Millenials and Gen-Z in the Driver Seat towards Sustainability
Sustainability, a topic of discussion whose shut doors have been blown wide open with the arrival of the younger generations. The internet is flooding with Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Zers (those born between 1997 and 2012) coming forth and calling out their precursors on the state that they have let the world to come to. These newcomers have made their intentions very clear that they might have been born into this world but this is not the world that they wish to leave behind.
The rising popularity of ‘Eco-friendly’ and ‘Wellness minded’ homes are on the rise and the millennial homebuyers are the ones to thank. A pan-India Covid-19 survey conducted by Anarock Property Consultants showed that amongst the total number of potential homebuyers, 55% of them fell under the age bracket of 25-33. To top things off, the Covid-19 pandemic has resonated a common sentiment amongst them. Homes need to be redefined to become more than just a ‘place’ that you return to for a hot meal and a comfortable bed.
With the growing market trends and cut-throat competition, every other project you come across is described as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘smart’, or ‘resource-efficient.’ It is easy to lose sight of what sustainability in development truly means. Let us break it down for you.
What is Sustainable Development?
The kind of development that meets the current needs of a population without compromising on the ability of future generations to sustain themselves. Sustainable growth seeks to minimize the negative impact of the built environment on its surroundings as well as its users. It is becoming imperative to hold ourselves accountable and think twice about what we are putting out into the world.
There are three elements of sustainability-environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability. You faithfully achieve these three and you have successfully managed to make the world a better place.
Why do We Need Sustainable Homes?
Sustainable homes are centrally designed around the concept of being friendly to nature. It is no news that the increased demand for natural resources has driven the world into rethinking its practices and propose alternatives with minimum environmental impact.
Here are some reasons why you should be opting for a sustainable home:
They are energy and water-efficient- Green buildings are known to reduce energy consumption by 30-40% and water consumption by 50-60%. This means lower utility bills, less dependency on natural resources, and ultimately less environmental pollution.
Require less operating costs- The locally resourced materials are durable and need less maintenance in the long run. This basically means that the house takes care of itself!
Reduced carbon footprint- Green buildings are built to reduce energy consumption. The reduced emission of greenhouse gases lowers the impact of climate change. Thus, they offer sustainable substitutes at every step, throughout the life span of the building.
Increased Property Value- Sustainable homes have higher resale value and due to their current popularity, they are in higher demand than their not-so-green counterparts.
Improved Comfort- All-year-round thermal comfort dictates the planning of a sustainable home. Insulated roofs and walls, high-quality doors, windows, and other building materials ensure optimal comfort levels for the occupants, without burning a hole in their pocket.
Healthier Lifestyle- Green buildings ensure superior indoor air quality, they use materials and finishes that are free of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to our respiratory system. Inhabitants of such homes have self-reported improved productivity, lower stress levels, and overall better quality of life.
Barriers to Achieving Sustainability
If sustainable buildings hit home at providing solutions that we need to revolutionize the building industry, why are they still so infrequent? What is inhibiting this great movement from taking off? The Green building movement is a relatively recent phenomenon in India. Even though it is quickly gaining popularity, it is yet to become a part of the architectural fabric and construction practices of this country. People are still very much in the dark about the benefits and opportunities that this movement brings into the field.
Many builders and contractors are still under the impression that the cost of construction for Green buildings is higher than the traditional ones. The initial investment for green buildings can indeed be higher due to the installation of green technologies, however, they are known for their reduced operational costs, higher durability, and better long-term value. These added costs can be recovered in 3 to 5 years of the operation of the building and are exponentially far more economical than their conventional counterparts. The lack of awareness about sustainable building practices has made many buyers turn away from Green homes.
Even then, India ranks third amongst the top ten countries for LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified buildings, demonstrating a huge promise towards an innovative and sustainable future in the fields of Design and Construction.
Features of a Sustainable Home
We know that to achieve true sustainability, we must consciously take heed of the environment, the social setting that the built form becomes a part of, and the economic value of what we are proposing. But how do we translate these ideologies into reality? Here we list down more than a ‘few’ features that make up a sustainable house:
1. Insulation- If you live in a country like India, this feature needs no justification. Insulating exposed surfaces, such as walls or roofs aids cooling and significantly cuts down on energy costs. This reduces our dependency on mechanical heating and cooling systems, which let’s be honest are no friend of the environment. Regardless of the temperature fluctuation outside, it maintains a comfortable living condition indoors.
