Net-Positive Architecture: The Future of the Design Industry

Among rising awareness about sustainability and the environmental impact of built infrastructure in the last few decades, we have seen a rise in research organisations and grading systems like LEED, Griha, IGBC, etc., analysing new technology and strategies. They have managed to shift the mindset of users, designers and stakeholders through their research and by providing incentives. According to a recent report by IGBC, certified buildings use 40-50% less energy and 20-30% less water, with a  growth rate of 20% in this sector. Recently, India has committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2070 at Glasgow’s COP-26 climate conference. For the construction industry, this means mitigating climate change by significantly reducing emissions from energy use and shifting to a more sustainable model with clean energy production. One way to achieve this goal is by turning to net-positive architecture

Net-Zero buildings produce as much energy as they consume, which could be a mix of onsite and renewable energy sources offsite. Net-positive architecture takes this one step further, producing clean energy over the building’s consumption requirement, leading to a plethora of possibilities. This is achieved using a combination of small power generators and low-energy building techniques, such as passive solar building design and insulation. Presently, net-zero buildings focus on the balance between energy consumed and energy produced on the site. The building could be off-grid and self-sustained, based on renewable energy sources on-site, such as solar, wind, and hydro but the ultimate goal is to be independent of an external energy supply.  

The architectural and design interventions that go into net-zero and net-positive energy projects are essentially similar, focusing on reducing energy consumption and producing clean energy on-site. In Net-positive Architecture, the focus shifts to the excessive energy produced on-site, opening up a range of opportunities at an urban level. Potential benefits include shared resources and less energy-use intensity per capita that can support an entire sustainable community with strategically placed net-positive buildings forming a network that supplies clean energy to their respective grids. Net-positive architecture divulges into an urban regulatory and policy level intervention involving multiple parties, allowing for a greener transformation on an urban level. 

A rising population and mounting urbanisation have resulted in a growth spurt in the construction and, thereby, the energy consumption of buildings. Zero-carbon buildings are gaining added value for a country like India, which is working not only to reduce pollution but also to dramatically improve access to energy in both rural and urban areas. To reduce carbon emissions, there is a need to maintain harmony with nature and decarbonise as much as possible. This accelerates the need to develop Net Zero and Net Positive Energy Buildings. 

With these individual and community-level interventions, urban planners and architects can revolutionise green architecture and create sustainable urban models with minimum negative impact on the environment. Among rapid urbanisation and development, mindful and responsive sustainable architecture such as net-zero and net-positive projects are the need of the hour.