In a new light
Although the concept of green buildings has been around for nearly a decade now, it’s only recently that real estate and commercial developers are evincing an interest. Those familiar with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-Green Business Centre building in Hyderabad and its novelty might know and understand the type of structures and their difference from any other building.
At the forefront of green building promotion is the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which has 2,761 buildings registered with it and 516 certified green buildings. The vision of the Council is to enable sustainable built-environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the global leaders in sustainable built-environment by 2025.
Green buildings are structures that ensure efficient use of natural resources like building materials, water, energy and other resources with minimal generation of non-degradable waste. Technologies like efficient cooling systems have sensors that can sense the heat generated from human body and automatically adjust the room temperature, saving energy. It applies to lighting systems too. Green buildings have a smarter lighting system that automatically switches off when no one is present inside the rooms. Simple technologies like air based flushing system in toilets that avoids water use by 100%, use of energy efficient LEDs and CFLs instead of conventional incandescent lamp, new generation appliances that consume less energy, and many other options help in making the buildings green and make them different from conventional ones.
IGBC is represented by all stakeholders of construction industry comprising architects, builders & developers, corporate, designers, facility managers, government, institutions, nodal agencies, product manufacturers & suppliers, service consultants, etc. The Council has been proactive in organising the Green Building Congress (12th Edition), which this year will be held from September 4-6 at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) at Hyderabad.
S Srinivas, deputy executive director, CII-Godrej GBC, says, “There are quite a few best practices that go into green construction and buildings. Indians have worshipped the sun, water, Mother Earth and the sky. Green buildings are a reverence to the five elements of nature. For instance, we address the earth issues in terms of preservation of the top soil. Then there’s the preservation of the habitat. We address the issue of water especially for the next 25-30 years. Then we address the issue of the air – something that most designers neglected till about ten years back. Today air, especially in an air conditioned room needs to be addressed.”
The objectives of sustainable design are to reduce or avoid depletion of critical resources like energy, water and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive. Creation of sustainable buildings begins with a proper site selection. The location and landscaping of a building affect local ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use. It is important to incorporate smart growth principles into the project development process.
This year at the International Conference on Green Buildings – Green Building Products & Equipment, the speakers will address topics such as green products rating in India, system approach for making products green, required specifications and performance standards of mechanical equipment in green building, among others.
Srinivas says, “Mindset is what stops people in constructing green buildings. When we executed our building in Hyderabad, we paid a high price. But today buildings are constructed at nominal incremental cost that is about 4-5% more than an ordinary building. For our own building, we imported glass at Rs 500 per sq ft and today the same costs Rs 300. We purchased high reflective paint for roofs at Rs 80 per sq ft and today it’s available at Rs 20 per sq ft. With more people using a product, the cost is definitely going to come down.”
Dr Prem Jain, chairman of IGBC says, “The green envelope design is one of the best practices that can be implemented. All our green buildings are designed to get maximum daylight and without glare which we have achieved after lots of permutations and combinations. If you sufficient daylight in all the occupying areas and throughout the day with no artificial light then it helps in the energy level and health of the occupants.”
The view also matters. At least 75% occupants must have a view of the outdoors. Over the last five years, IGBC has also adopted energy conservation building code (ECBC) to minimise air-conditioning at a low cost. ECBC does not find prompt utilisation because price is a deterrent. The Council prefers to advise clients to use autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) using large amount of fly ash with little of concrete aeration and make blocks out of it. These blocks can be made at site, which means little use of logistics. “All our green buildings have no RCC or bricks, instead we use AAC blocks made locally. It offers good insulation, makes use of waste material (fly ash is waste material), and is an economic solution for insulation. Other than this, there’s also an extensive use of mud patka on the roof,” says Dr Jain.
Some 30 years ago, when the new breed of cooling products were not available, conscious builders used old techniques from Rajasthan and Gujarat and used mud mixed with bamboos, straw and rice husks to make rooftops. Green building techniques also focus on a few other concepts. Heating and cooling interior spaces account for 50% of a home’s energy use. Poor insulation can let that energy go waste. Stopping drafts with insulation can seal the surfaces in walls and prevent air gaps. Using high-efficiency, low-E windows and caulking gaps around windows, doors and duct works, etc can help save energy. Using high-efficiency mechanical and electrical equipment for heating and cooling systems, water heaters and light fixtures are some of the other techniques advised by consultants to help save energy.
However, what the Council is also arguing for is incentives. “We have been insisting with numerous state and central governments to offer some incentives to this sector. If we are going that extra mile to make construction green, it implies that I am saving energy and water for the country. Over the years, we have also made much progress.”
The Council has managed to create additional FAR (floor area ratio) a.k.a. what is also known as FSI (floor space index). “If I construct a building on 100m2 of land and if it’s green, gold or platinum it will naturally offer me 5% more FAR. That means on the same plot of land I can make build an extra 5m2. Simultaneously it also means saving of 30-35% energy, 30-35% water, low wastage, and recycled resources.” For example at the Noida office where Dr Jain is stationed, they have been able to avail of 5% more FAR. The extra FAR comes at an additional cost of 1-2%.
A green building does not come cheap. It will cost more. But one should look at the incremental cost in relation to the life cycle cost. According to IGBC, in terms of the building’s life cycle, the operating cost would be 80-85% of the capital cost, while the incremental one-time cost is only about 8-10%. Due to the substantial reduction in operational cost, the total cost of ownership of green buildings is lesser than that of conventional buildings. A developer offering a project that adheres to green building norms will usually charge a premium.
In terms of converting existing and old buildings to green, Dr Jain says there are challenges involved. Recently, the 91-year-old Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tata Group, became the country’s first heritage building to get the prestigious green rating from IGBC. The Bombay House has been awarded under IGBC’s green existing buildings gold (operations & maintenance) rating system. It was rated gold for implementing measurable strategies and solutions in five categories — site & facility management, water efficiency, energy efficiency, health & comfort and innovation. Some of the sustainability practices at the Bombay House recognised by the IGBC include its green policy, over 20% energy savings as the building has achieved a 4-star rating from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), over 50% water savings, among others.
Since GBC this year is not tied to the US Council, under the memorandum of understanding signed, old and existing buildings do not come under the ambit. Today, IGBC has about two dozen odd buildings who have registered for an existing building certification.