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Green Housing For All By 2022?

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“Small is beautiful” is the often heard phrase. But not when it comes to building houses. Bigger the better, if you can afford it. And herein lies the problem. Bigger houses have larger carbon foot print and need more energy for cooling and heating and consume large amount of material for construction and efforts are afoot to popularize small and greener dwellings. This, while bringing about sustainable living conditions, will also help solve the problem of housing for the poor as these are cost effective and need much less space. Increased awareness about effects of climate change is making some Americans to shrink their carbon footprint by shrinking their homes i.e., opting to live in ultra-compact houses, often referred to as “tiny houses.”

Increasingly, these small homes are also being considered as models for affordable housing that could help poor and homeless people to find shelter and stability in life. One of the chief benefits of living in a small space is that it’s cheap and environment friendly. “The size of your house probably has more to do with how eco-friendly the house is than anything else, because you have to heat and cool that space and heating and cooling is what uses most of the energy. So having a small space automatically makes you more eco-friendly,” says Brian Levy, an expert in implementing sustainable energy who has worked with the American Department of Energy and has built a model tiny home, called Minim House.

A Minim House designed by Brian Levy.
A Minim House designed by Brian Levy.

As many of us are becoming more energy conscious, it is understandable to also look for ways to minimize the amount of energy that we use. There is a big surge in the amount of information available on how to make houses more energy efficient. For example painting the roof white will help reflect sun rays if one is living in warm climate. Some protective coatings also help in reducing heat absorption through the roof. Using steel and metal is yet another method of constructing an energy efficient and green housing. To many, it may come as surprise that use of steel and metal in construction is quite efficient and cost effective.

house1Steel and metal buildings are far more energy efficient than conventional structures as they stop corrosion, reflect heat better and lessen energy consumption. Construction materials used in conventional buildings add chemicals in the environment but steel and metal building materials reduce the amount of environmentally hazardous elements significantly. Similarly, conventional structures need regular maintenance leading to recurrent expenditure. In the case of a prefabricated steel building or a metal building, maintenance does not cost much, and is also less time consuming.

Surveys in India project that between now and 2030, there will be roughly 250% increase in the number of buildings and built-up area created across India’s top 50 cities. It would be advisable that awareness is created across all sections of the society to go in for buildings which are environmentally friendly and use resources wisely.

The India Green Building Council (IGBC) has certified almost 2 billion sq ft of space as green over the last nine years.

While there has been a huge boost in the number of green labelled buildings in our country, doubts remain if these buildings truly fulfil the norms for a green label and whether these continue to remain as claimed, a few years down the line.

It is time to make a departure from the conventional thinking and construction. The type of construction we see around us may appear normal but what is not realized is the long term degradation of environment and the larger carbon foot print leading to climate change. Concept of living in clusters of Green and Tiny Houses, if adopted, can go a long way in helping the poor as well the environment. The Prime Minister’s promise of housing for all by 2022 can be economically and sustainably fulfilled if the Govt agencies to be involved in construction adopt visionary techniques using steel and metal. These techniques need also to be incorporated by private builders to reduce carbon foot print while also benefiting the customers in the long run.