As Pakistan’s construction industry continues to evolve, we are witness to the many changes that are happening in terms of the building materials we use and – more importantly, how we use them.
A decade ago, generic materials were mostly used in construction, but as times changed, we understood that it is not only the cost of construction at the time the structure is built that has to be accounted for; of equal importance is the long-term impact of the materials used and how they affect us. Green and sustainable architecture is critical in today’s world, especially since the cost of electricity is going up and natural resources like water are becoming scarce. So how do we save energy and water and at the same time use building materials that are sustainable?
1. Using glass correctly can save energy, as heat absorbency from windows is one of the primary factors that increases temperatures inside buildings. North light is softer and south light is harsher and brings in more heat. Hence, we use low heat absorbency glass for the south side and a less heat resistant glass on the north side of façades to reduce electricity costs. Double walls and roofs can help reduce inner temperatures, and translates into lower usage of air conditioners.
2. Lighting is a major source of heat. We started with regular incandescent bulbs and moved on to energy savers. LED lights are predominantly used in most homes and office buildings. The heat generated from LED lights is much lower and this helps curtail the cost of air conditioning.
“Green and sustainable architecture is critical in today’s world, especially since the cost of electricity is going up and natural resources like water are becoming scarce.
3. Tiles have made a huge difference to the industry. Tiles that look like marble made by reliable manufacturers are of high quality and available in eye-catching patterns. These tiles can reduce the depletion of marble.
4. Inverter air conditioning systems provide significant cost savings. Once they achieve the desired temperature on the thermostat, they switch to fan mode, thereby reducing power consumption.
5. Wood is expensive and is becoming a rare commodity because we cannot cut down trees in forests anymore. A number of new products are available that resemble wood and can be used for windows, pergolas, railings and even gates. These products are manufactured with a material that uses resin, plastic and other substances. Although expensive in the long run these products prove to be economical as they do not require costly maintenance and do not split like regular wood tends to do in harsh climates. Another material gaining traction is Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride (UPC) as a substitute for wood and is extensively used for windows.
6. Water is a scarce commodity and we are recycling it in different ways. Grey water (used water from sinks and showers) is recycled not only for landscaping but in developing countries it is used for drinking after treatment with the proper equipment. Black water (waste from WCs), which is categorised as sewerage water, is also being cleaned at treatment plants to be used in gardens, streets, homes and other buildings – and in some developing countries, it is treated and used as drinking water. Rain water is also being harvested and treated for the purposes mentioned earlier. Ground water can be treated using RO plants and used for domestic use as well as for landscaping. New technologies have been developed to ensure that less water is used via fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens. The simple use of sensor taps in sinks/basins reduces water waste by 40% to 70%.
Adil Kerai is Partner, Habib Fida Ali.