MILI MAJUMDAR speaks on the need to meet resource optimisation and mainstream sustainable development in India.We saw the Indian real-estate sector record a stellar performance during the 11th Five-Year Plan, where investment in the sector spiked from 5.5 per cent to 8 per cent between 2007 and 2012. This growth in the sector was expected to become even higher in decades to follow as the Government had developed a high-growth environment with liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in 2005, introduction of the SEZ Act, and allowing private equity funds into real estate. Rs 50,000 crore was also allocated for improvement in urban infrastructure to 63 cities under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).However, soon enough, one started hearing of delays in getting approvals and environment clearances, outdated floor space indices, high burden of taxation, stunted cash flows and delays in no objection certificate, which led to lack of confidence and reduced investor interest in the sector.While the pleas and recommended solutions from members of the building and construction fraternity ranged from seeking a single-window clearance to the need for more R&D on building materials and technologies, end-users felt more empowered with the release of the draft real-estate bill, which emphasised transparency and accountability to the end-user. Around this time, the once unorganised sector started its journey towards becoming a more organised one. The Government and the private sector started laying stress on the construction of environmentally sustainable and affordable housing, promotion of standardisation, and use of appropriate construction materials, fixtures, fittings and construction techniques. Implementation of environmental commitments and synchronisation of existing policies became buzzwords.It was in this environment and climate of development that GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) proved conformance with Indian policy for environment-friendly construction, and became identified as a cost-effective design, implementation and operation tool for real estate in India.Globally, green rating systems have been designed to address local needs on resource efficiency with an approach that is embedded in local heritage and culture. With several years of experience in designing and operating green buildings and enabling green building design in several sectors, TERI took upon itself to devise a set of tools that are effectively designed to address local implementation issues with rigour and scientific backing. GRIHA responds to the imminent need for addressing challenges of resource use; enhancing efficiency at design, construction and operation of buildings; strengthening knowledge base of practitioners; and assisting implementation with an intent rooted to local conditions. GRIHA also strives to meet objectives of national and regional policies and programs in the domain of urban development and buildings. Subsequently, GRIHA received greater acceptance by the private sector, started getting recognised as a design-cum-implementation framework that ensures transparent implementation, and became known as a framework that assists in credible quantification of resource optimisation on site.Several policy and regulatory mechanisms devised to address urban challenges have now started getting implemented through national plans and programmes, and the GRIHA rating platform. The ministries and agencies at the Centre have linked environmental clearance that ensures efficiency in resource use for large projects (i.e. over 20,000-sq-m built-up area) with GRIHA precertification; linked additional floor area ratio in NOIDA and Punjab (free of cost) to GRIHA compliance; and in areas such as Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in Maharashtra even linked financial incentives for developers and property owners to ensure resource optimisation through the GRIHA platform.GRIHA is a continuously evolving a system that attempts to address India specific-challenges in the sector through a robust yet flexible rating framework and strong implementation focus that is linked to attaining national and regional goals for the sector.Some distinguishing features of GRIHA are as follows: Built forms should respond to local and regional site context. Hence, the same benchmarks may not apply uniformly across all building typologies. Thus, GRIHA has evolved a set of benchmarks that are customised and applicable based on climatic location and usage of the building. Strategies such as rainwater recharge into ground, topsoil preservation and tree preservation are site-specific and may not be applicable for all sites or projects; for instance, recharge of rainwater into the ground may not be feasible for sites with a high water table. GRIHA is a flexible rating criterion that allows projects to cater to local and regional sensitivities. A building project is exempt from storing topsoil (if the soil is beyond repair) or recharging rainwater (if the water table is high, or from heating water using solar energy; if daily hot water demand is <500 l), treating sewage on site (if generated wastewater is < 10kl/day) or treating organic waste on site (if organic solid waste generated is < 100 kg/day). The rating level does not get impacted and the project is not encouraged to adopt measures that are not desirable owing to site