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Green Construction
Education and Awareness Raising Governance and Assessment Methodologies Technology for Action

Introduction to Green Construction

Hari Srinivas
Concept Note Series E-030. June 2015.

Buildings, infrastructure and the environment are inextricably linked. Energy, materials, water and land are all consumed in the construction and operation of buildings and infrastructure. These built structures in turn become part of our living environment, affecting our living conditions, social well-being and health.

It is therefore important to explore environmentally and economically sound design and development techniques in order to design buildings and infrastructure that are sustainable, healthy and affordable, and encourage innovation in buildings and infrastructure systems and designs.

Expanding Dimensions of the Built Environment

The concept of sustainability in building and construction has evolved over many years. The initial focus was on how to deal with the issue of limited resources, especially energy, and on how to reduce impacts on the natural environment. Emphasis was placed on technical issues such as materials, building components, construction technologies and energy related design concepts.

More recently, an appreciation of the significance of non-technical issues has grown. It is now recognised that economic and social sustainability are important, as are the cultural heritage aspects of the built environment.

Still, sustainable or 'green' construction adopts different approaches and is accorded different priorities in different countries. It is not surprising that there are widely divergent views and interpretations between countries with developed market economies and those with developing economies.

Countries with mature economies are in the position of being able to devote greater attention to creating more green buildings by upgrading the existing building stock through the application of new developments or the invention and use of innovative technologies for energy and material savings, while developing countries are more likely to focus on social equality and economic sustainability.

Architecture, construction and the environment are inextricably linked - energy, materials, water and land are all impacted and/or consumed in the design, development, construction and operation of buildings.

Key Principles of Green Constrcution

  1. Energy Efficiency:
    Green buildings are designed to minimize energy consumption and optimize energy performance. This involves incorporating energy-efficient appliances, lighting systems, insulation, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, as well as utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power.

  2. Water Conservation:
    Green construction emphasizes reducing water consumption through the use of water-efficient fixtures, rainwater harvesting systems, greywater recycling, and landscaping practices that require minimal irrigation.

  3. Sustainable Materials:
    The use of sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials is a core aspect of green construction. This includes selecting materials with low embodied energy, utilizing recycled or reclaimed materials, and opting for locally sourced materials to reduce transportation-related emissions.

  4. Indoor Environmental Quality:
    Green buildings prioritize the health and comfort of occupants by improving indoor air quality, enhancing natural lighting, controlling noise pollution, and utilizing non-toxic and low-emission materials. This promotes occupant well-being, productivity, and reduces potential health risks.

  5. Waste Reduction and Recycling:
    Green construction promotes waste reduction through efficient construction practices, recycling and reusing materials, and implementing proper waste management systems to divert construction and demolition waste from landfills.

  6. Site and Land Use:
    Green buildings consider the site's impact on the surrounding environment. They strive to minimize disruption to ecosystems, preserve natural features, and optimize site selection, orientation, and landscaping for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Benefits of Green Construction Green construction offers numerous benefits, including:
  • Energy cost savings through reduced energy consumption.
  • Lower environmental impact, including decreased greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Improved indoor air quality and occupant health.
  • Increased property value and marketability.
  • Enhanced occupant comfort and well-being.
  • Conservation of water resources.
  • Reduced construction and operational waste.
  • Compliance with environmental regulations and certifications.

Green construction is a way for the building industry to move towards achieving sustainable development, taking into account environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues. Specifically, it involves issues such as design and management of buildings, materials and building performance, energy and resource consumption - within the larger orbit of urban development and management.

The key need here is to look at appropriate tools and concepts for the design and assessment of the sustainability impacts of materials, components and technologies used in buildings and their construction. We need to develop a better understanding of the appropriateness of technologies that is used in buildings and for construction, including indigenous materials and technologies currently being used.

By networking with other organizations and institutions, we need to develop capacity in terms of education, knowledge and experience to use the materials, technologies, and tools for sustainable construction. This also includes related issues such as regulatory systems, institutional structures, market incentives, socio-economic and historical aspects.

Ultimately, it is the broad involvement of all concerned stakeholders in the process of adoption and implementation of green construction principles, that will drive sustainability in the sector.

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