Sri Lanka went through several developments in infrastructure during the past few years, and many more are yet to come. However, could these continuous constructions pose a threat to Sri Lanka’s natural resources? Many concerns do arise regarding the tug-o-war relationship between the environment and man made constructions. In response to the concerns voiced, an interesting new building concept known as ‘Green Building’ is being recommended by professionals in the construction field.
The ‘Green Building’ concept is one which could create a steady balance between building profitable constructions and conserving mother nature.
On August 28, several professionals in the field gathered at the University Grants Commission Auditorium, to discuss the benefits of ‘Green Technology’. The speakers spoke on the current problems that traditional buildings comprise of, and explained the relative solutions that ‘Green Building’ technology has to offer.
The GREEN CONCEPT and Sri Lanka’s potential
In contrast to popular thought, the concept of green technology involves much more than growing trees around and inside buildings. It requires a scientific approach and many detailed calculations. Basically ‘green building’ concerns 3 principles: ‘Energy efficiency’, ‘Environmental Stewardships’ and ‘Occupant comfort and well-being’.
To ensure the construction satisfies the principles, several ‘checklist’ systems exist. By ‘awarding points’ whenever the project meets the required criteria, the building could be certified as a ‘green building’. Leading certificate systems are the LEED (Leadership in energy and environmental efficient design) and SLGBC. Professor Thishan Jayasinghe from the University of Moratuwa stated that ‘Green is the future for survival and hence needs a lot of research work.’ He mentioned how Sri Lanka was an ideal candidate for green building due to its favourable climate conditions and availability of resources. Therefore, it is a necessity to improve funding for universities to carry out research in green technology. He added. “If you want to be sustainable, you should spend at least 20% on research. We need to test the big structures.”
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH TRADITIONAL BUILDINGS
Architects and engineers are two groups of professionals in the construction field who clash in the exchange of ideas. A topic often brought up at the seminar, was the stream of extraordinary constructions that were possible if engineers and architects link up. Together they could address the problems in traditional constructions and promote ‘green buildings’.
A huge drawback of most traditional buildings is that in addition to the capital building costs, the maintenance cost is also very high. These operational costs are largely due to the usage of energy to cover up other shortcomings in the building.
These shortcomings include, overheating, inefficient ventilation systems, excessive solar glare and sometimes insufficient light.
Inconsiderate buildings could also result in ‘sick building syndrome’ which is a situation in which a sick person’s health is affected due to the building’s condition. In order to create comfortable lodging, the environmental factors should be taken into account. Whilst most Sri Lankan buildings have an internal temperature of around 33 degrees celsius, through BIO CLIMATIC design, preferable temperatures of 26 to 29 degrees celsius could be reached. Proper building designs could also drastically reduce the usage of energy.
At the conference, architect Dr. Upendra Rajapaksa stated that 40% of greenhouse gases are from buildings. He suggested that architects should strive to design carbon neutral buildings.
SOLUTIONS PROVIDED THROUGH GREEN TECHNOLOGY
In addition to sustainable building designs, green technology is also a scope which researches and provides material solutions for engineers. Looking at
historical sites (such as the Galle Fort), we find ancient architectures have provided ‘thermal comfort’ without the advanced air conditioning systems of today. Research engineers in Sri Lanka studying these age old designs, aim to introduce new Green materials and reduce the use of materials like concrete which is expensive considering a lot of environment resources are spent.
By testing natural resources engineers have discovered that earth is a promising alternative sustainable material. Ancient buildings which used ‘mud’ as a thermal mass, encouraged researchers to search for alternatives as well.
Thereby Cement stabilized earth blocks (CSEB) which contains gravel, sand,silt and clay were created. These blocks proved strong even when tested with different types of block bondings.
Another innovation was the ‘rammed earth wall’ which provided the lowest indoor temperature. Though some may argue that these walls are not strong enough to last long, Professor Jayasinghe asked ‘Why do we make structures that last for 1000 years if we live only for a 100 years?’
Other sustainable materials discussed were : micro concrete tiles, Durra boards, a new type of cement dust which is more efficient, and Ginikuru timber which is much cheaper than the ordinary timber and lasts longer. Following the discussions, Green Building consultant Mr. Keerthi Rathnayake demonstrated several examples of ‘Green Buildings’ in Sri Lanka. The Nanotechnology centre of excellence, situated at Homagama is among the greatest green projects in Sri Lanka. It was awarded the LEED PLATINUM award on March 30, 2015. As per the LEEDs system it is among the 0.5% of PLATINUM award worthy green buildings in the world.
The regional HNB office in Jaffna is another great build. It had been awarded the LEEDs GOLD award in the year 2009. The ‘Cinnamon Bey’ hotel in Beruwela was also awarded the LEEDs Gold certificate and became the first ever Sri Lankan hotel to do so.
As stated by Professor Jayasinghe “Unlike in western countries where the risk of paying for project losses, Sri Lanka’s chances for innovations is higher.”
There is no need for Sri Lanka to imitate other countries. Sri Lanka has the potential to lead in the field of ‘green technology’. It simply requires professionals who are willing to think out of the box and develop our technology. With the necessary research carried out, Sri Lanka can be made a centre of Green Technology.