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Alternate infrastructure: key to reducing carbon foot prints

Oct 21, 2016

According to Ashok Khosla of Development Alternatives the model of development post-1990s economic liberalisation, is leading to vast environmental degradation.

New Delhi: Human activities consume resources and produce waste. As population grows eventually the natural consumption increases. Humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 earths to provide the ecological goods and services we use each year.

Unfortunately, after China and USA, India has the third largest ecological footprint in the world.

•          The total ecological footprint of India is heavy because of its population of over 1 billion people, which is a seventh part of the global population.

•          The comparison with other societies shows that India is one of the countries with a lighter ecological footprint in global hectares per capita. The average Indian has an ecological footprint nine times lighter than the U.S. citizen, three times lighter than the global footprint. However, we need to minimize it.

Over the next decade, India requires over $1.5 trillion to fill up the infrastructure gap. India has envisioned a heavy infrastructure plan, which is a need of today, but we have to be careful for tomorrow. Need to aware all stakeholders, engage them and make a part alternative infrastructure pathways etc. are the core issues.

Any infrastructure project has a certain lock-in period, which blocks time and decisions of people to opt certain technology suits to erect structures; no matter how much it may impact on our planet earth. It needs a great level of foresightedness, technological research and deep-thinking. Usually, the government authorities take decisions related to infrastructure projects and common people have fewer opportunities to share their views who would be the actual user of the same and their life would be impacted up to their descendants.

Ashok Khosla, Chairman of Development Alternatives and Co-President of Club of Rome, India Chapter, states “Sustainable Development holds the key to India’s future and its prosperity. Unfortunately the model of development we have adopted, post-1990s economic liberalisation, is leading to vast environmental degradation, threatening the very existence of life in our planet, simultaneously creating a dysfunctional economy, in which a vast army of hungry and deprived people is being created side by side with growth in the number of super-rich millionaires. It is important to have alternative development model in which people’s well-being can be secured by changing life-styles and livelihood, taking inspiration from our great social and cultural heritage and creating a sustainable balance between society and natural eco-systems”.

With an aim of bringing together top national and international experts to consider some of the fundamental pre-requisites for achieving the goals of both the concerns such as above above in India, Club of Rome India is organizing an Annual conference under the theme of “Forests and Ecosystems Security” on 22nd and 23rd November 2016. The Annual Conference expects to witness active participations from policy makers, professionals, researchers and civil societies to engage in consultations for collaborating to address the issues revolving around Forests and Ecosystems security in India.

Case Study: The Development Alternatives World Headquarters Building located in New Delhi is a cutting edge prototype that showcases environmentally and economically sound solutions for reducing the carbon footprint of construction. The building design optimizes the use of local resources, materials and skills through the application of advanced scientific and engineering knowledge; thereby, reducing energy and resource consumption and overall construction costs. Use of virgin construction materials has been reduced by the utilization of industrial waste materials such as fly ash and stone dust; thus, creating wealth from waste and also reducing the embodied energy by 30 percent.

The building has re-used materials recovered from demolishing the earlier structure demonstrating a responsible ‘cradle to grave’ construction approach. After demolition of the original building, earth removed from the site was recycled into compressed earth blocks that have been used in the building walls. Compressed earth blocks and fly-ash blocks have been used in 90 percent of the interior and exterior walls. The fly-ash blocks were made using fly-ash from a local power plant. As 90 percent of the materials have been sourced from the regions neighboring Delhi, CO2 emissions from the transportation of building materials has been substantially reduced during the construction of the Development Alternatives World Headquarters Building.

Efficiency in material use is demonstrated in every aspect of this eco-building. Heavy concrete slabs have been replaced by resource efficient building products such as ferro-cement channels. The stone flooring pattern has been designed to reduce wastage to less than 5 percent. Teak wood harvested from certified plantations has been used for making the doors and windows. Broken white tiles bought as waste from factory yards have been used to decorate the roof terraces. The architect consciously departed from the use of high energy intensive materials such as aluminium, steel and glass used in modern urban architecture. This eco-building has used less than half the reinforcing steel used in comparable structures of conventional design thereby reducing resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The beauty is that the use of these alternate construction technologies and materials has not compromised on the structural stability and quality of the building.

The spatial configuration of the building draws on the principles of passive design and vernacular architecture of the region using balconies, shading grills, terraces and screens that evolved in response to the climate. Innovative approaches such as curtailing heat gain through the building fabric by ensuring favorable orientation with respect to the sun’s trajectory and carefully designing shading and insulation of walls, windows and roofs has helped save 40 percent in operational energy consumed. Windows facing east and west which are subjected to the morning and afternoon sun have been kept small and shaded by sunscreens. Roof surfaces are finished in white tiles to reflect instead of absorb thermal energy. Micro-climate control is done by the use of features such as an open central courtyard, a water pond and a water screen that cools the building walls through evaporation. To reduce the ecological footprint of the building and enable lower energy consumption, the Development Alternatives staffs have adapted their lifestyle in favor of sustainability by accepting an indoor temperature range of 180 to 300Celsius. This has substantially reduced the air conditioning load.

Water conservation measures are integral to this eco-building. All rainwater that falls at the site is used to recharge the groundwater, while wastewater is recycled and treated on site in an aerobic-anaerobic digestion tank and used for irrigation and flushing toilets. The cost-effective bio-sand, multilayer gravity filter designed by Development Alternatives is used to purify the drinking water. This costs a fraction of the energy intensive reverse osmosis system.

Efficient in the utilization of space, materials and energy; the Development Alternatives World Headquarters Building exudes the technical sophistication appropriate for contemporary cities and demonstrates eco-friendly and cost effective building technologies that have the potential to transform the face of the construction industry worldwide.


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