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Realty turns over a Green Leaf

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An increasing number of developers are now opting for certified, eco-friendly green projects. Their long-term costs benefits and potential to attract eco-conscious tenants are significant benefits in a depressed market, writes Rajesh Kulkarni.

A quiet green revolution is steadily sweeping across India’s real estate development business. A growing number of leading developers are voluntarily adopting the eco-friendly ethos by opting for Leadership and Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)-IGBC (India Green Building Council) certified buildings and projects.

Typically projects that come under the green purview are those that lay a strong emphasis on the use of environmentally friendly building materials, effective waste management and efficient energy systems. These are designed to substantially reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts and improve existing unsustainable design, construction and operational practices.

At the last count, there were 30 LEED certified green buildings in India, while another 320 commercial and residential projects were registered to go green, with Mumbai alone accounting for 60 projects.

On the residential project front, three projects have got the pre-certified status from the IGBC. These include two Mumbai projects, Mahindra Splendour at Bhandup and Palais Royale in Worli, which have been pre-certified with platinum status, the highest rating possible, by the IGBC under its residential rating scheme (Green Home Projects) launched earlier in May. The third residential project is in Hyderabad.

Taking the lead

Driving this trend towards eco-friendly, sustainable urban development, are realty majors like the Mumbai-based K Raheja Corp, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) for the facilitation of LEED certification of its various projects on a pan-India basis.

“All new projects undertaken by the company will now be LEED rated green building projects,” avers Shabbir Kanchwala, associate vice president (project coordination), K Raheja Corp.

“This could be a green office, green home, green mall or even a green hotel. The important aspect of this agreement is that all our architects, engineers and sales personnel are now fully trained in LEED processes giving us the capability of in-house LEED implementation.”   

Taking the move a step further, the company’s office building at Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) has won the prestigious LEED-GOLD certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) in the CS category.

This is in addition to the company’s other ongoing projects that are registered under LEED–IGBC across cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Kanchwala declined to give specific details of their ongoing green projects stating reasons of confidentiality.

Also in the fray is another Mumbai-based developer Kalpataru Group whose six-storey commercial project, Kalpataru Square at Andheri East, Mumbai, is one of only three buildings in the city to be assigned the Platinum pre-certification LEEDS-CS from the USGBC.

“The project combines all the features of a high performance building with sustainable design and construction, while maintaining a balanced approach towards environmental responsibility, resource efficiency and occupant comfort,” says Anuj Munot, director, Kalpataru Ltd.

According to Munot, Kalpataru’s ongoing green building initiatives have been dictated by the twin needs of opting for sustainable development and a growing demand for such spaces by their customers. “There is a growing awareness of the benefits of green building leading to an increasing demand for high performance buildings that are environmentally responsible,” he affirms.

Lodha Group’s ITHINk Techno Campus that covers an area of approximately two million sq ft at Kanjurmarg, a central Mumbai suburb, also counts its LEED certified green project status as one of its many USPs. Other key features at this sprawling IT campus include buildings with 100% DG power backup, flat slab construction, uninterrupted power supply (from internal power grids) advanced building and property management facilities, a sewage treatment plant and large floor plates.

The group has about six commercial projects in the development stage, encompassing an area of approximately two million sq ft at Mumbai, with a majority to be commissioned over the next two years.

 “We would look at green certification for our residential projects in the future, but for now it’s only our commercial and retail projects that will be certified as green projects,” clarifies Bharat Dhuppar, the company’s senior vice president (marketing).

While Lodha is content to go green with only its commercial projects, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd. (MLDL), is taking the initiative to obtain green building certification for all their projects.

Buoyed by the pre-certified platinum rating bagged by its project Mahindra Splendour, MLDL is now awaiting the IGBC-Green Homes pre-certification  for three other ongoing residential projects, Mahindra Eminente (Mumbai), Mahindra Royale (Pimpri, Pune) and Mahindra Chloris (Delhi).

Pawan Malhotra, managing director & CEO, MLDL says: “Being the first residential developer in the country to have applied for pre-certification of our buildings, we can safely say that we are on our way to acquiring a significant advantage over other builders in terms of value proposition. Further, due to inherent benefits of green buildings, our structures and amenities will be sustainable over a longer period of time and extremely friendly environmentally.”

Down south, Bengaluru-based developer RMZ Corp, a founding member of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), has incorporated green building features in two of its ongoing projects, RMZ Millenia (Chennai) and Ecospace (Kolkata).

“In September 2007, we became the first developer in India to be awarded LEED Pre-Certified Platinum Rating (Core & Shell) green building in India for Ecospace, Kolkata and LEED Pre-Certified Gold Rating (Core & Shell) green building in India for RMZ Millenia Business Park at Chennai,” reveals Sonali Lalvani, head (marketing & communications), RMZ Corp. “In September 2008, we were awarded the gold certification for the Chennai project from the US Green Building Council, making it the largest gold rated campus in India.”

Key benefits

Despite the higher incremental costs (7-10%) involved in the construction of green buildings, developers are increasingly being lured by its long-term cost saving and its potential use as a sophisticated marketing tool to attract eco-conscious multinational and corporate tenants. 

“With regard to the incremental costs involved, we expect them to come down significantly as the materials used have started to be manufactured in the country – they earlier needed to be imported,” informs Kanchwala. “Eco-friendly design, indoor environmental quality and their operational efficiency are the key parameters that tilt the customer’s choice in favour of green buildings.”

