Urban Prawl Necessitates Green Buildings Adoption in Nepal

Kathmandu

The unchecked urban sprawl has led to myriad challenges ranging from severe energy crisis, environmental pollution, poor solid waste management to deteriorating quality of life of the city denizens. And Nepal is not an exception.

As the environmental impacts of buildings become more apparent, planners in the country have started discussing the concept of green homes to create healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.

The maze of unmanaged infrastructure development has not only put pressure on natural resources such as water, soil and energy sources, but has also contributed to the increase in the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases over the years. According to the United Nations statistics, buildings emit 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases and contribute to 40 percent of solid waste.

According to Mahendra Subba, director general at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, there is a growing consensus among policymakers, planners and development partners to work on transforming the existing housing sector from conventional brick-concrete buildings into more eco-friendly and sustainable development structures for both human well-being and local environment.

The department has prioritised green building promotion in the national housing policy and finalised a draft on the green building guideline.

The housing sector in the country is so far based on wet construction which means consumption of more water, sand as construction materials and such buildings perform poorly in severe temperatures. To minimise the pressure on natural resources and energy consumption patterns, the government has started to employ dry construction method to build government buildings to cut down on the use of water and energy during construction, Subba said. At the same time, emphasis has also been made to install solar roof tops and panels, rainwater harvesting, ground water recharge systems and waste treatment systems while constructing new government buildings in the recent times, Subba added, “We are also trying to incorporate the green homes concept in the existing building codes for the private and commercial buildings.”

Meanwhile, it is estimated that an additional one million houses will be required in the decade of 2011 to shelter the growing urban population in the valley. While the average urban population growth rate of the country stands at around 6 percent since 1970s, the Kathmandu Valley continues to sustain a fast pace of population growth at about 4.3 percent per year. Though the concept of green buildings is relatively new to the country and its people to work on, neighbouring countries India and China have already excelled themselves towards the sustainable path. India, which got its first certified green building in 2003, has the second highest number of green buildings per square foot after the United States. Similarly, China in its 12th five-year plan (2011-2015) has pledged to ensure all new buildings reduce energy use by 65 percent and have one-third of all new buildings green by 2020. Other countries like Japan and Singapore have also pledged to go for green and energy-efficient buildings in the coming years.

Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at the Ministry of Urban Development, said that though the green architecture and energy efficient buildings are the need of the hour to move towards the sustainable development path, they have to be safer and cost-effective at the same time. “There is a need to localise the green homes model so that the technologies could be easily replicated and adapted by the public,” Acharya added. “Around 60 percent of households in Nepal are still using green construction materials, but we need to employ new technologies and raise awareness programmes to ensure promotion of sustainable housing systems in the country.”

 

Source: Ekantipur

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