New Delhi: India has 23 cities with a population of more than one million. By 2050, two-thirds of the population will be living in urban areas, according to urban development ministry estimates. Cities are looking at new redevelopment models to meet demand from the ever-expanding migrant workforce. This includes creating sustainable models and more energy efficient buildings to reduce the carbon footprint of urban habitats.
“India needs to design and construct green buildings for bridging the growing gap between energy demand and supply while sustaining the steady migration of people from rural to urban areas,” J.M. Mauskar, special secretary in the ministry of environment and forests, said at a recent conference. “There is an increased need of building infrastructure that can sustain the ever-increasing exodus from rural to urban areas. Urbanization must go hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability measures.”
While little can be done on the redevelopment of existing establishments, new projects offer several opportunities to development authorities and real estate developers. Private developers and government agencies are already thinking of developing green habitats in residential and commercial spaces. Conceived by the Energy and Resources Institute, the ministry of new and renewable energy has already introduced a national rating system, Griha, derived from Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment.
Green house: An environment-friendly residential project by Three C Universal Developers in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Another rating body, the Indian Green Building Council, has defined a green building as one that uses less water, optimizes energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants than a conventional building. It rates projects, townships and special economic zones based on these parameters.
The aim of a green building design is also to minimize the demand on non-renewable resources and maximize the utilization efficiency of these resources when in use, increase reuse and recycling of available resources, and utilize renewable resources.
The real estate industry says it has adopted green principles to suit the business requirements and raise declining sales volume. This is reflected in the marketing—advertisements routinely use phrases such as “eco-friendly” and “80% green”.
“Pan-India developers are now keen to adopt green-building solutions that conserve energy and reduce the overall cost of living. They are keen to take up Griha ratings,” said Lalit Kumar Jain, national president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India lobby group. Such noble intentions come at a price. “Using such solutions definitely increase the overall pricing of the project, thus making the property high priced,” he said.
This puts smaller developers in a bind.
“A green building looks just the same as a conventional building. The difference is that the initial cost of green buildings is 5-30% more, but the cost pays off in the mid-term because of the decreased energy consumption,” said Vidhur Bhardwaj, managing director of Three C Universal Developers Pvt. Ltd.
The firm’s commercial project in Noida, Green Boulevard, is now among the 10 green buildings in the world to have been recognized with US Green Building Council’s platinum rating, the highest in the ranking order. The trend has caught on since 2004. In 2004-07, there was limited supply in this space.
“At our project, GurgaonOne, the cost was 15-20% more because of the limited suppliers of materials, services and expertise in this segment at the time of construction in 2004-07. Now the cost is less,” said R.S. Sodhi, managing director of Alpha G:Corp Development Pvt. Ltd, a New Delhi-based real estate firm. The company said it was one of the first real estate firms to have adopted the idea of going green.
The green building concept has had greater acceptance in the commercial segment than in the residential space, according to Rajat Malhotra, head (engineering and operations solutions) for West Asia integrated facilities management at Jones Lang LaSalle India.
Developers of hotels, educational institutions, warehouses, malls and hospitals, for instance, try and use up unoccupied space to generate renewable energy through solar panels and install waste-water treatment plants.
The large real estate firms and some of the medium-sized ones have aggressively enforced green measures. They include Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd, Three C and Alpha G: Corp.
“Interest benefits on loan by banks for green projects, more incentives and regulations are likely to push the acceptance of green buildings in India,” said Alpha G:Corp’s Sodhi. “The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is introducing an energy performance index for the rating of such buildings. The parameter for ratings will be energy consumption in kilowatt per hour per square metre per year. Ratings will vary for different climatic conditions.”
The area occupied by environment-friendly buildings has risen from 20,000 sq. m in 2004 to 23 million sq. m, according to industry estimates.
“The level of acceptance is increasing, and profitability is not just monetary, it is there to benefit the society and ecosystem in the long run,” said Three C’s Bhardwaj. “Moreover, when any developer earns carbon credits, it paves the way for a greater consumer loyalty, reduces operational costs, and casts a positive influence on the policy structure as a whole.”
However, since the rating is not mandatory as of now, only 179 projects have been evaluated by Griha.
One of Three C’s projects uses net zero, geothermal and vertical landscaping techniques to conserve resources. “Net zero concept addresses the challenge of global warming and works on the principle of utilizing maximum renewable energy from the sun, wind, etc. and is independent of any electricity grid,” Bhardwaj said.
There is a need for innovative methods to reduce construction costs without compromising on quality while going green. The challenge will be to provide living spaces at affordable rates. “Using innovative construction technologies that minimize skilled inputs and deliver faster results at affordable prices will be the challenge,” he added.