Green Buildings in India, beginning made but long way to go

India’s ancient buildings speak of civilization that was in harmony with nature. Historically our relation with the environment and surroundings was in perfect equilibrium. But the scenario has completely changed. At this crucial stage where our planet earth is battling with issues like global warming and rapidly growing population, the realization of the need for sustainability has gained remarkable momentum. Climate change, caused by release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has been among the greatest threats of the 21st century. According to the National Energy Agency, existing buildings are responsible for more than 40% of the world’s total primary energy consumption and 24% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

As India continues to grow, by 2030 it is likely to have a GDP of four trillion USD and a population of 1.5 billion. Energy consumption in India is also on the ascent due to sharp urbanization, population explosion and intensive growth of sectors like IT.

After economic reforms of the 90s, India has emerged as one of the faster growing economies. There are over one billion people living in the country and there is rapid increase in migration from rural to urban centres. Consequently, the energy demand for domestic and commercial purposes has also increased greatly. Around 6.5% of India’s GDP is contributed by the construction industry especially the commercial and residential sectors, automatically leading to higher energy consumption by this sector. This sector is expected to grow five-fold by 2050 as about 70% of the commercial and high-rise residential structures that will exist in 2030 are yet to be built. There will be a substantial increase in the consumption of energy in Indian buildings. The fourth report of IPCC has urged all to pay attention to the carbon emissions from the building sector. The report published a comparative study wherein it was found that among all the sectors evaluated, the building sector is the most capable of lowering carbon emissions in any country.

It is now a crying need to abolish all those practices which are degrading the environment. Green and sustainable construction is a significant issue because buildings impact the global environment significantly. In such times the concept of “Green Building” which uses less water, optimizes energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier space for occupants, as compared to conventional buildings, is the only way for the construction industry to move towards achieving sustainable development. Green Building practices aim to reduce the environmental impact of buildings through environmental friendly construction practices. Further, a Green Building does not cost much more to build than a non-greenor conventional one. A Green Building is one, which incorporates several green features and facilities.

India’s oil consumption comprises largely imports and the country’s own reserves are likely to last only 19 years. Therefore it has become very important for the country to adopt the idea of Green Building. Green Buildings are also not prone to political disagreements, unlike other clean development measures. This makes Green Building a very attractive option for government to pursue.

In India, the concept of Green Building was started by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). It formed the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which is actively involved in promoting the green building concept in India. In the 1990’s for the very first time, Green Building movement was pioneered in Great Britain. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) a star rating program for building which is a product of USGBC (United States Green Building Council), was launched in India in 2003 and LEED was adopted from the BREEM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) system and came into existence sometime in March 2000. GRIHA is another building rating system in India developed by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). GRIHA certification system consists of 34 criteria for rating under 4 categories namely site selection and planning, building planning and construction, building operation and maintenance, and innovation.

Vision of Indian Green Council (IGBC) is “To enable sustainable built environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the Global leaders in sustainable built environment by 2050”. Till the year 2006 developers in India were reluctant to adopt the concept of Green Building. In the absence of any incentives, developers or buyers were not interested given the cost implications. Since then there have been several initiatives by the governments and other bodies to address sustainability in the construction sector and now there is rapid adoption of green building concept in construction. To encourage people towards adoption of green buildings, currently in India there are various types of incentives available through adoption of GRIHA. Projects that are GRIHA pre- certified will be provided with fast track environmental clearances, a capital subsidy is given on solar photovoltaic panels, annual awards are  given to five-star GRIHA rated buildings. Ministry of Urban Development, government of India has announced free of cost one to five percent extra ground coverage and FAR (Floor Area Ratio) for GRIHA rated projects of plot size more than 3,000 sq. m (Noida, Greater Noida, and Punjab have implemented this policy). To promote green buildings, banks have also taken the initiative. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has announced a scheme of providing financial assistance at a concessional rate of interest to GRIHA rated projects. For GRIHA compliant projects, processing fee waiver from SBI for home loans and a 0.25% rebate on interest is available.

To encourage corporate to move towards green buildings, tax benefits will work remarkably. If we see the present scenario, we can observe that countries which are leaders in implementing green buildings also provide various incentives. There appears to exist a direct co-relation between incentives and the development of green buildings. Counties like the US, Germany, Netherlands, China, Australia and Singapore have provided their corporates with huge incentives to promote the concept of green buildings.

It is encouraging to know that green building concept is widely being adopted in the Indian real estate industry. However, efforts are not enough and a greater push is required to make real estate development sustainable. In the next three-four years about 200 million sq. ft. of commercial space and 45 million of retail space is expected to be constructed across the major cities of India. The performance of green buildings and its trend in India indicates that with the emergence of new building techniques and materials the percentage increase in the initial cost as well as the payback period for green buildings has reduced. In Govardhan Eco Village in Thane district of Maharashtra, the community has constructed buildings with compressed stabilized earth blocks (CSEB), Rammed Earth technique, Cob Houses and ADOBE blocks with traditional thatched roofs. These buildings have received a five start rating from GRIHA. CII-Godrej GBC, Hyderabad, and The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Business Centre are among India’s greenest buildings. The CII-Sohrabji GBC received the prestigious LEED Platinum Rating for New Construction (NC) V 2.0 in 2003. It is the first building outside the United States to have received this rating. Hiranandani- BG House, Mumbai, is a Platinum rated green building in Mumbai. ITC Green Center, Gurgaon (Headquarters of ITC Hotels), was declared the largest LEED platinum rated office space in the world in 2004 and re-certified in 2012. Other notable examples are Suzlon One Earth (Pune), Wipro Technologies (Gurgaon), IGP Office (Gulbarga), ITC Maurya (New Delhi), L&T’s Engineering Design & Research Center (Chennai), Olympia Tech Park (Chennai) and Indira Paryavaran Bhawan (New Delhi). According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), “Green building industry will grow by 20 percent in India in the next three years, mainly on account of environmental regulation and rising demand”. In India, there are more than 1,990 projects, comprising more than 822 million sq ft of space, participating in LEED. But more efforts are needed to spread acceptance of the green building concept and its implementation more widely and rapidly.

In the present time of rapid urbanization and globalization when we are over exploiting our resources and degrading the environment, there is urgent need to adopt some environmental friendly techniques. In developing countries like India where the energy deficit is high, green building concept gives a brilliant and promising solution. Green building is a boon to the society where energy and water consumption can be reduced while still maintaining health, safety and wellbeing. Pre-Project planning effort required in green construction is quite high but once implemented the benefits will be long term. In today’s era the concept of green building has become essential in order that we may maintain environmental balance. Green buildings are the way to a sustainable future.

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