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Building India’s green construction sector

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

Neeraj Akhoury, CEO India Holcim Group and MD & CEO, Ambuja Cements Ltd:

“A host of sectors like cement, steel and power are coming together to create a green construction sector in India."

"Very few among us think about the construction sector when we talk about ecology and sustainability. More often than not, what first comes to our mind are sectors like automotive, utility, steel or mining. But a ‘composite’ industry like construction that takes inputs from several other big sectors like cement and steel accounts for nearly 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

We are talking about the construction sector, which comprises not just homes, offices and factories but also massive infrastructure projects that are currently under development, including roads, airports, dams, bridges and a countrywide network of metro rail in tier 1 and tier 2 cities. The most recent union budget had increased allocation towards the capital expenditure of infrastructure to Rs 5.54 lakh crore or around 34% more than what was allocated in 2020 – 21, that will be spent mostly road and rail projects. A further Rs 55 000 crore is going to be spent on public housing projects this year.

From a growth point of view, all of this is certainly great news for the construction sector. But it also means that pressure on the environment is going to increase proportionately, if not more. A 2010 estimate by McKinsey Global Institute has estimated the population in urban India to grow by around 250 million that will need 700-900 million m2 of new residential and commercial space.

The good news is key sectors that make up the construction sector including steel, power and cement and the larger build materials sector etc., have started shifting towards greener alternatives both in terms of products and the manufacturing process.

The scope for creating a more sustainable construction sector is quite immense and use of environment friendly-building materials is but one important part of it. The centre piece of the sustainability initiatives in these sectors is largely driven by a relatively new idea called circular economy that is based on 3Rs i.e., reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The idea of circular economy within the construction sector is also catching up in a big way through an increased use of recycled building material, and more sustainable processes that allow us to build more with less input including water, energy etc. A science-driven approach to creating more sustainable building materials is also fast catching in India and is pushing manufacturers to work closely with the academia through outcome-driven partnerships. The steel and cement sectors are leading the way here.

The consumer side of this story is also equally fascinating. Today’s consumers, in both residential and commercial spaces, are playing an active and vital role to ensure that their contribution to the carbon footprint is also minimal. New solutions like rooftop solar backed by net metering systems are fast catching up in a variety of user groups including household, factories and commercial buildings. Demand for green buildings is also picking a lot of pace in recent years. What started as a trickle at the turn of the new millennium has grown to more than 7.5 billion sq. ft. of green built-up space today making India one of the largest and fastest growing markets for green buildings around the world. The Indian Green Building Council expects to meet the 10 billion sq. ft. target by next year, when Independent India will turn 75.

The prognosis looks very encouraging. It is only a matter of time before green construction will be completely mainstreamed and made affordable to the mass markets too. Given the scale of opportunities in India, that should make us a leader in green construction.”

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India cement news Construction news