Live life greensize

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Mar 22 2009, 06:31am hrs
With global warming creating havoc, switching to a greener and healthier way of life is an inconvenient, yet indispensable path left to be followed. Economising the use of natural resources is a simple way. Yet, the issue, is how many are willing to travel that extra mile No matter what your location or living situation is, the opportunities for living a greener life at home are limited only by your imagination.

Green imperative

Green living is about lifestyle, which costs you nothing. Its about recycling and other such healthy practices, says Vidur Bharadwaj, Chairman, Indian Green Building Council, Delhi chapter. Green Home is a symbiosis of common sense, traditional wisdom, engineering design, advanced technology, appropriate materials and optimal use of the site conditions to create a living environment that enhances the quality of life without costing the environment, says Srinivas S, Principal Counsellor, CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-Godrej GBC). Over the last five years, there has been a sharp rise in the real estate sectors understanding of the big financial advantages of going green. The rise in market acceptance has paved the way for a quick rise in the number of buildings that have gone green in the last two years. In the commercial sector, there are over 240 million ft2 of such buildings that have applied for green certification, with nearly 60 such building projects from Mumbai alone. The figure hovers around 140-150 mn ft2 for the residential sector, says Chandrashekar Hariharan, CEO, Biodiversity Conservation India.

He adds, India has over two bn mt2 built over the last 50 years commercial and residential. The next ten years will see the creation of about the same quantum of built areas. By 2012 alone, estimates are, that projects which are already under way will complete, to add half-a-billion sq metres more, And with natural resources like sand, limestone, aluminum, timber, glass among others that form an integral part of the construction material getting depleted at an alarming rate, there is no other option left but to turn towards green living.

According to CII-Godrej GBC, since the launch of the IGBC Green Homes certification programme in May 2008, 52 IGBC Green Home projects have been registered with 41.5 mn sq ft proposed living, comprising of seven individual home townships, gated communities, and 45 apartments. Our aim is to have one bn sq ft of green buildings in India by 2011. We already have 250 mn ft2 of green buildings both in the commercial as well as the residential sector, says Bharadwaj.

Slowdown syndrome

With the real estate sector going through a rough phase, industry experts believe that though the financial impact on a development going green probably ranges between 5-7% more than a standard construction, the payback isnt. Today people invest three to five times extra on efficient equipment like solar water heaters, air-conditioners, refrigerators, insulation for roof, doubly-glazed glass and water fixtures, knowing that their additional investment will be paid back in two to three years by way of lower power bills and water bills says Srinivas. I believe that had we not encountered this global downturn, green buildings would be the norm rather than the exception, says Kumar Gera, Chairman, CREDAI. Both developers and industry experts believe that green buildings make business sense. Consumers are looking at value-for-money options and developers are looking at cutting overheads while trying not to compromise on quality. I believe green construction would find a flavour with developers due to its proven technologies that reduce running costs of buildings, says Prashant Solomon, JMD Chintels India.

Despite the slowdown, green building projects continue to figure large on foreign investors horizons as a better alternative to de-risking infrastructure investment and hence providing longer time-stable value for the investments made, says Anuj Puri, Chairman and Country Head, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj. He believes that any kind of equity left in the market now would naturally be attracted to green buildings for that reason. We have seen a gradual increase in the number of players who come to the new green market place either out of commitment towards the environment or to enhance their building USPs. It is hard to ignore the bottom line sustainable developments are the most lucrative business model of the future, both in India and elsewhere in the world, he adds. The developers agree that a green-building project is bound to get a good market response. We need government help to make more green projects, says Sunil Jindal, CEO, SVP Group.

Slow and unsteady

Despite the growing need for adopting green living methodologies, it is true that the focus on green buildings in India has not sharpened as it should have. The primary challenge lies in educating occupiers on the impact their use of space will have on sustainability outcomes. To educate them, we still see need for changing their patterns of behaviour and thinking so that they accommodate sustainability features in their building, and to encourage occupiers to value practices such as energy and water conservation, waste management and improved indoor air quality, says Puri. Breaking traditional age-old myths is also required. Green constructions look no more or less different than any other home. It is the way the planning is approached that makes the difference. And as Bharadwaj points out, Its not about spending extra money, but its about borrowing money and getting profitable returns on your borrowings. Now that really is a win-win proposition.

Double edged sword

Glass fits perfectly into todays green building environment as it controls light, letting in the good rays and keeping out the bad ones; saves on energy costs, provides natural daylighting; and harmonises a structure with its environment. But architects also call it a two-edged sword. If one is able to find the right balance between the kind of glass used, its location and the quality while constructing a building, then it is a boon. Otherwise it is a disaster, says Vidur Bharadwaj, Chairman, IGBC, Delhi chapter. The case in point being Gurgaon, where a number of building have glass facades. They are an abuse of green, says Bhradwaj. The enormous amount of embodied energy of glass makes it a difficult building material.