2. Double-glazed windows- Installing double-glazed windows will allow you to keep your home cooler during summers and capture heat during winters. Noise reduction, increased security, easy maintenance, reduced energy consumption, and the added aesthetics make this eco-friendly option even more lucrative!
3. Invite the sun in- Orienting your building to maximize the use of sunlight is an essential design principle, and for all the right reasons. East-facing rooms are in demand now more so than ever. Installing solar panels is another way of relieving strain from non-renewable resources.
4. Use of local materials- It cannot be stressed enough how much we need to reorient our rudimentary principles towards alternative building materials. The cumulative energy that is consumed to fabricate and transport building materials needs to be critically considered while selecting materials. Transportation is a prime contributor to pollution that in turn affects public health. When you opt for locally available materials, you lower the energy use, the need for transportation, and of course, greenhouse gas emissions. Also, it does feel good to support and benefit your local manufacturers in keeping their business afloat.
5. Choose energy-efficient appliances- Living in the generation of technology has its perks. Even in the construction industry, markets are flooded with state-of-the-art products that promise energy-saving solutions. Some key benefits include reduced emissions and lower energy use, which means more savings and an enhanced quality of life.
6. Better Lighting- The era of incandescent lights and halogen bulbs is gone. When we have enough options available in the market to illuminate mars, why go for the same old traditional lighting? Incandescent lights obnoxiously waste energy. In fact, 90% of this energy is converted into heat, instead of light. Switching to LED is not just the more resource-efficient option, but they also last 25 times longer. Also, we mustn’t forget that lighting is crucial to creating the desired ambiance and setting a mood.
7. Green roofs and organic gardens- Green buildings cannot be termed as ‘green’ without including nature. There are countless benefits to incorporating green roofs into your project at an ecological as well as societal level. Replacing conventional roofs with green roofs purifies the air, provides a rainwater buffer, regulates indoor temperature, increases the efficiency of solar panels, acts as a noise barrier, saves energy, and extends the lifetime of the roofing material. It encourages biodiversity in cities, the greenery offers a sense of relaxation and reduces stress, stimulates social interactions, and requires low maintenance. With the increasing consciousness around organic produce, vegetable patches and organic gardens are a green initiative that allows you to reap the benefits of your miniature farm, right at home.
Millennials and Gen-Z Leading the Parade
The youth of today, have always been loud about their opinions. Exposure to the internet from a very young age has given them insights that no generation before them had access to. Naturally, they are not afraid to use these handy tools to make their voices heard far and wide. Millennials are kick-starting the green revolution by raising the demand for sustainable structures. With the power of social media at their hands, they are able to educate and advocate on social and environmental issues, on a global scale. Their enhanced knowledge of the subjects of science, technology, and the environment has made them sensitive to the repercussions of their decisions.
How are they exactly peddling this agenda? By supporting and sharing projects with a sustainable approach. They are also quick to take the internet by storm when they find incidents of trees getting cut down or natural resources being abused. The ‘cancel culture’ can be harmful to a company’s reputation and they will try their best to steer clear of such controversies.
To accelerate the process, the Covid-19 pandemic has given people a lot of time to sit home and ‘think’. We have been forced to question everything. Our practices as well as our principles. After being caged inside for a long time, homebuyers are now in the search for places that offer better walkability, flexible spaces, and a genuine connection with nature.
What do Millennials Want?
If we know anything about millennials, we know that they don’t like to settle. Their diverging preferences from the previous generations show their expanding knowledge and selfless conscience. When it comes to their homes, they are willing to pay more for sustainable products. They firmly believe that their individual contributions and a few lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to the environment. It is also a matter of personal satisfaction which motivates them to look for alternatives. Belonging to the generation of technology, they are highly dependent on devices and appliances to make their high-paced lives more convenient. All of these factors have driven the younger generation of today to jump on the bandwagon towards sustainable living.
Luxury is synonymous with the millennial lifestyle but not at the cost of the environment. Their homes must be equipped with green technology that enables them to extract maximum use out of their homes with minimal maintenance. Certified energy-saving appliances, smart thermostats, efficient lighting, solar roof tiles, and insulated envelope are a few features that set their homes apart. If our homes are expressions of our personality, these choices are telling us a lot about this generation.
Since the beginning of civilization, every new generational cohort has been expected to follow in their predecessor’s footsteps. This might work sometimes, but not when you have to look towards a sustainable future. Today’s youth is propelled by ethics and accountability and we are all better off for it. Their growing consciousness is benefitting the global community even without having to step out of their homes. They are questioning age-old beliefs and molding them to fit into an environment-conscious reality.