Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

On Sustainable Building Materials | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV)

Mains level: Measures to improve sustainable material

Why in the News? 

Recently, post COVID-19, India is experiencing a sudden increase in construction. Although expansion offers economic prospects and enhanced living conditions, yet it also presents notable environmental hurdles.

The Major Environmental Concerns Due to the Construction Sector:

  • The cement sector is a hard-to-abate sector in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is an equally critical contributor to the economic development of the country.
  • India is the second largest producer of cement in the world and plans to almost double its production by 2030. It accounts for over 33% of India’s electricity usage, contributing to environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Globally, about 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the built environment sector, which includes buildings, the distribution systems that supply water and electricity, and the roads, bridges, and transportation systems.
  • The UNEP report makes a case for “Avoid-Shift-Improve” strategies to reduce emissions.

Government Initiatives to make the Construction Sector become energy efficient:

  • The India Cooling Action Plan: It forecasts an eight-fold increase in cooling demand between 2017 and 2037, emphasizing the need for thermal comfort while reducing active cooling demand. Reducing cooling demand by 20-25% and refrigeration demand by 25-30% by the year 2037 are the goals of this plan.
  • Eco-Niwas Samhita (ENS): Initiatives like the Eco-Niwas Samhita (ENS) and Residential Energy Conservation Building Code are crucial steps towards improving energy efficiency in residential buildings.
  • Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV): Introducing metrics such as the Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV) play a significant role in measuring heat transfer through a building’s envelope, thereby enabling better energy efficiency. Lower RETV values are associated with cooler indoor environments and reduced energy consumption. The recommended RETV of 15W/m2 or less promotes optimal efficiency, improved occupant comfort, and lower utility expenses.


Materials used in the Construction sector

  • Popular Building Materials: Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks, red bricks, fly ash, and monolithic concrete (Mivan) are commonly used materials in construction.
  • Preference for Monolithic Concrete: Despite sustainability concerns, monolithic concrete construction is favored by developers for its speed, strength, quality, and scalability, particularly in high-rise buildings and skyscrapers.
  • AAC Blocks as Thermally Efficient: RETV evaluation shows AAC blocks consistently have the lowest RETV across all climatic conditions, indicating their potential as a thermally efficient material.
  • Embodied Energy Differences: The literature review reveals substantial differences in embodied energy among materials, with monolithic concrete having an embodied energy 75 times greater than AAC blocks.
  • Sustainability Concerns: Sustainability concerns are prominent across all materials. Red bricks contribute to resource depletion, emissions, and waste, while AAC blocks and monolithic concrete also have environmental impacts

Measures to improve sustainable material

  • Adopt “Avoid-Shift-Improve”: Implement policies and regulations that incentivize the use of sustainable building materials and practices, such as tax incentives, subsidies, and green building certifications.
  • Investing in R&D: Allocate resources for research and development initiatives aimed at creating new, sustainable building materials with improved thermal performance, reduced embodied carbon, and enhanced climate resilience.
  • Promote Market Collaborations: Foster partnerships between academia, government agencies, and industry stakeholders,  in sustainable construction practices and materials development.
  • Awareness: Create consumer awareness campaigns to highlight the benefits of sustainable construction and encourage demand for eco-friendly building materials, driving market demand and adoption.

Conclusion: India’s construction boom poses environmental challenges. Initiatives like Eco-Niwas Samhita improve energy efficiency. AAC blocks show promise for thermal efficiency. Future steps include R&D, industry collaboration, policy support, and fostering market demand for sustainable materials.

Mains PYQ

Q) Adoption of PPP model for infrastructure development of the country has not been free of criticism. Critically discuss the pros and cons of the model. (UPSC IAS/2013)

Q) Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart vilages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural urban integration. (UPSC IAS/2015)

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