Turn Green with Pride

Pritam P. Hans   Delhi     Print Edition: October 2011

With modern design and beautiful interiors, Srihari Allamsetti's bungalow in Bangalore looks like just another building made of concrete and bricks. It is not.

When Allamsetti was planning to build a bigger house for his family, he aspired for a home that was 'earthy'. Around two years after first consulting an architect, the family moved into its new home, built with stabilised mud blocks. The family harvests rain water for drinking and cooking. It treats waste water in the garden. The bungalow also has a large basement which gets day light and is visually connected with the rest of the house.

"The house cost us Rs 1,350 per square foot, including construction and fittings. This is the same as what we would have spent to build a traditional house," says Allamsetti.

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Allamsetti is part of a small, but growing, tribe which swears by eco-friendly houses. With an increase in awareness about conserving resources and lowering the carbon footprint-the amount of greenhouse gases an entity emits-going green is the in thing in the real estate market, both residential and commercial. And, it's not just individuals. More and more developers are marketing their buildings as eco-friendly. Does going for a green home make sense? It does.

Price Advantage
"At present, India has 800 million square feet green built-up space, of which 40% is residential. We expect it to touch 1 billion square feet by 2012. The number will double by 2014," says S Raghupathy, executive director, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and head of the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.

Design your eco-friendly home
Design your eco-friendly home
Green homes offer quality living space. They also help you save money.

"A green building can lower energy consumption by 30-50% and water consumption by 30-70%," says Raghupathy.

Design your eco-friendly home
Design your eco-friendly home
"If you live in a green building, you save on things such as power and air-conditioning. For example, a good design can reduce the use of air-conditioning. If you factor in these savings, green buildings can be much cheaper," says Majumdar. Right now, availability of green materials and consultants is limited.

Design your eco-friendly home
So, the price of an eco-friendly home can be a bit high. This should not be a worry, say experts.

"When we take the full cycle cost of a building, there is a negligible increase. The incremental cost of using green technologies such as insulation and hypo-thermal glass is maximum 5-8%. As savings are also high, you can recover the additional cost in 3-5 years," says Mili Majumdar, director, sustainable habitat division, The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri).

Eco Apartments
Eco-friendly homes are not just for people building independent houses. As awareness grows, an increasing number of builders are offering "eco-friendly" apartments and villas.

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"Eco-friendly homes, as a concept and product, are at a nascent stage in India. The awareness level is much higher in case of commercial projects. Having said this, we have started getting enquiries about such residences. As consumers become increasingly aware of the advantages of living and working in an eco-friendly environment, we will see a gradual increase in interest in such properties," says Pirojsha Godrej, executive director, Godrej Properties Ltd.

Design your eco-friendly home
RATING CRITERIA

Eco-friendly buildings are evaluated on several parameters before being given a green rating -
  • Site planning and eco-friendly building design
  • Preservation and protection of top soil and landscape during construction
  • Heating, air-conditioning, ventilation, lighting and electrical and water heating systems
  • Optimisation of building design and structure to reduce demand for conventional energy
  • Integration of renewable energy sources to generate energy
  • Water and waste management
  • Selection of ecologically sustainable materials for construction
  • Indoor environmental quality (indoor thermal and visual comfort and air quality)
  • Conservation of soil during construction and proper top soil for vegetative growth
  • Renewal energy-based water heating system such as solar water heaters
Green homes are not a lifestyle statement for those concerned about their carbon footprint. Many builders are marketing their properties with the help of green ratings and certificates.

However, all properties being advertised as 'green' or 'eco-friendly' may not be so. Many small- and mid-sized builders call their projects eco-friendly just because they have lawns and landscaped gardens.

"If builders say a green lawn is eco-friendly, it is incorrect, because a lawn is not environmentally sustainable. The plants in it consume four times more water than the native species," says Majumdar.

"In most housing projects, the 'eco-friendly' label is a greenwash. The concept has not caught on in the real estate sector, except with a few developers. These homes tend to be more expensive," says Chitra Vishwanath, an architect who specialises in eco-friendly designs.

Project Certifications
At the time of buying a 'green' home, checking certification from a rating agency will help you distinguish between a green-washed and a genuine eco-friendly project.

THE ECO WAY
Design your eco-friendly home

Insulate roof and walls
Add thermal mass for insulation to ensure that the roof and walls radiate less heat into the room.
Design your eco-friendly home

Lower heating from windows
Reduce the size of window glasses on the east and west or use double-glazed glasses to lower heating.
Design your eco-friendly home

Use alternative energy
Invest in solar, bio-thermal and wind energy generating equipment.
Design your eco-friendly home

Harvest rain water
For a family of five, the cost of a 7,000-litre rain water harvesting system is around Rs 50,000.
Institutions such as Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which is part of the CII, and the Association for Development and Research of Sustainable Habitats (ADaRSH), a joint initiative of Teri and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, analyse buildings and give them ratings based on parameters such as design, construction materials, energy efficiency, ventilation, lighting, and water and waste management.

IGBC offers internationally recognised Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings. Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (Griha) by ADaRSH has been made mandatory for new government buildings, which must score at least three Griha stars out of five.

"The current Griha rating is for larger buildings as the government of India has specified incentives for green buildings with an area of more than 2,500 square metres. Small buildings such as single-family bungalows have a larger collective footprint. So, we have designed a system for buildings with built-up area of 100 square metre onwards that serves as a rating cum design tool. It is a simple tool to guide end users," says Majumdar.

Though green ratings help in critically analysing the green quotient of houses, individual home owners can just go to an architect who has an expertise in green habitats. "Go to an architect, establish a good rapport and demand that the building be ecologically friendly," says Vishwanath.

Green Edge
An eco-friendly home also helps you get loans at cheaper rates. State Bank of India charges lower interest rates for the first three years for loans taken to purchase properties in green projects which reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy. You also get other incentives from the bank.

The National Housing Bank, along with Germany-based KfW Bank and ADaRSH, is running a pilot project for offering incentives for energy-efficient homes. "Once the pilot project is successful, the scheme will be available on a larger scale," says Majumdar.

With active support from the government and the private sector, green buildings will soon become the norm. "Corporate houses such as Infosys, Wipro and Tata have a policy to occupy only green buildings," says CII's Raghupathy. "There is tremendous growth in awareness about green buildings. Two years from now, only green buildings will be in demand."

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