Sustainable Infrastructure: The Road Ahead for India
The infrastructure development in India has not only helped the country in becoming one of the fastest growing economies of the world, but also helped in bringing in substantial investment.
The concept of sustainable infrastructure refers to systems and equipment that are designed to meet the population’s essential service needs — including bridges, roads, hydroelectric power stations, etc. — based on all-round sustainable principles. This means the infrastructure is environmentally friendly from end-to-end, and that includes economic, social, financial and institutional factors.
With urban areas growing exponentially, especially in countries like India, sustainable infrastructure is showing its worth as a more productive, efficient, and environmentally friendly option. The objective of the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ — launched by the Honourable Prime Minister in 2015 — is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and give a good quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions’. With infrastructure geared towards Smart Cities, the focus is now on sustainable infrastructure, which also becomes the need of the hour considering the fact that the planet is suffering from eco-anxiety due to diminishing natural resources and climate change.
Sustainable infrastructure not just protects the environment, but also adds long-term value to the facilities. Sustainable growth helps in protecting vital natural resources along with promoting efficient use of financial resources.
Why Sustainable Infrastructure Development is Important?
1.Sustainable infrastructure can play a role in reducing energy consumption, which helps in minimising carbon dioxide emission. The usage of renewable energy sources directly helps in improving air quality.
The Infinity Benchmark building located in Kolkata is one of the prominent green buildings in India. Its indoor air quality is maintained by CO2 monitoring sensors, intelligent humidification controls, rainwater harvesting and waste water recycling system.
The energy-efficient equipment and design are undertaken for minimising heat load and maximising natural light in work areas.
2.Sustainable infrastructure also helps in reducing solid waste. Since the focus has now shifted to solid waste management, companies like DSSG Infra are now using renewable building materials which are easy to recycle.
One such practice is the use of plastic wastes for construction purposes. In addition, the use of recycled plastic wastes as a component in cementitious composites has been found to be the most beneficial as it can be used to replace all solid components of the composite. India has been leading the world in experimenting with plastic-tar roads since the early 2000s. But a growing number of countries are beginning to follow suit. From Netherlands to Ghana, building plastic into roads and pathways is helping to save carbon emissions, keep plastic from the oceans and landfill, and improve the life-expectancy of the average road.
Did You Know Fact: So far 703 km of National Highways in India have been constructed with use of waste plastic in “wearing coat of flexible pavement.”
Many different types of plastics can be added to the mix: disposable cups, carrier bags, hard-to-recycle multi-layer films and polyethylene and polypropylene foams have all found their way into India’s roads, and they don’t have to be sorted or cleaned before shredding. Adding plastic to roads appears to minimise potholes and slow their deterioration.
3.Sustainable projects also help to reduce water runoff as well as soil erosion. They assist in preserving indigenous wildlife and open land.
4.Owing to rampant exploitation of natural resources, it is high time that we switch to sustainable infrastructure development. This will help reduce dependence on natural resources.
5.Developing sustainable infrastructure projects help bring down energy as well as water consumption. Although the cost of sustainable engineering is higher as compared to traditional building methods, the developer can recover the initial cost due to reduced utility and maintenance expenses.
For instance, CRISIL House located in Mumbai has implemented water efficient plumbing fixtures, including water less urinals which have reduced the overall consumption by 80 per cent. Further, the impact on the microclimate is minimal as adequate measures have been taken to address the issue of formation of heat islands from exposed roof and non-roof areas.
6.Structural life spans of the project that are designed keeping in mind sustainability also goes up. This helps developers in cutting down on construction costs. It is safe to say that any sustainable project should remain safe and functional for 200 to 300 years.
7.Minimalist designs allow property owners to add features as and when needed. The design of sustainable projects is such that it facilitates future additions. The floor plans of sustainable projects ensure that space lends itself to multi-purpose utility.
8.It also comes with the benefit of improved community health. With improved air quality, reduction in carbon emission, less energy consumption and usage of renewable energy sources, sustainable infrastructure has tremendous health benefits.
9.Apart from providing a better place to live, sustainable infrastructure development adds to employment prospects. Employment opportunities are created at every step. Job opportunities are aplenty — right from construction to its maintenance. Apart from being the direct source of employment for local labour, it is also a source of income generation for small businessmen who supply materials for construction.
Ways Construction Companies Can Become Sustainable
- Porotherm Smart Bricks
This is an extremely Resource Efficient Brick (REB) that combines precision technology with a sustainable construction process and guarantees fast construction, which saves time, is labour friendly, does not need any water or sand, ensures consistent quality, enhances thermal protection and offers unmatched dimensional tolerance. There is also zero wastage at the building site.
The product is especially beneficial for high rise apartment buildings and has been extensively used across South India for the construction of apartments, educational institutions, villas, independent houses, hospitals, commercial buildings and warehouses.
2. Manufactured Sand
This sand is prepared by crushing hard granite stone, is readily available and reduces transportation costs significantly. It is devoid of impurities that are present in the conventional river sand and gives a stronger foothold during construction.
Several developers in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Kerala have already switched to using manufactured sand in construction activities.
3. Reclaimed or Recycled Metal
Aluminium, for example, is a high embodied energy material due to the energy required to produce them, such as mining the ore, heating and shaping products, and transporting a relatively heavy material. But each time the metal is properly and efficiently reused or recycled into new products, its embodied energy lowers and makes the material more sustainable.
Recycled metal is a long-lasting material that does not need frequent replacement. It tends not to burn or warp, making it a viable option for roofing, structural supports and building façades. It is also water- and pest-resistant.
One of the greatest attributes of wood is that it is a renewable resource, it has low carbon impact and low embodied energy. The amount of energy needed for producing wood products is much less than comparable products made from other materials. Carbon in wood remains stored until the wood deteriorates or is burned.
The requirement for durable and sustainable infrastructure is critical. Even if the world achieves its climate objectives, climate change is already affecting life on the globe, and this is unlikely to change. In the face of growing threats to communities and their ecosystems, robust infrastructure will be critical in strengthening water and energy systems and assuring that societies can survive and recover more rapidly from disasters.
Infrastructure is more than just a method of providing services; it is also a key facilitator and protector of sustainable growth.