As the countdown to the latest edition of GBC to be held in Chennai in October first week begins, Manjushree Naik reports on what, according to green professionals, are the main challenges that the green building movement is faced with
The CII-Godrej Green Business Centre, the hub of all green building-related activity in the country, is all set to unveil the latest edition of its Green Building Congress at Chennai in just a couple of days.
Like every year, the GBC is expected to attract green building professionals from all over the world. There will be presentations by architects, structural engineers, LEED consultants and others on their latest green projects with details about the ratings that they have notched up. Then there will be seminars, conferences, exhibitions and other allied events. Thus a lot is going to be discussed at the forthcoming meet with regards to the challenges that green professionals face and what more can be done in this regard. As a curtain-raiser before the event, here are details on what some leading professionals feel about the challenges that the green building movement is going to face in India and the country's increasing role in this sector.
The key challenges
While green projects offer benefits such as saving on water and energy and maintaining Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), attaining the various parameters is a challenge. Rajendra Joshi,VP, Marketing, Mahindra Lifespace Developers states, "Prior to the start of construction, design parameters of the building are to be well thought about. There are certain basic differences between the design parameters of green buildings and conventional buildings. Green buildings are to be designed for energy efficiency, water efficiency and healthy Indoor Air Environment and so on and this makes them different from conventional buildings. The challenge lies with the designer / architect on how well he meets these requirements in a cost-effective manner." He adds, "Another challenge is the availability of certain materials for green buildings. Also during construction of green buildings, lot of environment-friendly practices like top soil preservation, soil erosion control, waste reduction, use of construction waste, and arranging for local building material are to be adopted."
J. R. Tanti, MD, Synefra E&C informs, "Major challenges that would pertain to green construction would be in technology, designing, architecture, approach toward sustainability and so on." He adds, "Currently, there is not an integrated approach to designing buildings for energy efficiency, although LEED consultants try to bridge the gap. Most of the builders do not want to change from traditional materials, and established procedures. To maximise the potential of green buildings, all participants -- engineers, architects, developers, and consultants - should be in regular communication throughout the building process, from planning to the finished construction."
Harjith Bubber, CEO & MD, CCI Projects Pvt Ltd states, "Choosing the green road is challenging at all levels in terms of materials, design and energy-efficient equipment as well."
He adds, "The endeavour / requirement to procure all construction materials from within 500 km of the site and ensuring the required recycled content values for the building materials can also pose a challenge."
Bubber cautions, "Also, the gaps and scattered knowledge in the industry, which may have mislead to distinguish between the extensive green aspects to which a green building caters to and the non-energy-conscious yet claiming to be green for superficial reasons is another challenge.
Architect vs Developer
Though most architects stress on the need for building only green projects, they have to address to developers’ concerns pertaining to construction costs. Yet most developers do not seem to be concerned about the costs looking at future benefits of green construction.
Joshi of Mahindra exhorts, "One should take into consideration the lifecycle cost of the building and not just the construction cost. Green buildings are more cost-effective, if we look at the total lifecycle cost of the building as it reduces energy consumption, is water efficient and creates healthier living space."
Tanti of Synefra says, "Green buildings do not necessarily mean additional costs. Our One Earth project is a great example in this respect. Sustainable buildings are not something that are made with any new or unique technology. These are built on similar lines as any other building. Green or sustainable is not a component that needs to be marketed separately or should be a huge concern today, but the processes should be made part of the process. I firmly believe that designing a campus on the principles of sustainability not only reduces the negative environmental impact but also has added benefits like reducing operational costs, maximising energy and water savings, enhancing building marketability, increased productivity of workers and reduced IAQ problems. Sustainable construction practices result in 20-30 per cent savings on energy and 30-50 per cent savings on water for occupants of a building.”
Bubber of CCI opines, "Encouraging sustainable construction is catching up in a big way with architects, interior designers and home-owners addressing the climate change as a phenomenon around the world. As a developer, I feel we should join hands with architects and look into the future to mitigate the climate change with little investments for sustainable goals. It is a common notion that green constructions cost more. In reality, it just means using effective methods and planning design strategies right from the inception of the project. Eco-friendly homes are economically and aesthetically pleasing. With the current carbon emissions and global warming it is very important to reduce the unnecessary or wasteful exploitation of scarce non-renewable resources and promote environmentally responsible and sustainable economic development."
Hype or fact
With rising awareness developers seem to be thinking like architects. But even among architects, there is a large section, which dubs the green movement a hype and nothing more.
Joshi of Mahindra differs, "That is not correct. In fact this kind of wrong perception is because the awareness levels about green buildings are low. Knowledge about green buildings and their benefits is mostly restricted to few designers and architects. Organisations like CII-IGBC and TERI have taken initiatives to create awareness about green building benefits through conferences, seminars, and training sessions. There is a need to devise a mechanism through which we can increase awareness among end-users. Then these perceptions will change."
Tanti of Synefra states, "We had a very balance environmental, social and economical system and efficient building construction approach. But with the influence of the West it was forgotten on the way."
Bubber of CCI feels, "We, as new generation developers, are not only interested in economic benefits but also take responsibility for developing sustainable environments."
Striking a balance
Thus, the consensus seems to be on striking a balance with regard to going in for sustainability and minimising construction costs.
Joshi of Mahindra says, "Total lifecycle cost of a green building is much lesser than that of a conventional building and hence we pass on this benefit to our customers rather than think about the incremental cost incurred during construction stage of our green buildings."
Tanti of Synefra offers, "Financial benefits are not the first things that are considered when the design process begins and it is not green which adds to the economics."
Bubber of CCI expresses, "We believe in "building responsibly" which includes our responsibility to the environment. Due to the size of the land (22 acres) and the nature (mixed-use) of Rivali Park, we believe, when developing a project of this size, it is important to ensure its sustainability at all levels. From the design conception stage through the construction, attention has been paid to ensure eco-friendly development to the maximum."
A lot is being done towards a sustainable tomorrow, but a lot more is needed in terms of better laws and proper implementation.
Joshi of Mahindra feels, "There should also be an initiative from Government bodies to allow certain incentives for green building developers and buyers. We expect Government to encourage development of green residential buildings / homes by means of certain incentives like reduction in development charges, assessment tax, statutory approval fees and so on for developers and less property tax, stamp duty, registration fees for customers." He adds, "There should be schemes from banks - low interest rate on home loans for buyers of green homes."
Tanti of Synefra: "The entire concept is in approach and planning. All measures such as exploring the right materials, energy- and water-efficient appliances and their use, maintaining the IAQ of properties, keeping costs low through the building lifecycle using means of facilities management and maintenance would definitely contribute towards sustainable and green infrastructure but the process starts from the day the project gets conceived."
Bubber of CCI: "Today, awareness on green buildings in India is scattered but increasing rapidly. The integrated and holistic approach towards construction of modern green structures is emerging with awareness and government incentives to developers have encouraged the green concepts to get them rated under LEED etc. As a result the future holds the builders to construct buildings that are designed, built and operated in a manner that improves the health, well-being and productivity of people and the environment. "