Evaluation is necessary to ascertain how green a building is. Apart from verifying claims, such systems ensure that best practices are followed and the gains made are quantified. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment), the green rating system developed by The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), is promoted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) as the National rating system.

Not only has GRIHA evaluated and incorporated most of the green building criteria originally developed by LEED, a green building rating system that was developed in the US and adopted by the Indian Green Building Council in 2001, it has also added further requirements to make the system more suitable to the Indian building context. In addition, MNRE has made it mandatory for buildings to obtain a GRIHA rating to avail subsidies and other financial assistance allocated for green development. The Ministry also provides incentives to local bodies that offer rebate in property tax for GRIHA rated buildings.

Key features

Some of the key additional features that GRIHA requires are:

Basic building codes and standards: LEED originated in the US, where basic construction norms and regulations such as construction worker safety, health & sanitation, minimum visual and thermal comfort are strictly complied with and without which construction approvals are not granted. LEED’s criteria assumes adherence to these basic codes and norms which may not be mandatory in India.

On the other hand, GRIHA requires compliance with certain basic codes and norms prescribed by Indian standards such as the National Building Code (NBC), Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), by selectively enforcing a few of these even though they may not be required by local development authorities for construction approvals. This approach ensures that these basic standards are also achieved along with environmental performance. A few of these basic standards in GRIHA include:

- Minimum level of sanitation/safety facilities for construction workers.

- Minimum natural day lighting requirements as per the NBC

- Minimum artificial lighting requirements as per the ECBC

- Urban context consideration

Focus on non-airconditioned buildings: Traditionally, buildings in India have been designed with climate sensitivity in mind, trying to achieve thermal comfort for occupants without the use of mechanical interventions. GRIHA’s criteria provide more credit to climate responsive architecture and design to minimise energy use compared to LEED criteria.

Mandatory minimum requirement for solar energy: Backed up by MNRE subsidies, GRIHA requires, as a mandatory criterion, 1 per cent of the total energy needs for the development to be sourced from solar power. Quality of ground water in India is not guaranteed as in other countries such as the U.S. GRIHA mandates the treatment of ground water for drinking and irrigation to the norms as prescribed by ISI.

Noise pollution: LEED does not evaluate acoustical comfort. GRIHA requires adherence to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and NBC guidelines for acceptable outdoor and indoor noise levels. All of the above make GRIHA very comprehensive. Incentives and subsidies by the MNRE: Buildings that achieve a minimum of 3-star GRIHA rating will be eligible for reimbursement of registration fees and cash incentives to their architects and consultants. Financial support for solar PV installations is also being offered. In addition , the MNRE is also offering Rs.50 lakhs to municipal corporations and Rs.25 lakhs to other urban local bodies that announce rebate in property tax for GRIHA rated buildings and make it mandatory for new government and public sector buildings to be rated under GRIHA.

Over the years, LEED has achieved global recognition as the rating system of choice for eco-friendly development. On the other hand, the availability of MNRE incentives and its greater relevance to the Indian context makes GRIHA an attractive option to government, quasi-government and private corporations with a predominantly Indian customer base. We spoke to Gaurav Shorey, GRIHA Secretariat, about the future of GRIHA . The next steps would be specific ratings for existing buildings and for low-income and rural housing developments that would be formulated in collaboration with organisations such as the HUDCO. The possibility of relaxation of FAR regulations for building developments with a GRIHA rating is also being weighed.