SS GROUP - Ashok Singh Jaunapuria

SS GROUP - Ashok Singh Jaunapuria
The real estate industry must take the lead ‘now’ and show the way in implementing sustainability if India is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.

SS GROUP - Ashok Singh Jaunapuria, MD & CEO

It is said that the barometer of a flourishing economy is the construction industry. Good infrastructure, homes, workspaces, safe roads to commute, and other facets are regarded as the hallmarks of a healthy, growing economy - squarely pointing at the construction industry. If statistics are anything to go by, the Indian Construction Industry is estimated to touch USD 1.4 Tn by 2025. A chunk of this construction demand is fueled by the huge economic growth in developing countries.

The real estate sector is the second largest employer in the country estimated at a market size of more than USD 1 trillion by 2025, accounting for 18-20% of the country’s GDP. While infrastructure is developing at breakneck speed, modern homes, highly modern office spaces, and sky high structures dot India’s landscape – all tell-tale signs of a thriving economy, the fact that the sector accounts for over 22% of all emissions, is deeply concerning. The World Economic Forum has put out alarming statistics against the backdrop of rising CO2 levels. The real estate sector consumes 40% of all global energy and 40% of all raw materials - totaling a staggering 3 billion tons annually.

Leading the way and how
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” – Vincent Van Gogh. The aim of the construction sector should be to reduce carbon emissions and make buildings more resilient. With the construction industry being the larger emitter of carbon, the scope of emission reduction is also the largest - warranting collective efforts by developers to take a hard look at materials and processes used in construction. The Leaf by SS GROUP at Gurugram, is an example of how a project can enable healthy breathing by creating ample green spaces in the vicinity of the project.

Waste to wealth
SS GROUP - Ashok Singh Jaunapuria
It goes without saying that building a new home generates tons of waste – of resources, materials, and energy. It is estimated that around 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to building materials and construction. According to the Building Material Promotion Council, India generates approximately 150 MT of construction waste - translating to 35-40% of global construction and demolition waste annually. But only 1.3% of it is recycled.

The need of the hour is to “measure waste” as a starting point in the journey to reduce waste and in turn reduce the quantum of waste in landfills. A case in point is cement, one of the major polluters in the construction industry. Developing more sustainable construction materials reinforced using natural fibres, recycling and reusing existing materials can go a long way in reducing waste and in turn reducing emissions. Having said this, reducing waste starts at the design phase. New-age technologies like AI, ML, when harnessed appropriately, can make a world of difference.

Incentivizing carbon emission reduction
The construction sector has a critical role to play in carbon footprint/emissions. The answer to this goes back to the drawing board stage, viz, planning/design stage, aka stage 1. Key decisions like choosing AAC blocks over red bricks, using environment-friendly building materials, jettisoning towards renewable energy, can make a huge impact. One of the visible incentives for people to embrace LCCR (low carbon climate resilient) construction may be in the form of bank rebates, reduced interest rates, government subsidies, and reduced taxation. Such a move can quash perceptions of an increase in cost of such constructions, for both the builder and the buyer.

Is a governing body an answer to bind builders towards decarbonization?
There is no doubt that the clarion call to reduce carbon emissions by the construction sector is getting shriller with environmental consciousness gaining momentum. However, much ground remains to be covered. Given that the construction sector is the single largest contributor of carbon emissions, can an umbrella governing body lay down rules and regulations for builders, developers, contractors mandating “green construction norms”? The answer is neither a yes nor a no, simply because of the highly fragmented nature of the sector. Secondly, India is home to millions of small, unorganized contractors manifesting themselves as builders who lack basic understanding of rules and regulations, let alone green construction norms. Thirdly, they are widely scattered, thereby augmenting the administration, implementation, confirming and auditing to conforming to the rules. However, this should not deter the formation of a governing body. Well established and well entrenched players who have built an impressive reputation can be torchbearers of this movement. Much can be spoken or debated upon. The real test is in (as the saying goes), when the “rubber meets the road”.

Making the paradigm shift towards green construction
“Change is the only constant thing”. “Change is always viewed with skepticism”. The two statements represent two sides of the same coin, yet at the same time, change is inevitable for growth, prosperity, and success. The construction sector is at an inflection point of change – change for a greener tomorrow.

Moving from time-tested construction materials to more environment-friendly materials that induce lesser carbon emissions, is the need of the hour. But the shift is not going to be easy. It requires a fundamental mind change to transition to new-age materials which starts from the drawing board stage. Cost implications have to be factored in. With the shift to low carbon emitting materials now imminent, among a host of other challenges, one of the on-the-face challenge that we as builders, more so, the small-time builders face or will face is dealing with the downward spiral of business of manufacturers and suppliers of traditional materials. Need we say more? The writing on the wall is clear.

With all the permutation and combinations, pros and cons, ups and downs, the alarm for a greener world is getting louder and sharper. It is around us. The time has come to ring the bell of change – change for a better and greener tomorrow.
NBM&CW JULY 2023
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