Tropical Green Building: 6 ways to reduce construction and maintenance costs

Tropical Green Building refers to a set of environment-friendly practices to suit the unique conditions of creating buildings in tropical climates. Hot summers, heavy monsoons, and mild winters – ahallmarks of a tropical climate – calls for the use of responsible, resource-efficient materials and building practices, so the structure is comfortable to live in for residents throughout the year.

Tropical green building ideas have begun attracting interest in countries like India, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and parts of Australia, owing to the scarcity of natural resources, the rising costs of energy and materials, and the very real effects of climate change.

While green building principles guide architecture even in temperate climates, the methods of construction in the tropics focus on keeping buildings cool in summer, preventing mosquito and other insect infestation, preventing mould and damp, and reducing maintenance costs for property owners throughout the lifecycle of the building. Buildings constructed keeping in mind the unique needs of their tropical settings have given rise to innovative techniques and materials. While they improve the health and comfort of occupants, they also conserve water and bring down costs associated with repair, maintenance, lighting and air conditioning.

This style of building needs close cooperation between property owners, architects, engineers, and designers. Collaboration is required at every stage, from site selection to material choice and procurement, and project execution.

Some approaches to tropical green building

  1. Site selection to maximise ventilation and take advantage of natural air circulation is an important component of tropical green building. Architects have also experimented with high vaulted ceilings and domed structures to keep the heat and humidity out.
  2. As far as possible, buildings ought to be designed without cutting natural vegetation. A tree cover on the periphery also helps improve the microclimate around the house.
  3. Tropical green building also emphasises maximising natural lighting. This can be achieved by creating skylights, and large windows with overhangs to keep out the sun. Windows help natural air flow, promote passive cooling, and do away with the need for multiple light fixtures.
  4. The choice of construction material, be it fly ash bricks or rammed earth, doing away with plaster and chemical laden coating for interior walls, using reclaimed, repurposed wood, and fittings from demolished homes are all ways to bring down the carbon footprint of a structure.
  5. Usage of rainwater harvesting, and landscape that makes the best use of runoff water, and harnessing solar energy are other ways to ‘greenify’ a building.
  6. The roof is another structure where using the right design and materials can yield enormous benefits. Architects are experimenting with a variety of materials, like bamboo fiber reinforced concrete slab, reflective ceramic tiles as surfacing for waterproofing and heat reflection, terracotta tiles on a wooden framework and more. Using a material like Palmex artificial thatch – natural-looking, and insect- and mold-resistant – to build a roof, or layer on top of an existing structure made of RCC, tile, or wood, can also help cut down cooling and maintenance costs, while being environmentally responsible.

Do get in touch with us to learn more about how Palmex can be the right choice for your upcoming project, or to renovate your existing structure, and watch this space for useful information on troical green building.

Preeti Prakash | Journalist

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