Sustainable Construction:
Building a Strong Future


The World Habitat Day on the October 3 this year is yet another reminder that there are scores of people in the world who do not have a home. Informal estimates indicate that over a billion people across the world are in need of a decent shelter. In rural areas of India alone, housing shortage has been estimated at about 40 million. There are two challenges ahead of us: one, how do we keep construction costs within the limits of affordability of an average rural family so that families can access housing on their own initiative and two, how do we ensure that construction materials and processes are environmentally sustainable

Often these two are seen in conflict with each other. The main challenge for us, therefore, is to find out solutions which help create conditions so that cost optimisation and environmental concerns become complimentary to each other.

The search for such solutions is not new. For several decades now, different stakeholders have developed building materials, technologies and housing delivery models that address the concerns of affordability and environmental sustainability. However, these models have been at a rather small scale and have developed independent of each other. Due to lack of awareness about environment degradation, coupled with the lack of community action even among aware groups, new technologies have not taken ground among average Indians. It is, therefore, important that we look at ways of scaling up and mainstreaming these innovations by increasing their acceptability in the society.

For poorer segments, a house is not only a shelter. It is rather a symbol of a better life having been achieved. The approach of such households to innovative materials and technologies is influenced by the building typology of the more affluent neighbours who have invariably used conventional materials and technologies to construct their own houses. As the benefits of innovative technologies remain hidden from the average homeowners, they are unsure of the usability and long term sustainability as well as longevity of these technology solutions. They are not comfortable with alternate technologies presuming that if alternate technologies were better than conventional technologies, richer neighbours with better access to information and resources would have used them instead of conventional ones.

There is an urgent need to act at two levels: at the level of policy and at the field level. At the policy level, we need a structured approach to formalise the use of innovative material and technologies through standardisation and their inclusion in the state Schedule of Rates. At the field level, we need to popularise technologies that help in sustainable development. There is also an urgent need to promote systems for local production and supply as well as ensure availability of enough number of skilled workers in the construction sector who know working with these technologies.

Over the years, the discourse has evolved through closer interaction between various stakeholders involved in the process of housing delivery. Given the visible and shared commitment of these stakeholders towards ‘affordable housing for all’, we can be optimistic that we will hopefully manage to walk the talk, with a lower carbon foot print. q


Sanjay K Rakesh
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Rural Development
Government of India


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