India’s Building Investors, Sustainability Advocates & ‘Life Cycle Thinking’

The backbone conversation of India’s green building movement has been the reduction of building operational energy. The reduction of operational energy not only provides an opportunity to the building owners to reduce recurring utility costs; but it also aligns with the demand of the day to stay sustainable, as energy consumption in buildings continues to have the largest CO2 impact on the environment. Harish Borah of ADW Developments writes …

UNEP-GABC recognises that the energy use in buildings and for building construction represents more than 1/3rd of global final energy consumption & contributes to nearly 1/4th of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions worldwide.

India holds a critical position in this dialogue. With a rapidly growing population & purchasing power, an exponential increase in the national building floor area is projected which will drive the energy demand of the building stock and related GHG emissions from construction.

The Indian government has attempted policy interventions; and has further recognised green building certificate bodies to provide guideline and support building investors and owners to facilitate sustainable design routes.

However, the reality is far more complex. Corporates find themselves in a unique situation; especially those who operate and maintain their facilities. While acknowledging the need for sustainability, building investors and owners are often at crossroads – as ensuring business profits hold priority, in our free-market economy.

Building investors and owners, hence, need to evaluate their building investment decisions wisely, not limiting themselves to the capital cost of building, but also focusing of design interventions that lower operating cost of the building.

Emphasising on minimal initial costs and not paying enough attention to the whole building life, especially building’s in-use phase, has traditionally led to higher costs – both environmentally and economically – for the environment and the building owner, respectively.

To achieve sustainable, long-term solutions and economic viability – engineers, designers, and policymakers must account for all economic and environmental costs over the lifetime of a project and need the right tools and approaches to do so.

The challenge for the building investors and owners is further complicated by a plethora of ‘green’ products and energy-saving framework recommendations that have populated the ecosystem. This has complicated the decision-making process since there cannot be a one-sustainable-approach-fits-all model. Each building is different – varying largely depending on climatic condition, operational purpose and operational schedule.

Life Cycle Thinking allows for this strategic intervention, in the building design process. It allows building owners and investors to determine the economic cost of their sustainable design undertaking – whether new built or retrofitting. 

‘Life Cycle Thinking’ has proved very effective at a time, when funding resources are scarce and business needs are great. ‘Life Cycle Thinking’ can assist to reach the answers to many important questions, such as:

  • What is the long term financial and carbon implications of the recommended design?
  • How does the premium payment of a ‘sustainable design solution/intervention’ affect the building’s operating cash flow? Can the investment be justified on financial grounds, and what is the payback period?
  • What is the future fund that the owner must maintain to run the building operations smoothly?
  • How should the building maintenance schedules be optimised to ensure long building life at minimum cost?

In the current circumstances, ‘Life Cycle Thinking’ has emerged as a critical tool in empowering building investors and owners to compare and look for the optimally suited design and specification alternatives within their financial capabilities and ambitions. It clearly, becomes the cohesive ‘business case’ of the ‘sustainable endeavours’.

You can contact Harish at harish.borah[at]

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