constraints or have nominal environmental benefit from its application.GRIHA looks at supply-and-demand side resource optimisation and efficiency with equal emphasis.The adoption of GRIHA directly facilitates the achievement of government targets in meeting its sustainable development agenda. The corporate sector also benefits in achieving its corporate social responsibility mandate through demonstrating environmental responsiveness. GRIHA mandates adoption of the Energy Conservation Building Code of India, mandates installation of renewable energy systems to offset demand for conventional energy, and mandates water conservation through usage of water-efficient fixtures, recycle and reuse. Variants of GRIHA are designed to address sectoral issues. While SVA GRIHA is designed as a design-cum-rating tool to help individual homeowners and designers of smaller buildings with built-up area lower than 2500 sq m to design and get their buildings rated green without going through an elaborate rating process that may require engagement of specialised services of green consultants; the GRIHA for large developments looks at macro issues of habitat design. The GRIHA for large development shall rate neighbourhood, campuses, SEZs and large developments based on net impact on various resources (more details on www.grihaindia.org). It looks at carrying capacity, carbon footprint and addressing the urban heat island impact of large developments as well. All rating systems have a strong pool of experts who provide regular inputs on enhancing their credibility and technical strength.In conclusion, the poll-related promises in all the four states have a readymade framework and platform in GRIHA that would assist in meeting resource optimisation and mainstream sustainable development in our country.“Of all the sectors in an economy, the building sector presents the greatest potential for mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Consequently, the design and construction of buildings in a manner that uses resources efficiently is crucial for attaining a sustainable pattern of development and for mitigation of GHG emissions. These would also carry significant co-benefits. It is for this reason that the use of the GRIHA rating system and consequential improvements in building and construction can be a powerful means to bring about the development of sustainable habitat for the benefit of this generation and those yet to follow.”- Dr RK Pachauri, Director-General, TERI and Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and President, ADaRSHWhat: GRIHA Summit 2014When: January 16-18, 2014 Where: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To be attended by over 500 professionals from the building and construction industry,the summit will serve as a platform for knowledge sharing and facilitate multistakeholder partnerships and networking among governments, academia, civil society organisations and professionals from different disciplines.About the author: Mili Majumdar heads the sustainable habitat division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi. She is an expert on energy efficiency and recipient of the first Construction World Woman of the Year Award in 2011.With inputs from Priyanka Kochhar, Senior Programme Manager, ADaRSH The Green WaySHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN offers suggestions to help India elevate its green building practices.If you consider that over 50 per cent of global energy is consumed solely for the building sector and less than 3 per cent of water on the planet is potable, it’s a no brainer that the need of the hour is responsible development. With the Indian market’s potential for building green estimated to be over $ 100 billion by 2015 and the number of green buildings anticipated to grow to about 1 lakh by 2025, the country is gearing to take its green building performance to the ‘next level’. The question is, how?The imperativeIndia has always been green—this is evident from its forts and havelis. “We need to understand what our ancestors did right and what we did wrong in the past 50 years,” says Vidur Bharadwaj, Director, The 3C Company. “It is only then that we will realise the need to go green.” He also points out that there is negative cash flow as far as the carbon footprint is concerned.“With the current population size in India, demand for housing is increasing,” says Mala Singh, Managing Director, PEC Solutions Green Designs. “This will increase the need for natural resources, which are finite.”At present, the building sector in India consumes about 30 per cent of the nation’s energy. And Rishabh Kasliwal, Managing Director, Kamal Cogent Energy Pvt Ltd, observes that if the economy is growing at 4.5 or 5.5 per cent, the construction segment, including homes, is growing slightly faster. “So the short answer to ‘how’ is essentially conserving our natural resources or utilising them more meaningfully,” he says.The challengesIt’s been over 10 years for the green industry in India, yet concerns remain. One definite challenge from the end-users’ perspective is that green buildings are more expensive. “The cost difference is so minimal, though, that it can be recovered within a year,” avers Bharadwaj. And Kasliwal says, “It is crucial for the developer to realise that apart from just the tenant, he also benefits from building a green residential project.”Nevertheless, for some