A green building is one which uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants compared with a conventional building. Phillip G Bernstein, vice-president, industry strategy and relations, Autodesk Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Solutions, in conversation with Ashish K Tiwari, delves deep into the concept and its contribution to creating sustainable living. Edited excerpts:
Could you throw some light on a green building? How has it really evolved over the years?
I am an architect and practised for a long time before I joined Autodesk. When I was a student in the late 1970s or nearly 1980s, we had just come out of a big energy crisis. What was called a green building back then used to be solar architecture. However, as soon as gas prices went down, the whole idea disappeared. I was talking to one of my professors about the importance of solar architecture. He said it’s just pluming and means nothing. That was 30 years ago. Now, we have this green building movement, which is all about growing awareness of the responsibility of the things that we make and how they affect the environment.
How is the concept different today and what will it be like a decade or so from now?
We are in this middle period where we are trying to think, fighting among ourselves whether it’s important. I think in the third period, which is probably going to start 10 years from now, it will not just be a discussion but a basic part of how buildings should be built. Green buildings are going to become what we would basically do to build these structures.
Has global warming necessitated the concept of green buildings?
I live in New York, my house is surrounded with trees and the city is flooded... It’s all global warming, climate change causes it, there’s too much energy in the atmosphere. That energy is caused by solar radiation being trapped in the energy by carbon.
Buildings produce 40% of the carbon that we put into the atmosphere, it’s as simple as that. My recent discussion, at a green building summit in Hyderabad, was if you are making a building and your obligation is to predict things affecting the environment, the best way to do is to create a digital prototype and test it in a digital format first. What we can do with computers is actually to predict what is going to happen.
What are the elements that make for a green building?
The essence of a green building is one that has a minimum amount of impact on the environment and has a responsible relationship with the environment. A net zero carbon building is one with such a design and construction strategy that it does not consume any energy after everything is set and done.
Is constructing a green building costlier?
No, not necessarily. What I am saying is people are not going to do it out of the goodness in their hearts. So, I build a building which makes a small incremental investment in the infrastructure of a green building. But you would reap better fruits over the life of the building.
How effective is the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)?
They have done a good job. I think, they are on the cusp of really getting this thing going. They claim they have got 1.26 billion square feet of green building area which sounds impressive and at one level, it is. But it’s only a couple of 1,000 buildings.