Green Building Projects
Wise planning and building, including the use of LEED, minimizes the consumption of natural resources and environmental impact and will smartly position India for the future and improve the lives of millions across the country…
- Mahesh Ramanujan
As is the case with many nations, India also faces many social and environmental issues, including overpopulation, land degradation, energy shortages, water scarcity, waste accumulation and air quality issues.
Most of these challenges are due to rapid urbanization; the urban population in India has nearly doubled in the past 20 years alone. Though India accounts for 2.4% of the world’s land, it supports nearly 16% of its people, and over the last two decades, overpopulation in India and the issues associated with it have contributed to compromising much of the country’s land.
Thankfully, a movement to address these challenges is well underway—one that will help provide a more sustainable future for millions and help facilitate the development of smart cities across India.
A rare opportunity to embrace change
The opportunity to take constructive action and create a more sustainable future in India is more advantageous now than ever, and it stems from the unprecedented rural-to-urban migration of India’s population. According to 2014 United Nation data, in 2001, India’s urban population was 285 million and by 2021, it will exceed 473 million.
To accommodate this massive population shift, many new buildings will need to be constructed – homes, offices, factories, schools, hospitals, retail outlets and more. In fact, 70 to 80% of the buildings needed in India by 2030 haven’t even been built yet. How these new buildings are developed will compound and not only impact Indian society, but also its economy and environment.
While India’s urban migration creates environmental and planning challenges, it also creates unique building opportunities. All of the issues in India associated with urbanization can be addressed by building better buildings and communities where human health is prioritized and enhanced. Sustainable development is not just about better buildings or good design, it’s about conserving resources so that we can make sure there are enough to go around. The LEED rating system, developed by the US Green Building Council and locally administered in India by GBCI is changing the way we think about how buildings and communities are planned, constructed, maintained and operated. Wise planning and building, including the use of LEED, minimizes the consumption of natural resources and environmental impact and will smartly position India for the future and improve the lives of millions across the country.
India boasts one of the world’s fastest growing green building industries and has also committed to the creation of 100 smart cities by 2020.
The smart cities mission
To properly connect the concepts of smart cities to green buildings, it is important to have a clear understanding of what it means to be a smart city. The Indian Ministry of Urban Development’s definition of a smart city reads, “In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development: institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.”
The Ministry of Urban Development also identifies eight more specific smart city features, which serve as guidelines for its urban planners and developers. Some of the points that are most relevant involve:
- The promotion of mixed land use
- Housing for all
- Walkable localities
- The preservation of open spaces
- Transit-oriented development
- Accountability and transparency through digital technology
- Preservation of the metropolitan identity – and corresponding economy
- Applying smart solutions to development projects – resilience, minimal waste, more efficient use of resources
According to the Ministry, the most meaningful smart city developments will emphasize city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment), and city extension (greenfield development).
Most people recognize that when it comes to smart city development, green buildings are the smartest approach. This is because green buildings are an easy way to truly achieve the smart city mission as detailed by the eight essential features that the Ministry of Urban Development has identified as being integral to these projects.
LEED: Where green buildings and smart cities intersect
Given my role as President and CEO of both the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the creators of the LEED green building rating system, and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the organization that certifies all LEED projects globally, I can best speak to the parallels between green buildings and smart cities through my experience with LEED.
For those who are unfamiliar with LEED, the program started in the United States in 2000 in and has since quickly expanded to 165 countries and territories around the globe. Over the last two decades, it has revolutionized the practice of green building design, construction, operation and maintenance. Today, it is the most widely used and trusted green building program in the world with more than 90,000 registered and certified commercial projects and more than 19.14 billion square feet of space participating in LEED.
Behind the LEED program is an immense infrastructure developed to support the leaders in the industry as they innovate and create cutting-edge, high performance buildings. Each year, significant investments are made to maintain, operate and improve LEED and its delivery. LEED v4 is our latest version of LEED and focuses on achieving greater transformation and performance by demanding stronger energy performance, better materials, increased water efficiency and accounting for human experience. LEED is fully compatible with the course of action that the Ministry of Urban Development has recommended for smart cities—and there are four very important reasons why:
The rating system works for all buildings at all phases of development — from new construction to existing buildings—and all building sectors
1. LEED works for all buildings at all phases of development—even projects involving neighborhoods, sections of a city or an entire city.
The rating system works for all buildings at all phases of development—from new construction to existing buildings—and all building sectors—from homes to hospitals to corporate headquarters. And LEED addresses every building type at every lifecycle phase in any climate or region, including homes, offices, hospitals, retail spaces, banks, factories, stadiums, college campuses and more. LEED does this through offering a number of distinct rating systems:
- LEED: Building Design and Construction is the LEED rating system for new construction and major renovation.
- LEED: Interior Design and Construction applies to interior spaces requiring a complete fit-out.
- LEED: Building Operations and Maintenance, for buildings that are fully operational, and that are undergoing very little construction or simply looking to upgrade their operations or maintenance programs.
- LEED: Homes Design and Construction accommodate all types of residences, from multi-family high rises to single family dwellings.
- LEED: Neighborhood Development is for new land development or redevelopment projects of greater scale. This includes city improvements, city renewals, and city extensions.
- LEED for Communities and LEED for Cities, which are two new certification programs that were recently introduced in 2016. These programs are designed to be applicable to cities, communities, neighborhoods, districts, townships and counties.
Given the complexity of Smart City developments, the flexibility to address all project types is critical – and LEED delivers and performs.
2. LEED encourages project teams to set strategic goals that are aligned with Smart City thinking – and it does so by asking one critical question: What should this LEED project accomplish?
