Green Building and Indoor air quality

Why Green and Natural Building materials should be your choice

Building materials can play a role in healthy indoor environment. Green building materials like clay can significantly improve indoor air in the sense that they don’t emit any pollutants or allergens. Clay can also regulate moisture, while contributing to healthy indoor air and to the overall wellbeing of the inhabitants.

A green building creates a positive impact on the climate and environment. They help preserve precious natural resources and improve the quality of life of occupants. 

Green building materials like clay can significantly improve indoor air because they don’t emit any pollutants or allergens. Green building materials can also regulate moisture while contributing to healthy indoor air and the overall well-being of the inhabitants.

Any building can be 'green' if it includes some or all of the features listed. Different countries have set parameters when it comes to defining a green building. Here are some features that make a building ‘green’:

●      Efficient and effective use of energy and natural resources

●      Use of renewable energy

●      Waste and pollution reduction measures

●      Good quality of air indoors

●      Non-toxic and sustainable materials given importance

●      Conscious consideration of the environment in all aspects

●      An adaptable design that caters to the changing needs of the environment

Apart from sustainability and aesthetics, green and natural building materials offer numerous benefits:

1. Improve indoor air quality for homes and offices

People spend approximately 90% of their lifetime indoors. In the last few decades the awareness and adoption of green building materials and its effect on inhabitants as well as the environment has only increased. In this context, the importance given to indoor air quality is fast gaining acceptance and relevance especially in the context of health issues such as asthma or allergies which are rampant. Due to increasingly tight building envelopes, highly polluted urban environment, the circulation of air and energy efficiency of a building is a matter of concern for builders, urban planners and home dwellers. Hence the right selection of building material becomes imperative at a fundamental level. 

2.  Impact on the environment

The very purpose of a green building is to complement the environment. Using a green and natural building material during construction aids the climate and the natural environment to a great extent, as it judiciously uses the available resources. When countries begin embracing green and natural building materials, it creates an impact at the global level. According to UNEP's 2016 report, the building sector has the potential to make energy savings of 50% or more in 2050, assisting in the limiting of increasing global temperature. Green buildings help reduce carbon, water, energy and waste. By improving energy efficiency, green buildings also help reduce indoor air pollutants. Water-efficiency efforts in green buildings help reduce water use and promote rainwater capture, as well as the use of non-potable sources. With sustainability being the need of the hour, green buildings help building owners and managers, architects, developers and product manufacturers navigate towards a more holistic and eco-friendly way of living. 

3. Economic benefits of green and natural building materials

Construction costs  in the case of green building materials  like clay tends to be reasonable as it  allows flexible and precise construction in a short period of time and with low material input. They are less likely to suffer from expensive structural defects – that saves both time and money.  Green buildings are extremely durable and maintenance-free. Due to its excellent thermal insulation properties, clay as a green building material contributes to minimizing energy and heating costs. This is why building a house built with green building materials is always a first class investment.

According to the World Green Building Council, Green buildings certified by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) results in energy savings of 40 - 50% and water savings of 20 - 30% compared to conventional buildings in India. The council also highlights that green buildings command a 7% increase in asset value over traditional buildings.

Here’s how green building materials like clay can offer an advantage over other conventional masonry materials:

  • Green building materials like clay are made of  natural minerals and free from air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, flame retardants and terpenes, etc. As a result, indoor air in a building using clay building material is healthy and doesn´t provoke allergies, tiredness and headaches. '
  • Natural building materials like clay are naturally obtained and hence utilizes minimally processed, non-toxic materials making it non- polluting, safe and long lasting.
  • Clay building materials contribute to a healthy environment as they have capacity to absorb excessive air humidity and release it when conditions become dry again. Clay building materials absorb room  air humidity and regulate moisture in a natural way. Moisture can evaporate due to the open and porous structure of ceramic and capillarity actions. 
  • Using clay as building material for homes and offices translates to an indoor climate that does not require expensive mechanical ventilation systems to regulate indoor air quality and reduces the risk of mould. Fired clay is a dry material that has a natural propensity to absorb and release humidity from the atmosphere to help keep humidity at a required 40-60 per cent level for healthy living

To improve indoor air quality,  the concentration of pollution as a result of  building materials must be kept under control. Developers and construction companies aiming to achieve certifications like  LEED or IGBC, can greatly benefit by investing in the right walling material to improve indoor air quality.

In today’s world, it is pretty evident that green and natural building materials offer numerous benefits. They are effective to achieve a wide range of global goals like addressing climate change, creating a sustainable community and driving economic growth. Developers and construction companies aiming to attain certifications like LEED or IGBC can significantly benefit by investing in the right walling material to improve indoor air quality.

It is time to take inspiration from ancient buildings built with natural building materials like clay, using sustainable design. Buildings of the future must embrace sustainability and green building principles by achieving maximum living comfort. 

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