“Customers in today’s day and age are very concerned about these aspects. They have their own team of project personnel and consultants who look into the various details on the product which is being offered to them. Furthermore green buildings offer tenants a slew of inherent advantages such as enabling an increased flow of fresh air and oxygen into the building leading to lower carbon dioxide levels at all times, using low volatile organic compound paints, adhesives and sealants to reduce indoor air contamination and eco-friendly house keeping chemicals and equipment to ensure zero exposure to building occupants to potentially harmful pollutants,” he adds.

Elaborating on the long-term cost benefits of a green construction for developers, Malhotra says: “Typically green buildings are 16-20% more energy efficient than conventional buildings. We have also used Low-U glass and better insulating materials, thereby reducing the air-conditioning load in addition to other energy saving electrical fixtures like solar and mini-windmills for external lighting.”

“Low flow water fixtures, energy efficient motors and an in-house sewage treatment plant that will treat 100% of the wastewater which will then be used for landscaping and flushing will also ensure a 30% reduction in water consumption (vis-a-vis conventional buildings) resulting in significant cost saving for developers,” he adds.

“Our Chennai project team had taken measures to reuse excavated soil within the building premises, implemented rain water harvesting and collection provisions, parking bays with pervious pavers; electric recharging points for hybrid cars and used CFC-free refrigerants,” explains Lalvani. “The project also incorporates high efficiency chillers, roof reflective paints to reduce heat ingress through the roof, water efficient fixtures, zero discharge facility and a strategic waste management system to facilitate effective disposal and recycling.

“Our design team for Ecospace, in addition to the LEED requirements as mentioned above, has also reduced the requirement for potable water by 50% and ensured optimum use of local materials for construction to minimise automobile pollution,” she adds.

The way ahead

Quite clearly it’s a trend that has gained rapid ground over the last six years. From a modest beginning of a meagre 20,000 sq ft of green built-up area in 2003, India today has a growing green footprint in excess of 230 million sq ft under construction which includes approximately 88 million sq ft being developed in the residential green homes category.

Speaking at the recent Green Building Congress at Mumbai, Dr. Prem Jain, chairman, India Green Building Council reiterated that there was still a long way to go. “We have set a target of achieving a certified green footprint of one billion sq ft across India by 2012,” he said.
 
Its an ambitious target that has already found support from some quarters like Mumbai’s civic authority, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which has announced property tax concessions from 10% to a maximum of 50% for occupants of green buildings, while developers will be eligible for similar concessions in regard to development charges.

Making the announcement at the Green Congress, the BMC’s chief engineer Ashok Shintare revealed that the civic body would conduct surveys of buildings for their green quotient under the Eco-Housing Certification programme, based on which the buildings will be given ratings. The concessions offered would be directly related to the ratings accorded to each project, he added.

The BMC has formed an Eco-Housing Resources Conservation Cell in this regard. Buildings will be judged on 83 parameters including the use of solar heating, solid waste management systems and energy efficient lighting.  The ratings will be applicable for a period of five years and can be renewed thereafter.   
    
Viewed against the backdrop of the ongoing global debate on key environmental issues like global warming, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the move towards energy efficient, eco-friendly projects by developers in India is a small but significant step in the right direction.

About LEED India

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a globally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED-India promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognising performance in the following five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.  Specific LEED-INDIA programmes include: LEED India for New Construction (LEED India NC) and LEED India for Core and Shell (LEED India CS).

About IGBC

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which is a part of CII – Godrej Green Business Centre, launched the IGBC Green Homes Rating System. It is the first programme developed in India, exclusively for the residential sector. It is based on accepted energy and environmental principles and strikes a balance between known established practices and emerging concepts.

Benefits of Applying IGBC Green Homes Rating

  •  Water savings to the tune of 30-50%
  •  Energy savings to the tune of 20-30%
  •  Excellent day lighting
  •  Enhanced ventilation
  •  Water efficient green cover
  •  Effective waste management
  •  Health and well-being of the occupants
  •  Green Homes Rating tool can also enhance marketability of the project.

Scope of IGBC Green Homes

IGBC Green Homes is a measurement system designed to address the following categories:

  •  Individual homes
  •  Gated communities which include villas and apartments
  •  Residential apartments
  •  Existing residential buildings retrofitted to meet the Green Homes criteria

Rating Levels

Different levels of green building certification are awarded based on the total credits earned. However every Green Home should meet certain mandatory requirements. The various levels of rating awarded are:

  •  Platinum to reward global leadership
  •  Gold to reward national Excellence
  •  Silver to reward outstanding performance
  •  Certified to reward best practices

Process to achieve the rating: 

  •  Register with the IGBC web site.
  •  Use resources provided by IGBC (reference guide, templates and other information)
  •  Design the home to meet the rating criteria
  •  Submit precertification documentation (only for developers)
  •  Submit design documentation to IGBC
  •  Review by IGBC/ third party assessors within one month of submission of the documentation
  •  Submit construction documentation to IGBC based on IGBC first review comments
  •  Review within one month of submission of the documentation and audit by IGBC/ third party assessors
  •  Award of rating by IGBC

Precertification

Precertification is a formal recognition by IGBC for projects aspiring for IGBC Green Homes Rating. Precertification is granted to projects on review of the early design stage documentation. Once a project is registered as an IGBC Green Homes project, the project team may submit the documentation for precertification.

The project documentation is reviewed and an IGBC Green Homes Precertification level (certified, silver, gold or platinum) is granted. A certificate and letter are provided to the project.
(Source: IGBC website)

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