It then goes on to provide important guidance through seven distinct impact categories that ask the project team to determine how the project will:
- Make a Reverse Contribution to Global Climate Change?
- Enhance Individual Human Health and Well Being?
- Protect and Restore Water Resources?
- Protect, Enhance and Restore Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services?
- Promote Sustainable and Regenerative Material Resources Cycles?
- Build a Greener Economy?
- Enhance Social Equity, Environmental Justice, and Community Quality of Life?
Clearly, these LEED Impact Categories are all directly aligned to the Ministry of Urban Development’s Smart City Mission and Smart City Features. What’s more, the structure of LEED v4 is set up to incentivize progressively higher credit achievement and thus, progressively higher compliance with credits whose outcomes accomplish project goals that are linked to impact categories, and that address important social, environmental and economic considerations.
3. Once project teams have identified what they want their project to accomplish, LEED guides them through a system-oriented, integrated path to completion.
It does so through its six core and two optional credit categories:
- Energy and Atmosphere credits not only emphasize improving building performance, but also reward the use of renewable energy, smart grid thinking, and ongoing operational performance.
- Sustainable Sites credits encourage strategies that minimize a project’s impact on ecosystems, including ecosystems involving multiple buildings.
- Water Efficiency credits account for water use inside and outside of a building. Whole-building-level water metering ensures smart city projects can effectively monitor and manage their water use.
- Materials and Resources credits encourage the use of sustainable building materials and reduced waste. Considerations include life-cycle assessment, transparency, and recycled content.
- Indoor Environmental Quality credits promote clean air, good acoustics, ample lighting, natural views, and overall occupant comfort.
- Location and Transportation credits encourage compact development, alternative and public means of transportation, and a walkable connection to parks, restaurants, shopping, employment, schools, and more.
Additionally, projects can earn credits for Innovation in Design and for addressing Regional Priority needs.
4. LEED projects are now supported through Arc, a state-of-the-art digital platform that supports continuous progress toward better buildings, communities and cities, and a higher quality of life.
Arc allows any project—whether a single building, community or even an entire city—to capture data, measure improvements through strategy implementation, and benchmark against itself and projects around it.
Two programs: LEED for Communities and LEED for Cities are also administered through Arc and allow participants to capture metrics across an expandable array of performance indicators, and deliver it in an easily understood way that drives engagement and healthy competition. Arc measures and communicates city performance across the metrics that a city cares about and just as with buildings, measuring performance helps cities improve. Metrics include energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience (education, equitability, prosperity, public health and safety).
Cities can start with a modest number of data steams and metrics, and expand as they become familiar with the tool and seek deeper engagement. And these are data points that cities are already collecting—Arc and LEED for Cities provides cities an already established platform on which to assemble measure and compare these data points. By monitoring data, Arc ensures that a building, district or cities continues to operate efficiently and effectively. This translates into the economic benefit of accountability, guaranteeing that today’s LEED projects continue to meet desired standards day after day, and year after year. In other words, where green building performance is concerned, LEED and the Arc platform have raised the bar. And they have done so in a way that is compatible with the course of action India’s Ministry of Urban Development recommends for smart city developments. Arc will take LEED and the global green building movement to the next level through the shared use of technology, feedback and recognition of excellence.
The Bottom Line
So what does LEED and green building mean to India’s aggressive Smart Cities initiative?
Quite simply, LEED has evolved so that it can be applied to the Smart City initiative at every step of the way. Project teams can use LEED in the planning stages to set goals, refine strategies and determine what they want their projects to accomplish.
Through its diverse array of rating systems and eight credit categories, LEED acts as a very precise and detailed framework to set system wide performance goals. It then guides project teams from those early planning stages to project completion.
Finally, through the Arc monitoring platform, the LEED approach ensures that your project continues to perform at peak efficiency. And if it doesn’t, Arc provides timely perspective regarding when and where adjustments are necessary to help you make improvements and become as efficient as possible.
From the first day of a project to the end of a building’s lifecycle, these are all very valuable and very compatible contributions to India’s Smart City development program.
As a native son of India, I am happy to tell my associates around the world that the Indian building community was among the first to embrace and support LEED.
The LEED rating system uses an open-source model and has always been freely available. This enables projects to understand the LEED system at a deeper level and adapt the system so that strategies can be applied for the project’s desired outcomes. Continuous improvement doesn’t stop at the rating system itself: it also applies to the entire built environment. That’s where tools like LEED for Existing Buildings, LEED for Cities and Arc come into play. By 2020, our goal is to transform LEED from a building rating system to a platform to comprehensively support the varied facets of sustainability in our built environment.
At USGBC and GBCI, we strive to help building owners and community leaders continuously improve their building and community performance, whether through saving more water, energy or waste or enhancing the human experience and making occupants and citizens more comfortable. Sustainability is not possible without human health and wellness considerations, and USGBC and GBCI are the leaders that will drive forward a vision of human health in all aspects of the built environment.
Through this vision, we expect to move closer to achieving the vision of green buildings, communities, and cities for all within a generation. Buildings don’t exist in a vacuum. Technology is blurring the lines, driving the need for a more integrated understanding of the essential interplay between buildings and energy generation, transmission and land usage; development, human health and well-being, city infrastructure, financing and investing; and everyday activities like driving to work, taking a train or walking into a grocery store. USGBC and GBCI seek to enhance this interconnectedness and transform the built environment through cross-sector; outcome-driven collaborations that strive to make the world a better place and improve the quality of life of millions around the world.
Please keep building. Keep working. Keep raising the bar on the quality of our built space. Keep volunteering and keep pushing our movement forward. At USGBC, we stand with you—all of you. We are all in.
Together, let’s continue to LEED ON!
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