Green Homes – It can be more than just a fad

Times of IndiaWith climate change, energy, water efficiency and waste management becoming areas of national concern, sustainability and green can no longer be ignored by anyone or any sector really. Today, in most parts of the world and in India as well, sustainable developments are slowly replacing traditional construction and building practices in an effort to minimize negative impacts on the environment as much as possible. The commercial sector and corporate world have already started working their way to creating sustainable and energy efficient spaces. While this is a welcome move, unless the residential sector of our country embraces sustainability and green concepts; for us as a nation, very little progress can be made.

In India, today the housing sector is growing at an exponential pace and is also contributing significantly to the Indian economy. While best construction practices are being employed by all stakeholders in the residential sector, sustainability concepts are only beginning to catch their attention.

Green Homes can have tremendous benefits, both tangible and intangible. The immediate and most tangible benefit is in the reduction in water and operating energy costs right from day one, during the entire life cycle of the building. The energy savings could range from 20 – 30 % and water savings around 30 – 50%. Green Homes Ratings can also enhance marketability for the project. Intangible benefits of Green Homes include enhanced air quality, excellent day lighting, health & wellbeing of the occupants, safety benefits and conservation of scarce resources for the Nation.
Green homes are really not new in an Indian context. If you look at traditional Indian designs and practices for homes, you will notice that we were extremely green in our approach and practices – we recycled almost everything, we used local materials in all our construction be it mud blocks or white wash which ensured that the carbon dioxide levels in the rooms were very low (lime is a good absorber of CO2). Similarly all our buildings were well lit and ventilated. If you look at traditional south Indian homes, the doors will all be aligned in a straight line from the home entrance till the back of the home to facilitate better cross ventilation. Similarly the “mutham” of our olden day architecture is nothing but an internal courtyard that brings in light into most parts of the house etc.

Today of course with modernization and westernization, we have started getting influenced by the west in the way we build buildings and the entire green building movement today is a good way to bring back people to reality and make them look at various serious issues such as water conservation, energy conservation, site preservation, minimization of waste and providing better indoor environment for all the occupants.

Green home concepts today include various measures to reduce energy consumption such as better building envelope materials including glazing, walls and roof systems, lower lighting power densities through use of CFL, T5 and LED lights for many parts of the residential development including external, landscaping and common areas, solar hot water systems instead of traditional electric heaters etc. Similarly most green residential developments are pursuing various water efficiency measures including installation of sewage treatment plants to treat and reuse treated water for landscaping and toilet flushing purposes, rain water harvesting, use of native and drought tolerant landscaping species to reduce irrigation water consumption, low flow but high efficiency toilet fixtures, better irrigation practices such as drip irrigation etc. In the materials front, various green materials are being used today including materials with high recycled content, materials that are rapidly renewable such as bamboo, low VOC (volatile organic compound) materials for better indoor air quality etc. Waste management is also another focus area with many developments opting for organic waste management systems or composting systems, onsite recycling practices in an effort to promote green and sustainability among the occupants as well.

Chennai has been a leader in sustainable building designs and practices since the start of the green movement in India in early 2000. In Chennai we have one of the first Platinum rated individual green homes in Madipakkam and there are several multi‐residential developments that are currently embracing sustainability designs and pursuing Green Homes certification as well. These developments include upcoming residential projects for Tata Housing, True Value Homes, Appaswamy Estates, Real Value Homes, Akshaya Homes, IVR Prime Realty among others that are pursuing green homes certification for many of their developments coming up in various parts of the city.

In conclusion greening residential spaces can also help considerably reduce the overall negative impact on the environment and reverse the practice of unsustainable construction activities while reducing operating costs, enhancing building marketability, increasing occupant satisfaction and all the while creating spaces that are healthier spaces to live and work. For us in India, it is crucial that these important aspects of sustainability are addressed by the construction industry as we build the Nation’s infrastructure for the next century over the next couple of decades.

About the Author

Deepa Sathiaram is the Executive Director of En3 Sustainability Solutions Pvt. Ltd., one of the premier sustainability and green building consulting firms in India consulting for over 80 million square feet of green space world‐wide. She is also the Past President of the ASHRAE (American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air‐conditioning Engineers) South India Chapter and the Past National Environment Chair for CII Young Indians.