Vikramjiet Roy, the Managing Director of Maccaferri in India and the Regional CEO of the ISEAP Region (India, South-East Asia & Pacific) of the Officine Maccaferri group, is a first-generation entrepreneur and has close to three decades of experience in businesses – ranging from Industrial Products & Civil Engineering Solutions to Core Infrastructure & Environment Solutions. Mr Roy banks on his people management skills to drive organisational success and his zeal to achieve success and determination to never give up in the face of challenges have helped him to make his dreams into reality.
The construction industry has been a crucial driving force behind India’s economic growth, with an 8% contribution to the GDP. While government construction projects are a major source of development for India’s construction industry, it’s the power production projects, highway development, railway expansion, and export and import cargo that plays a major role in the progress of the fiscal sector.
Cargo contributes around 21%, highway development and expansion contribute 9.8%, and power generation contributes 6.6 %. Government programs such as the creation of 100 smart cities, world-class highways and shipping infrastructure, housing, and urban development have all garnered significant funding from FDI, private investors, and government budgets.
But a resurgence in growth in the construction sector and rising demand for construction materials across all dimensions- environmental depletions are also being noticed more than ever before.
Depletion of natural resources over the past few years owing to infrastructural development
Growth often comes at a cost. Significantly, it did so in the case of India’s economic expansion, which had an undesirable impact on the country’s natural resources such as forests, food, and clean air. The same was highlighted in a report on environmental accounts provided by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
In fact, it claims that over the period 2005-15, when the average growth rate of gross state domestic product (GSDP) for practically all states was about 7-8%, 11 states experienced a drop in natural capital. Only three states saw their natural capital expand by more than 5%, while 13 states saw marginal growth in the range of 0-5%. This economic growth model may not be able to keep the country developing at its current rate for very long. Natural capital monitoring is critical, and it should be one of the determinants of long-term development.
The construction sector’s environmental impact contributes to global warming, with large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane being released during the construction process. Infrastructure development adds to environmental pollution and generates garbage and waste. As the building industry’s output grows, so do its negative consequences.
Water supplies have been severely impacted by climate change. In other areas, the area covered by snow and glaciers has decreased by 24%, according to the report, which also mentions the impact of climate change on wetlands and water bodies in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Jammu Kashmir. Furthermore, excessive groundwater exploitation is causing water levels to drop in Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, and Rajasthan. In practically all states, the rate of growth of forest stock has slowed by more than 10% in the last few years. Except for Goa and Sikkim, all states witnessed a drop from 2006-07 to 2010-11.
The need for sustainable and eco-efficient construction materials
Construction has a wide range of societal implications. Construction methods, materials, and activities all have an impact on the environment. Climate change is exacerbated by construction initiatives. The sector is responsible for 25 to 40% of global carbon emissions. Commercial building emissions are expected to increase by 1.8% by 2030, according to estimates.
Minerals used for construction materials are extracted in mining initiatives. Companies then transfer these resources to various locations throughout the globe. Both processes consume fossil fuels, and fossil fuel burning emits greenhouse gases. Climate change has become a threat to not only human life but also to the broader ecosystem and overall biodiversity. Therefore, our priority should be to accelerate our research on the development and widespread usage of sustainable construction materials.
The world is increasingly depending on companies to make sustainable choices. Companies undertake measures to decouple growth from their environmental footprint and focus on eco-friendly operations, manufacturing facilities and activities with the objective of minimising the impact of operations on and nurturing biodiversity. Experts highly anticipate that the call for sustainable infrastructure materials in the industry can drive market demand.
Better use of materials: reuse, recycle and waste minimization
Waste minimization is the most environmentally preferred way for decreasing waste at the source. It can take numerous forms, such as reusing materials, purchasing in bulk, decreasing packaging, and lowering toxicity. In the construction sector, source reduction is a significant approach, given that it prevents the production of waste in the first place.
Recovering used but valuable construction materials for reuse is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to save money and conserve natural resources while reducing carbon footprint. Deconstruction can be utilized in a variety of ways to recover useable resources and reduce waste. In simpler terms the more we re-use products, the less we acquire new products and deplete world resources.
Sustainable buildings can be equipped with systems that can collect, store and use natural resources basis requirements. Methods like collecting rainwater using solar energy via solar panels and others have gained popularity owing to the increased awareness of the environmental consequences of the construction process.
Source reduction can help consumers and businesses save money by conserving natural resources, conserving energy, reducing pollution, reducing the toxicity of waste, and conserving natural resources.
Eco-friendly construction products
The creation of construction materials and goods uses energy and raw materials. GHG emissions and their environmental repercussions are strongly tied to energy usage in the manufacturing and transportation of building materials.
Aside from satisfying energy demand, material resources for long-term expansion are another key consideration. Recent reports suggest that in about 60 years from now, a major portion of India’s fertile topsoil will fall prey to complete consumption, courtesy of burnt clay brick manufacturing measures. This estimation is projected based on an assumed 5% compounded growth rate.
Aggregates, where natural stones and rocky outcrops, as well as riverbeds, are used indiscriminately, raise similar arguments. The current way of building material production and consumption, as well as current construction practices, are both problematic in terms of their long-term viability.
The key to driving a sustainable construction campaign is to bring into action a wide range of carbon-neutral construction products, such as the follows:
Geosynthetics: used for countless applications including strengthening existing ground, improve its bearing capacity, make highways last longer, support embankments, stop landfill leachates contaminating the ground and limit erosion. With defined technical characteristics and performance properties, geosynthetics are replacing the use of natural materials within construction. They are proven to reduce project cost and environmental impact compared with the traditional construction method
Blended cement: A research report has found that by 2030, CO2 emissions from the cement/concrete sector can be considerably reduced if blended cement is used. By 2030, CO2 emissions will have reached 94,00,00,000 tonnes, the same level as in 1990, despite a significant rise in the total volume of concrete consumed.
Stabilized mud blocks (SMB): Burnt clay bricks are made by heating processed clay to a high temperature and then burning it. Clay minerals go through irreversible transformations that give the brick its strength at the expense of a lot of energy. Stabilized mud blocks (SMB) are a low-energy, low-carbon alternative to burnt clay bricks. These solid blocks are made by compacting soil, sand, stabilizer (cement/lime), and water mixture.
By its very nature, the construction industry is one of the largest contributors to waste produced in India and the world. The increase in the number of natural disasters like landslides, weather disruptions, earthquakes, cloud bursts, etc., is another testament to how much our lives are impacted by the environmental changes around us. Because of growing concerns about climate change and the finite nature of resources, the necessity for and importance of sustainability in construction has become a contentious topic. As a result, construction companies are under more pressure to decrease their environmental impact.
In this regard, it’s worth noting that the government should also take appropriate measures to improve the country’s sustainability vision. Together, we can build a more environmental-friendly ecosystem for which our future generation, as well as Mother Nature, will bless us.