Do eco-designs cost more?
Let us begin this cost-factor series with the public perception of the expenditure involved in eco-friendly architecture.
Ideal mix: Keep in mind both cost and ecology while choosing building materials
We can have a ceramic tile floor for Rs. 40 per sq. ft, material, labour and contractor’s profit inclusive; while even in the deccan belt of Bangalore, an equally decent natural granite floor would cost around Rs. 80 per sq. ft.
Want to try out quality red-oxide floor, you need to shell out a minimum Rs. 50 per sq. ft. to an expert team. So, what’s the public conclusion? Mass manufactured products like ceramic tiles are cheaper, hence more eco-friendly.
Traditional brick and plastered overhead water tanks costs Rs. 10 per litre while the PVC tanks come at Rs. 8 a litre. For argument’s sake, the product consuming fewer resources must be financially cheaper. If the buyer’s cost is the criteria, which is more eco-friendly? Obviously the PVC tank!
Steel wins over wood
Wooden door frames today, especially teak wood, cost a lot of money. In comparison, we can buy steel door frames at half the price. So, steel wins over wood in being more affordable and may be ecologically too.
Then there are UPVC and aluminium windows, virtually waging a price war against wooden windows, and winning over them everywhere.
One hollow clay block of 6”x8”x16” size is roughly equal to six ordinary bricks. In Bangalore, while the hollow clay block costs Rs. 45, the bricks together will cost Rs. 30 only. It is normal for people to ask, ‘How can a costly material like clay block be more sustainable than bricks’?
Cost as a partial indicator
Ecological architecture could be less costly or in some cases, more costly. However cost alone cannot decide if the approach is sensitive to nature.
Mass produced ceramic tiles may be an irreversible process where the material will never return to earth; brick tanks may prove costly due to labour costs; wood, though a renewable material, could be at short supply and brick cost may be deceptive without the expenses for plastering or painting. We need to discuss these points in greater detail.
Individual comfort vs. collective benefit
Let us conclude with a common analogy.
If a family of four needs to go to Mangalore from Bangalore, what’s the most sustainable option? Travelling up and down by a good bus will cost around Rs. 3,000, whereas, day journey by a self-owned diesel car may need fuel worth Rs. 2,000 only.
Simple logic – driving down by own car is cheaper, hence consumes less resources, hence more eco-friendly. Appears quite like the philosophy of the U.S., the country of cars, with minimal public transport.
However, if eight families have to travel, there would be eight cars on the road against one bus; all the cars have to be owned with purchase investment; maintenance and service costs are payable extra; annual depreciation in value ideally should be added to cost per driven kilometre and when the car is less occupied, resource cost per person accordingly goes higher.
In the above two paragraphs, we have two sets of arguments to endorse.
The choice is ours now, but the implication is for the next generations.