Eco-Architecture experiment- "Athena", Gurgaon, India

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Case for Green Entrepreneurship

Aashish V. Karode, B.Arch.; M.U.D. (Berkeley)Principal, Planning and Design Services
Design Atelier Architects – New Delhi

Current scientific research across the globe suggests today that it would be prudent to remove 80 percent of the carbon from the economy by 2050. As an architect that designs buildings and company townships, helping businesses achieve sustainable environments that are economically viable, are attractive to buyers and tenants through great end user solutions that optimize the use of energy and water, I should be very excited to learn that improved performance in architecture and urban design could add considerable value, given that 60% of the power/water consumed is accounted for by cities and of that 60% of power by the air-conditioning of buildings.

Using conservative design methods, a potentially staggering impact on the power-water consumption of the country could result if effective ways are found to support change in products and processes across the built environment. Imagine if buildings could be designed to be used through the day without electrical lights, or to run air-conditioning needs on pre-cooled recycled water or to use all natural and paid resources conservatively and then say multiply this model to the entire city to gauge the impact. In the United States, statistics suggest that that for every 1 calorie of consumption, 9 calories are used in production. In comparison, Russia has a ratio of 1:1. It is obvious from here that it is imperative to address these issues, even if simply to achieve a simple long term competitive advantage. Several years ago, the BMW Group, issued a Sustainable Value Report detailing energy consumed, water consumed, waste removed, and volatile organic compounds per vehicle produced. Scoring high in all these categories, BMW today believes that its reputation as the world's "greenest" car company plays an important role in brand awareness and customer satisfaction, factors that contribute to its revenue growth.

Similarly, building a sustainable society requires societal expectations from government and businesses grow to include their green credentials- that governments and businesses be committed to sustainable strategies. In fact, many of the environmental challenges we face are a result of assuming that environmental goods and services like electricity, air-conditioning , emissions, are cheap, and water, wastes, or topsoil are free. Activities undertaken by businesses that enhance their value in society and thus benefit their reputation and brand will create a win-win for the business and its larger group of stakeholders. Today, increasing social expectations regarding a business's commitment to sustainability will ensure that ignoring this will entail a business risk.

In practice there are enormous barriers that organisations face in making efficient use of resources or investing in sustainable technologies. Of the major barriers is first, that they doubt the technologies and the thinking can deliver returns and what they cost in comparison to the conventional technology. The second is that they think customers won't support the change because the current product at currently affordable prices is satisfactory. The third is that they imagine a negative impact on revenue if more capital is required to implement energy and water savings. And the fourth is they don't want to change the way their process already runs. But this change is about building a commitment to a sustainable society. It is symbolised by contributing to a sustainable strategy that will create value for the country over the long term. Just as Indian businesses have learnt to optimise capital and labour for cost savings and have got so very good at optimising them, now they should have an additional ethical obligation to practice their businesses with a lighter environmental touch.

Today what we need to learn to do is optimize the use of energy and water. There are enormous opportunities in tightening up processes to transform the built environment, in particular through how we deal with energy. It is a massive undertaking, and it is going to touch nearly every aspect of our lives, but it is also going to be an incredible source of opportunity for entrepreneurial activity.

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