While the Environment ministry headed by the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Prakash Javadekar is formulating a set of standard guidelines for giving environmental clearances to real estate sector, this should be recognised as a signal to scale up energy efficient and green buildings in India.
Environmental regulations will push the demand for green buildings, say experts. And the residential real estate sector is the biggest focus area in this regard.
Earlier in January this year, (GBCI) and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) Ministry of Power, Government of India signed a landmark agreement with the goal of spurring energy efficiency progress in building sectors.
If one were to see the market potential for green buildings in India, green buildings don't even account for 5% of the current stock. Hence, there is a huge potential. According to Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report, by 2018 the green building industry in India will grow 20 per cent driven largely by environmental regulations and demand for healthier neighbourhoods. Findings in the report point out that new, high-rise residential communities and mixed-use development are expected to be the top three sectors for green building growth in India.
“The overall benefits of green buildings depend on the extent to which sustainable features are included during the initial planning and design,” points out Juggy Marwaha, Managing Director - South, JLL India. Thus sustainable real estate is all about using resources sustainably.
Conventional buildings vs Green buildings
Sustainability is not added on to conventional buildings but it lies in the approach of designing and constructing. Buildings account for up to 40% of the total energy consumption in India, and commercial and residential real estate combined will account for more than 2000 TWH of energy consumption by 2030 (more than double of the figure in 2012). India has an energy deficit of around 12% which is likely to increase with the government’s electrification drive in rural areas.
Green buildings utilise less resources and are healthier to live in. SmartMarket Report states that green buildings offer significant operational cost savings compared with conventional buildings. To this effect, respondents can expect a 14 percent savings in operational costs over five-year savings for new green buildings and 13 percent savings in operational costs over five years for green retrofit and renovation projects. Building owners also report that green buildings—whether new or renovated—command a 7 percent increase in asset value over conventional buildings.
How green buildings save the environment
In India a huge impact can be made by adopting sustainable construction and operation strategies, speak out green building experts. According to them, it makes sense to adopt sustainable features during design and planning stage itself. Sustainability cannot be added on in a project but has to be built into it. Some of the fundamental requirements such as optimum orientation cannot be changed once the construction has started.
To achieve water sustainable build-ups, the design and construction industry can work towards a two-pronged approach, i.e. minimising the demand by use of water efficient fixtures (low flow faucets, dual flush WCs, efficient irrigation systems like drip irrigation) and optimising the supply by recycling and reusing sewage water on site and storing the rainwater.
While developers can curtail the adverse impacts on the environment by doing a climate responsive design that makes least impact on the site and by adopting good construction management practices such as preservation of existing vegetation, preserving natural features (ponds, water bodies, contours etc.). Further, they must adopt strategies such as not doing the excavation work during monsoon so that soil erosion can be minimised, preserving the top soil for reusing later in landscaping work, storing the hazardous waste on impervious surface to avoid spill into the ground, judiciously using water during construction activity.
Proper staging must be done in case of large projects. Appropriate air pollution control measures such as minimum 3 meter high barricading all around the construction site, wheel washing facility and sprinkling of water on loose soil, must be adopted. In addition, the more green features they incorporate in the project such as insulated walls, sealed windows, efficient lights and equipment, the more long-term impact can be made on the operational cost.
Need for green certification to satisfy consumers
Can consumers make out that the home they are purchasing is a green one? No, it is very difficult to distinguish a green building from a regular building just by looking at it. Unfortunately, the green hype has resulted in a lot of residential projects projecting themselves as ‘green’ without adhering to all the necessary parameters.
Hence, the consumer can only rely on its green building certification. The consumer should also try to find out about the green features of a project. A green building is one that makes least impact on the environment. Its design must be climate responsive, utmost care must be taken during construction to preserve the environment and it must be operated to utilise all resources efficiently.
A green certification is a third party validation by subject matter expert and hence, it automatically adds credibility to the project. It implies that the builder has incorporated green features in the project that have been validated by the certification agency.
India has two competing systems to rate how green a building really is. There is the energy compliance certificate issued by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC or LEED India) and the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA). The former is benchmarked with global standards while the latter is home-grown.
Realty experts are of the opinion that organisations like IGBC and TERI should study the consumer product market and bring out a more acceptable version of green certified homes, to be able to inform customers clearly how environmentally sound a building is.
Chitrangada Bisht, Programme Manager, GRIHA says, if I had to list down the key features of a green building in India, I would say:
It preserves the natural site and surroundings as much as possible. It must have minimum hard-scape.
It must be oriented with longer facades facing north and south.
Window to wall ratio (WWR) not more than 60%.
Well insulated walls and windows.
It must utilise daylight to minimise the requirement of artificial lighting.
It must have energy efficient lights and air-conditioning systems.
It must have good indoor air quality and must meet thermal comfort requirement.
The construction material must have less embodied energy and must maximise the use of recycled content.
The construction material must not make any adverse impact on health such as low VOC paint.
It must have efficient sanitary fixtures and irrigation system that minimise the water demand. Further, all the sewage waste generated should be treated and reused on site.
It must have a good waste management strategy like segregation of organic and recyclable wastes to minimise the burden on landfills.
Lastly, it has renewable energy system installed to offset the energy demand from the grid.
Generating demand for green real estate
The demand for green real estate can be generated by creating more awareness in the consumers. Today, sustainability is no more a choice but a need. Moreover, the government may also roll out incentives linked to green buildings.
The rising population and its growing aspirations for better living and working conditions is also increasing the demand for sustainable projects in India.
The development of sustainable real estate in India depends as much on consumers proffering demand as on developers generating supply of green buildings.
Commercial development in the major tier 1 cities has shown a significant increase in projects committed to Green certification. However, there is still a visible lack of ‘green’ penetration in tier 2 cities, and the residential sector has not been much transformed by it yet.
For developers, green certification can have a positive impact on sales of a project. The star benefits- water saving and energy efficiency - will attract consumers to pay extra premium for green residences.
Real estate projects collating with alternate sources of energy can go a long way in stemming the problem of depleting resources. The benefits of green initiatives should penetrate deep and garner greater support from all quarters to enhance quality of life.