developers, building green can entail unplanned costs. Abis Rizvi, CEO, Rizvi Group, is developing one of India’s largest eco-friendly slum projects in Mumbai, which involves the construction of about 3,500 rehab houses and around 2,000 sale houses. Rizvi knew his budgets would be 15-20 per cent higher but some factors, like sourcing the right eco-friendly material, added unwanted costs. “There is no guarantee on quality and at an advanced stage of construction, after the first purchase, you again go in search of the right material,” he says, while also expressing concerns on the availability of large sewage treatment plants (STPs) for one building. Further, as the availability of sewage treatment consultants in India is limited, international consultants are approached. This turns out to be expensive.Now, for an architect who has been building green even before it became a buzzword. Chitra Vishwanath, Architect, Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt Ltd, says, “With the introduction of the rating systems, we have to depend on certain vendor specifications and it’s not nice.” But Singh sees it differently. “Rating systems and certifications are the only standards available with us; they help us set an objective to work towards,” she explains. “In some countries across the world, cities have a common agenda and strategies backed by governance mechanism. In India, the challenge lies in strategising for sustainable design. We also lack green education.”Gaining groundDespite the challenges, the sector continues to grow and innovate—in terms of designs, materials, techniques and technologies. Take, for instance, Bharadwaj’s net zero energy home, Shunya. “It is independent of any electricity grid and conserves the energy it consumes. The house consumes almost 85 per cent less energy,” he says, certain this technique can be adopted across India. For her part, Vishwanath promotes mud and precast technology in her projects across India. In Govardhan Eco Village, located about 100 km from Mumbai, she has used earth. As for precast, Singh tells us about a university project in Gujarat where precast (readymade materials) is being used. “This basically reduces construction cost and embodied energy,” she says.For Rizvi’s 20-acre slum project, he talks of designing for open spaces and maintaining a greenhouse with a controlled environment where organic vegetables can be planted. He also views location as fundamental. For instance, in Mumbai, a building’s height is not an issue. But in other cities with height restrictions, open and green spaces reduce. “In such a scenario, people are deprived of good open spaces that can add positively to the environment,” he notes.On trendNow, let’s look at some recent trends while building green:• Building materials: A higher proportion of fly ash in cement; brickwork moving towards fly ash or AAC bricks; insulating the wall and the roof; advance framing; double glazing units with low-E or anti-solar coating• Indoor air quality: Carbon dioxide sensors to ensure fresh air in rooms, especially for closed buildings like commercial and retail spaces where glass is used; design with cross-ventilation for naturally ventilated buildings; indoor or ornamental plants for a healthy environment. A great example of indoor air quality: the Paharpur Business Centre in Delhi• Energy-efficiency: A whole gamut of items from orientations to window openings to improve lighting; intelligent elevators that save 20-30 per cent energy; insulation on the roof to cut the load of the top floor by 10-15 per cent; improved glazing. An example: the Chandigarh government administration is using energy-efficient, sensor-based techniques that automatically turn off all the systems in case of zero occupancy• Water conservation: Rainwater harvesting and STP; conserving water in a sedimentation pit, pond or creating a water body in a township; drip application.Beyond the green tagIndia’s parks and heritage buildings are classic examples of a nation that saves, not spends. At that time, ratings systems or certifications did not exist. So, can building green still be a reality without rating systems or certifications?“Rating systems are basically tools to set objectives,” responds Singh. “A developer will never take interest if he has no final benefit of branding. However, a design can only be sustainable when it is responsive to the climate.” But here again, one needs to understand the topography of the site and its requirements and balance regional priorities, local materials, and existing biodiversity.While she maintains hers stance that there is life beyond ratings, Vishwanath does believe that ratings mandated for government buildings are good. “If it’s a rated building, you know for sure it has better interiors, ventilation and lighting.” For his part, Kasliwal shares some easy-to-implement green solutions like waste segregation, organic waste composting, energy efficient glazing and passive designs. “Most norms mention rainwater harvesting as compulsory along with reusing water for landscaping,” he adds. “Anyone living in any society can do this at zero cost.” Rizvi adds to the list, saying, “Solar energy and LED lighting can be used.” And Singh weighs in that the sustainable parameter needs to be an integral part of planning itself at the design stage to prevent higher costs.Money mattersIndeed, many global studies now posit that conventional