‘One should be penalised for not building green’

Published by firstgreen on

On the origin and objectives of USGBC

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) emerged from conversations among three individuals – Mike Italiano, David Gottfried, and Rick Fedrizzi – that began in 1993. It revolved round promoting sustainability in building design, construction and operation. Their concern was how to reduce carbon emission. Until 1998 we did not define the system. It took six to seven years to develop LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) rating system for buildings. It is like a nutrition label for buildings, akin to calorie chart on foodstuffs.

How has been the progress of the movement?

Today, over one lakh projects in 176 countries with over two billion sq. m space are following LEED specification. United States is of course the leading market. China comes next, followed by Canada and India. In the US, 32 municipalities, 15 States and 400 agencies have mandated LEED as a guideline and requirement for development. We recently analysed the performance of the first 25 years of LEED. Today 100 cities around the world are LEED-certified. Surat is the first in India in this group.

Buildings alone will not count. The human health should be the foremost concern. Communities, neighbourhoods, and cities too need to be measured and rated for safety, sustainability, inclusivity, equity, health & wellness, resilience and economic prosperity standards. For these to happen, the Master Plans have to be strong. Look at Delhi, it has turned into a gas chamber. An average individual in that city inhales hazardous air equal to smoking 50 cigarettes in a day. Goal no. 11 in the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN seeks sustainable development of cities and communities.

Any policy imperatives for India?

In India the LEED is still a voluntary benchmark, not mandatory. The system needs to make a transit from incentive to penalty. One should be penalised for not building green. Perhaps more property tax may be levied for not incorporating green norms.

India has leapfrogged in several sectors. Mobile telephony now connects 800 million people. Delhi Metro is a great success story with 554-km network in 20 years. It is going for the 4th phase. It is being replicated in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata. International airports in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Delhi are LEED-certified buildings. All these are ample proof that things can happen if there is a will.

There is a need for awareness. Teak smells good and looks shiny when varnished in red and burgundy hues. But one must know that it emits fumes from formaldehyde which is injurious to health. One needs to know from where the power comes, from a renewable source or dirty grid where coal is burnt. Energy audit ought to be implemented.

On TRUE (Total Resource Use Efficiency) initiative

It is a new initiative by the USGBC which enables facilities to define, pursue and achieve zero waste goals, cutting carbon footprint and supporting health. TRUE is aimed at changing how materials flow through society, resulting in waste. It encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused and waste is minimized. There are 400 ongoing projects under this around the world.