India is one of world’s fastest growing economies. Massive urban construction and fast-paced development projects are a harsh truth. Going by the global standards of city planning, 70 per cent of Indian cities are yet to be built. The question is – can we even image, let alone afford, a 70 per cent more constructed Delhi or a 70 more polluted Bengaluru?
The question of urbanisation is not limited to India alone. A strong urban shift of economic activities is a sad global reality, and building a city is a daunting task. For the past few decades, countries from across the world have been blindly emulating the Dubai Model of development, which is not sustainable. The high environmental cost and unimaginable carbon footprint of cities like Dubai and Hong Kong is well known, and so is the amount of stress the process of building them exerts on Mother Nature.
To add to the problem, development in countries like India – and the third world at large – continues to take place at an extremely fast pace. From a builder to the government – everyone is in a hurry. Very little amount of time and effort goes into research. Questions like what is the environmental cost of air conditioning, or whether brick walls are more environment friendly than glass walls are never asked.
To answer questions like these in a few simple clicks, International Finance Corporation (IFC) has come up with a simple web-based solution. EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) is an application that allows any user to measure how green his construction is. It also gives suggestions based on which a building can be made more ecologically sustainable and environment friendly. With simple suggestions like reduced window to wall ratio, reflective painting and insulation of roof and external walls, natural ventilation, and energy efficient appliances, EDGE provides a user with suggestions which can be easily implemented with little effect on cost.
Traditionally, green buildings solutions have been prescriptive driven towards meeting a set of listed features with little local and regional context. For example, the standards of making an eco-friendly building in Bengaluru would be different from building one in Frankfurt. Instead of relying on a fixed set of guidelines, EDGE has data from hundreds of cities across the world, with specific data fed to provide the best metrics for building green construction projects. The performance-based system allows users to just take a few minutes to model their buildings and quickly understand implications on energy and water use. It also has a financial engine which gamifies energy efficiency by allowing users to play around and understand the performance of their buildings.
Prashant Kapoor, Principal Industry Specialist-Green Buildings at IFC Climate Business Group, says,
As more and more people are beginning to be conscious of the air we breathe, the water we drink and how we can conserve energy, home developers and builders have also started to realise that building green helps attract more customers and investors. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of developers are greening their residential portfolio driven by cost savings for home owners. Features like rainwater harvesting, outdoor window shades, energy-efficient electrical fixtures and waste treatment plants are helping bring economy in resource consumption. Existing home owners are opting for retrofits as a smart investment option.
EDGE also offers certification at the early design stage, when details of the project are entered into the EDGE software and green options are selected. To reach the EDGE standard, the project must achieve 20 per cent improvement in energy, water, and materials as measured against local construction practice. When achieved, a project is registered for certification. The certification gives home builders an additional incentive to make their projects green.
The web-based application ties into IFC’s broader programme on Green Buildings, which includes investments and broader market development. Being a member of the World Bank Group, IFC has been working with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide. In the financial year of 2015, IFC’s long-term investments in developing countries were nearly $18 billion. India is IFC’s top country exposure, globally. IFC’s committed portfolio in India was over $5 billion as of June 30, 2015. Prashant says,
EDGE is a product that anyone can use for free and measure how green their projects are. So far the knowledge on what makes a building sustainable was missing. Now all of it is available in a few clicks. We are making sure this gets implemented. We are mobilising governments and the financial sector to wake up to the call of environment, but we need to raise the awareness level of users. Buyers of homes and offices must start demanding buildings that are ecologically sustainable.