New Delhi: Five years from now, most new buildings will consume much less energy. This is because in three years, they will be mandated to comply with India’s new mission on building sustainable habitats in cities and urban centres, especially the large commercial buildings.
But if current trends are an indication, developers, builders and consumers are not averse to the idea, and are actually complying voluntarily. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has registered 674 green buildings so far. To be sure, green buildings as a share of total built-up space are estimated to be less than 5%. There is no official estimate and Mint could not independently ascertain this.
“Green buildings and the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) are in the evolution stage—new ideas, new concepts. Foremost, we need awareness of standards and opportunities, also the benefits of green buildings. The challenge for us and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is to reach out,” said S. Raghupathy, head of the Confederation of Indian Industry-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-GBC). IGBC is a part of the CII-Godrej GBC, which implements IGBC in India.
All the ratings and certification schemes, however, whether ECBC or IGBC, or Griha (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) from The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), are voluntary.
This business-as-usual approach is set to change with the introduction of the Mission on Sustainable Habitat. Within three years, ECBC will be made mandatory for commercial buildings. However, experts and officials argue that the transition will not be easy.
“In the mandatory phase, we need people to check compliance. In the Act (Energy Conservation Act), compliance should be performance of the building, energy usage per sq. m per year (EPI index). Ultimately, that’s what we need. Compliance-checking is hard, check insulation, design stage, construction stage, and post-operation as well,” said Sanjay Seth, BEE energy economist .
BEE is in the process of developing draft models on the compliance front.
“Then we will have EPI indices for different climatic zones and different kinds of buildings. It is at an advanced stage and will be done before this Plan period,” said Seth. He added that this will finally be added to the bureau’s star labelling programme. BEE has an extensive eco-labelling programme for consumer appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners.
Arguing similarly, Raghupaty said, “Before we make it mandatory, sufficient knowledge and capacity in architects, developers, builders and evaluators need to be developed. It cannot be done in all cities together. The biggest cities should go first as even the top eight cities would have 70-80% of the biggest buildings. Also, the urban development authorities are advanced in these cities and they are in a better position to implement it first.”
IGBC has listed 15-20 evaluating organizations as third-party evaluators. “We have trained about 2,500 people as of today and would like to take it to 5,000 by the end of March 2011,” said Raghupathy.
In the legal framework, municipal bye-laws need to be amended by the states, though Orissa and Rajasthan have already effected the changes.
“The powers lie with the municipalities. We are coming up with templates/model bye-laws for different climatic zones such as for hot and dry, warm and humid, and composite. We are meeting with urban development agencies to see how we can dovetail these into bye-laws,” said Seth.
Similarly, Teri is also working with state governments on bye-law changes. “We are working with Kolkata, Bhopal, Bangalore and Haryana,” said Mili Majumdar, associate director for sustainable building sciences at Teri, which built the Griha ratings in 2005 with funding from the ministry of new and renewable energy. According to their website, Griha is undertaking projects for Fortis Hospitals, the Commonwealth Games and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
Though the current ratings and standards are focused on commercial buildings, developers and experts believe that the move in the future will be towards eco-housing for residential complexes.
“In the future, homebuyers will drive the growth of green buildings. More than developers, buyers are stressing on these values. Demand for green homes is definitely on the rise in the Indian market. Simply saying that a project is green is not good enough for buyers. Before we do anything, we need to follow the global standards,” said Vidhur Bhardwaj, director of Three C Universal Developers Pvt. Ltd, which is developing 20 million sq. ft of green space in residential and commercial segments.
Out of IGBC’s 674 green buildings, 149 are green homes—around 146 million sq. ft out of a total 431 million sq. ft.
Anil Kumar, chief executive officer and deputy managing director of Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd, a New Delhi-based developer that recently launched an upscale green project in Gurgaon, said, “Luxurious projects were often synonymous with Italian marble, modular kitchen, upmarket flooring. But the idea is changing. The new definition of luxury and comfort is not only limited to these features alone. With buyers getting more aware on these principles, developers have a greater role to play. India has a bright future in this domain. Very little has been done till now. With the expansion of tier II and III cities, scope for such development widens even more.”
Raghupathy is similarly optimistic. “We are heading towards residential overtaking commercial building. In homes, the best benefits are of indoor air quality and ventilation. The standard of living is better than conventional homes. It is a powerful point for developers who would want an exclusive image,” he said.
Majumdar, however, adds that eco design for homes is limited. “You can’t really orient each house to maximize daylight, etc., as you can with commercial ones. In a way, BEE’s labelling programme has already targeted that sector by rating appliances, which are the highest load factor,” she said.
Devesh Chandra Srivastava contributed to this story.