Everyone wants a green building

The Hindu, 23 December 2016 – The demand for such structures is growing across the country. But there is a need for an effective post-construction evaluation system, says M.A. Siraj

The market size of green buildings in India grew at a CAGR of 30% between 2013 and 2016. Currently, India has the second largest green footprint (under the registered category) which in absolute terms comes to 3.59 billion sq. ft, only next to the United States which has 138 billion sq. ft area under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certification system. Given the growing awareness and much sought-after resource efficiency among both the developers and occupiers, the market size for green buildings is expected to rise to 10 billion sq. ft by 2022.

Resource efficiency

A ‘Green Building’ is one which uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier indoors for the occupants. Typically, buildings worldwide consume 30% energy, 25% of water, 40% of resources and generate 40% of waste and 35% of greenhouse gases. According to the U.N. Environment Programme, the construction of buildings consumes three billion tonnes of raw materials annually and is responsible for contributing 10 to 40 % to the waste stream. One could therefore imagine the use of energy and other resources by the Indian real estate sector which adds 0.5 billion sq. ft of space annually in both residential and commercial sectors. The importance of minimizing the resources cannot be overemphasised especially when we are faced with 9.8% of overall energy shortage.

Five crucial areas

Deepa Sathiaram puts it more succinctly. Executive Director of the green building consulting firm EN3 in Chennai, she says a green building has special focus on five crucial areas: energy, water, material, indoor air quality, and exterior landscaping. It attempts to increase the natural light, cuts generation of heat into the building, and reduces outgo of waste from the building.

All systems are designed in a way that natural ventilation is high, renewable energy finds maximum use and alternative materials e.g., quarry dust instead of sand and flyash blocks instead of bricks, are used. She says, “Paints that emit hazardous gases should be avoided; natural lime could be an excellent alternative as it absorbs carbon oxide; rainwater harvesting is a must; exterior landscaping should be such that walking is encouraged”.

The demand for green buildings has been spurred by the entry of MNCs. Currently, 56% of the buildings certified by the IGBC are commercial buildings with corporate tenants, both MNC and Indian industrial houses. Residential buildings take 13% share while hospitality and educational buildings have 6 and 5% share respectively. Next come healthcare and retail buildings with 2% share each.

A recent report titled “Sustainable Construction Practices in India” prepared by Vestian and Assetz says demand from corporate occupiers and investors has resulted in a positive response from property markets, proven by the fact that more than 89% of the green certified office buildings in Bengaluru are developed by third party developers.

The share of captive corporate owner occupants is only 11%. Key occupiers preferring sustainable office spaces include Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Honeywell, Shell and Texas Instruments. The Cessna Business Park on ORR in Bengaluru with 4.5 million sq. ft, housing MNCs such as Cisco, is one of the major green building projects in the country.

Nearly 5,000 persons work there and it has been certified in the Platinum category by the IGBC. Bhopal’s Sun Omega System office building is a net zero energy building with 10,000 sq. ft. space. Chennai’s 2.5 lakh sq. ft SIPCOT warehousing complex uses only daylight.

Dehradun’s Vana retreat, a hotel-cum-resort, is yet another example. With a 3.5 lakh sq. ft area, it has 90 rooms. It has organic farming for fruits and vegetables. Fabric used for linen is organic cotton and is prepared by the local community members.

Certification

The Vestian-Assetz report notes that the government regulations mostly focus on commercial buildings as they are largest consumers of energy due to use of HVAC, and 24-hour power back-up. Only 13.2% of the certified projects are in the residential category. However, demand for green residential buildings is rising. Since Environmental Impact Assessment has been made mandatory for all projects with a built-up area of 20,000 sq. m, developers and builders are taking steps to comply with the norms. The first residential building to be certified by the IGBC was in Bengaluru. It came up in 2012. Between then and now only three to five per cent of the residential projects were pre-certified by the IGBC.

Since pre-certification entails cost (which will be transferred to the buyers who will also benefit from the reduced operating cost), there is reluctance on the part of the developers to opt for it. Some State governments are trying to incentivise development of green buildings by providing additional FSI to developers. But absence of post-construction monitoring system poses a hitch. It is quite possible that developers take advantage of the additional FSI but fail to comply with the green recommendations. The report, therefore, urges final certification after post-construction evaluation.

A survey by Dodge Data & Analytics in 2015 says that the global green building footprint doubles every three years and emerging economies like Brazil, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia will be engines of green growth.

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