollution can be contained to a great extent if concrete production happens only outside city limits.
Construction sites also produce a lot of noise, mainly from vehicles, heavy equipment and machinery. What are some of the construction best practices that can help to control and prevent noise pollution?
Construction itself produces noise which cannot be eliminated but definitely, reduced. When you are talking of big cities, noise is very high.
As long as construction noise does not exceed that level of surrounding noise, it is ok. To help contain noise pollution, it is important to have barricading of the construction site with an insulation material.
Most of the places it is now banned to use a generator, which is again a big source of noise but some places it still continues.
And there should be strict regulation to stop construction at night because it always crosses the DB level.
In the past the pollution fines have been low and environmental regulations slack. Do you think it is being perceived as cheaper to pollute than to prevent pollution?
There is not much of a regulation or much of an incentive for a developer or contractor to follow environmental safe practices and that is the reality. Taking care of environment is important but this has a cost attached to it.
If your ecosystem is one that does not incentivize you for compliance to green construction practices, how will it work. In my view, you cannot leave it to discretion of private party to comply with construction best practices, rather they should become mandatory.
There should be strict regulation and a clear way of implementation and there should be one body responsible for regulating green construction and building norms, rather than a knee jerk reaction.
Any growing economy grapples with the arduous job of maintaining a balance between economic development and environmental harmony. How keen are the stakeholders in India to go green?
Yes economy and environment can be in harmony. But this has to be seen from a much bigger level, and that is the policy maker’s level. It cannot be determined by private party initiatives because they are after all constrained by either their own limitations or vested interests.