buildings incur more cost compared to green buildings. Gone are the days when the payback period would be anything between 10 and 15 years. “It can be as quick as two to five years depending on the green features,” says Kasliwal. And Bharadwaj says, “In commercial buildings, the money spent can be recovered in two to four years; for a residential building, it’s about five to eight years.”Meanwhile, Rizvi believes that there is no payback that can be quantified. “In a city like Mumbai, the client looks for better priced apartments over green initiatives,” he says. “But for a green building, the payback lies in the goodwill.”The policy levelIf money is not the issue, why has the environment become an enemy to projects? “For a developer, seeking environment approvals is time consuming,” answers Rizvi. “Land should be assessed in terms of its carrying capacity, how much water it can generate, the weight it can absorb and the resources it can give to build these structures,” says Vishwanath. Present buildings are built as per their FSI and FAR, which is decided between a bureaucrat and the developer. The result: the building is constructed but there is a shortage of resources like water and electricity.Kasliwal has been coordinating with the Government to amend bylaws and offer incentives for building green. “One idea is to provide additional FAR for green buildings but this leads to loss of revenue for the Government,” he reveals. “A second is the reduction of property tax where the benefit accrues to the tenant and it’s easier for the developer to sell the flat. The third is to avail design incentives on day one; for instance, the Government subsidising cost through schemes. The fourth option is revenue-neutral—faster clearances.” Certainly, a single green window where only green projects can apply and there is guaranteed clearance in about 30 days is a good solution that incurs no revenue loss for the Government. What’s more, the existing Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), launched in 2007, needs to be enforced, which estimates a 30 per cent difference in a normal building and ECBC building.Further, Singh believes a mandate from the state government’s side can help. There is an environment department for each regional state with a single protocol: clearance. Is this an approval to execute the project? For its part, the Gujarat government has formed a green building committee (see box, ‘Matters of State’) and is greening government projects like the Gujarat Pollution Control Board office in Gandhinagar and the Raksha Shakti University. “In Bengaluru, every apartment treats wastewater and if there is no source of water in the site, the project is not approved,” points out Vishwanath. “All state governments should implement this.” And in Maharashtra, the state government has prepared green building codes that will be first applied to government projects.It’s evidently time to dispense with the talk and rhetoric—awareness and action are the way forward. There are three compelling reasons to build green: planet, people and profit. Let’s hope the profit motive alone is enough to spur the construction industry along the green way.Matters of stateIt is noteworthy that under the stewardship of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Gujarat government has launched various initiatives in non-conventional energy sources to promote eco-friendly development. In early 2000, Ahmedabad was declared as the fourth most polluted city in India, and Gujarat initiated its green movement, following which the green building committee was formed about five years ago.“Gandhinagar is being developed as a solar city and Ahmedabad has been planned to be a green city,” says Hardik Shah, Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board. Also, the focus has been on water conservation in Gujarat’s arid climate. “A climate-resilient plan is under process in Surat and treated sewage water is reused by industries,” adds Shah. In Ahmedabad, sewage and industrial wastewater are treated and reused for agriculture. Shah says, “We have awareness programmes where industry experts talk about their projects and the economic benefits of building green.” For states across India, he suggests two alternatives: conserve resources or develop alternate ones.Dos for sustainable construction• 200 mm of fertile top soil must be preserved, covered with tarpaulin and used for landscaping.• Temporary seeding should be carried out on disturbed site area prone to soil erosion. • Earth dikes and contour trenching can be constructed to protect work areas from upslope run-off and divert the sediment to sediment traps. • Sedimentation basin should be provided for collecting, trapping and storing sediment during monsoon.• Soil erosion must be controlled to reduce the negative impacts on water and site. • More pervious surfaces need to be developed for effective storm-water management. • Fencing must be done around trees to protect existing mature trees on site. • Construction materials must be stored inside separate bins.• Waste materials should be stored to avoid exposure to extreme weather conditions. • Reuse maximum construction waste generated on site wherever applicable. • Exposed iron rods and harmful construction waste must be avoided all over the site.• Construction material and waste lying around the site need to be managed properly to avoid contamination.