Energy-efficient, eco-friendly structures not only help cut operating costs, but also reduce emissions, and the green building movement is gaining greater traction in India.

LEED ratings, energy-saving, eco-friendly... today, builders and developers are vying with one another to highlight their ‘green’ credentials to woo customers. So, what is happening?

In many ways, this phenomenon is being driven by the increasing demands for environmental compliance. This is because buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Energy efficient buildings can cut operating costs by 15 to 40 per cent. Apart from reducing operational costs, users of the buildings are also guaranteed comfort, better health and safety.

What exactly is a green building? A green building is one that focuses on renewable energy, efficient use of water and use of recycled or recyclable materials, and provides for healthy indoor air. Its advantages are manifold: the expenditure on design and equipment is rapidly offset by gains in power, water and hygiene — apart from reducing emissions and helping to cut global warming.

But while green ratings matter, the matter does not end there. Sathiaram Ram, Managing Director, En3 Sustainability Solutions Pvt Ltd., says that to achieve a performing green building, it is necessary to address sustainability through design, construction, operations and maintenance and in occupant use. When a building gets a green rating, it is only a rating for design and construction; the other two aspects need to be addressed once the building is occupied in order to realise full sustainability performance. If that is done, then you have a performing green building throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Mr. Ram feels that the green concept should be tucked into the design at an early stage. Working closely with every aspect of construction including site planning, building architecture and automation leads to optimum levels of sustainability.

If the green concept is based on fundamentals of design such as climatology, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and thermal comfort, it is passive design. But if it is focused on systems such as air conditioning, lighting, pumps, motors, intelligent building management systems, water fixtures and other equipment that go into a building, then it is active design.

How expensive are green buildings? The construction costs of a green building would be 5-8 per cent higher for a LEED Platinum building than a conventional building; but the incremental cost can be recouped within 3-4 years with substantial reduction in operational costs, says S. Raghupathy, Executive Director, CII-Godrej Green Building Council.

Mr. Raghupathy says that the increasing demand for green buildings has brought down the cost of green building products and technologies. Technologies and materials such as solar air-conditioning, wind towers, geo thermal cooling and flyash bricks are now common and their pricing is competitive.  

Globally, there is an increasing acceptance for green buildings. Green Building Council (GBC) in every country are playing a catalytic role in promoting the concept of green buildings. The Green Building Rating Systems, voluntary in nature, are designed to address national priorities.

The benefits of green buildings include energy savings of of 40-50 per cent, water savings of 20-30 per cent, and intangible benefits such as enhanced ventilation and day lighting which significantly improves productivity of the occupants.

With the construction sector growing rapidly, protecting and preserving the environment is one of the key challenges faced by the sector. Therefore, there is an urgent need to minimize the use of natural resources, says Raghupathy.

The green building movement in India was triggered when CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre building in Hyderabad was awarded with the first Platinum rating outside of the U.S. by the US Green Building Council. Since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds. Fro, a modest beginning of 20,000 sq.ft. green built-up area in the country in the year 2003, there are today more than 1,285 registered  green buildings projects with a built-up area of  over 905 million sq. ft. are all over India. 

According to a recent report, Chennai has the greenest buildings in India and the highest total volume of certified green building space. Out of 198 rated Green buildings in India, 18 are in Chennai.

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Let’s start at homeAugust 29, 2012