In the last few decades, Earth’s climate has been changing at an unforeseen pace as a result of anthropogenic activity. Scientific evidence shows that it all began with the industrial revolution and was driven by the ever increasing consumption of fossil fuels. When temperatures started rising globally and extreme weather events began to occur at greater frequencies, scientists and environmentalists around the world scrambled to figure a way to measure the human impact on the environment.
The concepts of carbon and water footprints were brought to light about a decade ago. The term ‘carbon footprint’ has gained popularity over the decade. Widely accepted and used by the public and media, it describes greenhouse gas emission measurement using various calculation methods and approaches. The birth of the term ‘water footprint’ can be traced back to 2008, but is fast gaining importance and popularity among the media and public now.
The ‘carbon footprint’ (CF) has evolved into a popular tool used to estimate the effects of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from human activities. With the increasing concern about climate change and global warming – governments, businesses and consumers alike, are looking at ways to reduce the impact. The two commonly used response strategies are reduction and offsetting. Reduction covers the undertaking of activities in a less carbon-intensive way whereas offsetting refers to taking external actions to compensate.
Around the world today, there are increasing mentions of the term ‘water crises’ and the eventual impact of it on all sectors of the economy. Water crises pose an immense threat to food security. Freshwater of good quality and quantity is prerequisite for human development as well as the balance of natural ecosystems. The unsustainable use and exploitation of freshwater resources is gradually leading to the depletion of ground water, rivers running dry, and water quality deterioration. The strategies of ‘reduction’ and ‘offsetting’ apply to water footprint as well.
Both the concepts have been greatly accepted by various industries to varying degrees. The biggest driving force however, has been the real estate sector with increasing numbers of Green buildings cropping up in urban India. The goal of Green Buildings is to leave behind smaller carbon and water footprints without compromising on utility and comfort. A green building is designed for efficiency not only during its operation and maintenance but also during other stages of its lifecycle, such as construction, redevelopment and even demolition.
Initiatives are being driven by public demand and responsible developers with support from reforms in government policies. Both regional and national developers in India have responded with a wide range of new projects. Constructions of new green spaces for office buildings, residential projects and retail malls is currently underway in urban areas throughout the country.
Many real estate companies are committing to make all new projects with a more sustainable footprint. This is commonly achieved through effective use of solar energy in common areas, rain water harvesting, used water filtration systems and to a great extent, through innovation in design and architecture. Most green buildings optimize natural lighting and ventilation to create a comfortable environment without having to use great amounts on energy in creating the ambience.
The government has also shown their support at various levels with The Government of India’s proposition to develop all new Government buildings as energy efficient spaces. These initiatives breathe fresh motivation to work towards a greener way, towards integrated sustainable development.