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Eco-friendly homes can help you save money

Eco-friendly homes may be expensive, but will help you save money in the long run.

While building a bigger home a few years ago, Bangalore-based Srihari Allamsetti aspired for a bungalow which would have all the modern facilities, but at the same time would eschew producing waste or polluting the surroundings.

After consulting architects, he successfully built an 'ecofriendly' home, using stabilised mud blocks. It has systems that enable Allamsetti to harvest rainwater for drinking and cooking, and also treat waste water for other daily use. Even the large basement gets plenty of daylight.

 THE ECO WAY

Insulate roof and walls
Insulate roof and walls Add thermal mass for insulation to ensure that the roof and walls radiate less heat into the room
Lower heating from windows
Lower heating from windows Reduce the size of window glasses on the east and west or use doubleglazed glasses to lower heating

Use alternative energy
Use alternative energy Invest in solar, bio-thermal and wind energy generating equipment
Harvest rainwater
Harvest rainwater For a family of five, the cost of a 7,000-litre rainwater harvesting system is around Rs 50,000
Proper lighting of rooms saves a lot of energy
Proper lighting of rooms saves a lot of energy
Good design can reduce the use of air-conditioning
Good design can reduce the use of air-conditioning
Adequate ventilation is a key feature of green buildings
Adequate ventilation is a key feature of green buildings



"The house cost us around Rs 1,350 per sq ft, including construction and fittings. This is the same that we would have spent to build a traditional house," says the proud owner.

Allamsetti is part of a small, but growing tribe which swears by ecofriendly houses. With an increase in awareness about conserving resources and lowering the carbon footprint - the amount of greenhouse gases an entity emits - green homes are the 'in thing' in the real estate market, both residential and commercial.

So does opting for a green home make sense? It does. "At present, India has 800 million sq ft of green built-up space, of which 40 per cent is residential. We expect it to touch one billion sq ft by 2012. The number will double by 2014," says S. Raghupathy, Executive Director, Confederation of Indian Industry, or CII, and head of the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre. Green homes also offer quality living space. Besides, they help save money. "A green building can lower energy consumption by 30 to 50 per cent and water consumption by 30 to 70 per cent," says Raghupathy.

"If you live in a green building, you save on power and air conditioning. For example, a good design can reduce the use of air conditioning. If you consider these factors, green buildings can be much cheaper," says Mili Majumdar, Director, Sustainable Habitat Division, The Energy and Resources Institute, or TERI.

At present, availability of green materials and green consultants is limited. So, the price of an ecofriendly home can be a bit higher. than that of a conventional one. This should not be a worry, say experts. "When we take the full cycle cost of a building, the difference is negligible. The incremental cost of using green technologies such as insulation and hypo-thermal glass is a maximum of fi ve to eight per cent. As savings are also high, you can recover the additional cost in three to fi ve years," says Majumdar.

Eco-friendly homes are not just for people building independent houses. Many builders are now offering "eco-friendly" apartments and villas. "Eco-friendly homes, as a concept and product, are at a nascent stage in India. The awareness level is much higher in the case of commercial projects. But we have started getting enquiries about such residences," says Pirojsha Godrej, Executive Director, Godrej Properties.

Many builders are marketing their properties with the help of green ratings and certifi cates. However, be warned: all properties being advertised as 'green' or 'eco-friendly' may not be so. Many small and mid-sized builders call their projects environment friendly just because they have lawns and landscaped gardens, which is nonsense.

"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 TERI's Majumdar. "In most housing projects, the 'eco-friendly' label is a 'greenwash'.

The concept has not caught on in the real estate sector, except for a few developers. These homes tend to be more expensive," says Chitra Vishwanath, an architect who specialises in eco-friendly designs.

Green checklist

  • 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 water heating systems
  • Optimisation of building design and structure to reduce demand for conventional energy
  • Water and waste management
  • Selection of ecologically sustainable materials for construction
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Use of renewal energy-based water heating system
At the time of buying a 'green' home, checking certifi cation from a rating agency will help to distinguish between a greenwashed and a genuine eco-friendly project. Institutions such as the Indian Green Building Council, or IGBC, which is part of the CII, and the Association for Development and Researcsh of Sustainable Habitats, or ADaRSH, a joint initiative of TERI and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, examine buildings and give them ratings based on parameters such as design, construction materials, energy efficiency, quality of ventilation and lighting, and water and waste management. IGBC offers internationally recognised Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings. A Green Rating for Integrated Environmentally Habitat Assessment, or GRIHA from ADaRSH has been made mandatory for new government buildings, which must score at least three GRIHA stars out of five.

The National Housing Bank, along with Germany-based KfW Bank and ADaRSH, is also running a pilot project giving incentives for energy-effi cient homes. "Once the pilot project is successful, the scheme will be available on a larger scale," says TERI's 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."

Courtesy: Money Today