How can buildings be made more habitable while also ensuring their efficiency?
Growing urbanisation is a sign of development for any city which means a rise in the demand for housing and new constructions, and to meet this demand we have ended up challenging the planet’s existence.
Roughly 40% of the world’s energy resources are used in buildings, both residential and commercial. Passive design principles including thermal mass, external shading, building orientation, cross ventilation, and better insulation in buildings lead to less reliance on energy-hungry mechanical systems to maintain comfortable temperatures indoors.
Using renewable energy further reduces a building’s environmental impact. A good building design decreases power consumption, saves money, and reduces the effects of climate change. On the other hand, a poor building design is uneconomical and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the most obvious implications of CO2 emissions due to the current building practices?
UNEP’s latest ‘Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction’ (Buildings-GSR) released during the COP27 climate summit, indicates that the operational energy demand for buildings reached an all-time high in 2021, which represents a 3% increase over the previous peak in 2019. The CO2 emissions from buildings operations have also reached an all-time high of around 10 GtCO2.
It is well-known that CO2 emissions contribute to global warming and climate change, which can significantly cause severe impacts and consequences for humans and the environment.
CO2 emissions act like a blanket in the air, trapping heat in the atmosphere, and warming up the Earth. This layer prevents the Earth from cooling, and thus raises global temperatures. Global warming affects environmental conditions, food and water supplies, weather patterns, and sea levels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Climate Summary states that combined land and ocean temperature since 1880 have increased with an average rate of 0.07 °C per decade. The temperature has continued to rise since 1981, with an average rate of 0.18°C, which is over twice as massive as previous times.
ActiveBuildings has developed an Air Quality Monitoring device (recipient of RESET certification) which has enabled the company to serve 7.3 million square feet of indoor spaces after collecting 840 million data points from all over India
How buildings are contributing to the hazardous levels of AQI in the NCR?
Most homes and buildings in India are not new and were not built keeping in mind the challenges we face today in terms of climate change and air pollution. Construction, powering, and demolition of buildings - all contribute to poor AQI.
In general, the built environment generates 40% of annual global CO2 emissions, including that from building materials like concrete, steel, and aluminium. Heating, cooling, and lighting systems in our homes are also responsible for energy-related carbon emissions. The heat from these greenhouse gases gets trapped in the atmosphere, generating the greenhouse effect which causes global warming.
Besides CO2, construction activities and the burning of fuels to power our buildings also release particulate matter. The construction and demolition of a building alone produce a hefty amount of waste - from bricks to metals to concrete and asphalt. Construction dust is one of the major sources of air pollution in Delhi NCR throughout the year and contributes to high levels of PM10. Brick kilns are also a significant source of air pollution that produces black carbon which adds to the PM2.5 levels. Transportation of materials is another indirect source of air pollution from buildings, which increases vehicular emissions in the environment.
The poor AQI levels also affect the indoor air quality of our homes and the lack of proper air cleaning and ventilation systems force us to breathe polluted air even within our homes.
How can technology be used to ensure proper indoor air quality?
Smart technology is becoming increasingly affordable. One of the latest trends in smart technology is home automation, which can now be utilised to monitor and improve the quality of air in the home, using an existing HVAC system and a whole-house purifying system.
An automated indoor air quality monitor allows users to view data on their phones in real-time, as well as past measurements and events. When the system senses a change in the air quality, it can trigger the fans, adjust humidity, and boost airflow, circulating clean air through all the HVAC supply vents in the house. In addition to purifying the air, a smart thermostat and air filtration system reduces the amount of energy a home uses, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint and saving the homeowner money.
Breathing clean air indoors is integral to good physical and mental health. Air quality in the home can be improved through simple solutions such as maintaining good ventilation, avoiding smoking indoors, using environment-friendly products for cleaning purposes, and natural fuels for cooking activities. Lastly, adopting clean technology will help us achieve optimal results and breathe easy.