greening urban india through its buildings, green urban space, green buildings,

Greening urban India through its buildings

By: Staff Reporter
The need to adopt a green way of life is reflected in the increasing demand for ‘green’ buildings. It remains to be seen whether voluntary submissions would suffice in the effort to achieve holistic conservation of resources.
Real Estate

A green building is one in which the materials used and the methods of operation help in energy, water and natural resource conservation, and create a healthy atmosphere for its occupants. Residential complexes, exhibition centres, hospitals, educational institutions, laboratories, IT parks, airports, government buildings as well as corporate offices can be constructed to be ‘green’ while provisions exist by which old buildings too can be turned green. According to Priyanka Kochhar, the Senior programme manager at Association for Development and Research of Sustainable Habitats (ADaRSH) the total rated built up area in India (including all types of rating systems) comprises less than 1 per cent.

Green building norms

India primarily identifies three codes for green construction. The first, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is a global standard certification developed by the U S Green Building Council, that was unveiled in March 2000. In India, LEED certification is awarded by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) is an indigenous rating system developed by Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute of India (TERI). The third is the Construction Industry Development Council’s (CIDC) Comprehensive Green Rating (CCGR) system.


A programme providing third party verification of green buildings, LEED has been adopted in more than 140 countries and territories. About 40 per cent of the footage which had earned LEED certification was outside the USA by the end of 2012. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, managed by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), adopted LEED in 2003. Subsequently, LEED 2011 for India was launched by IGBC which came into effect the same year. The LEED India certificate refers to local and national codes wherever available, and uses international codes when no codes are available. It is a voluntary, market driven certification based on reference standards such as the Bureau of Indian Standards’ National Building Code (NBC), the Ministry of Power’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) etc.

According to the IGBC the green building footprint in India has increased from 20,000 sq ft in 2003 to 627 million sq ft in 2011 and to 1.65 billion sq ft in 2013. IGBC envisions India as the global leader in sustainable built management by 2025. The Council has architects, manufacturers, government and nodal agencies, corporate and institutions as its members. LEED India 2011 gives green guidelines for new constructions and for ‘greenification’ of old constructions. To earn LEED certification, the project must satisfy five predetermined criteria—energy; water; building material; environment quality; and, site selection. Based on the points earned, the levels of certification are granted—silver, gold or platinum. But, as of 13 November, 2013, IGBC has rated merely 427 buildings all over the nation.

As the certification is voluntary, a series of benefits is outlined for its better usage. In Noida, buildings with certification get an extra five per cent floor area ratio (FAR). Also this certification, apart from the obvious benefits of water and energy conservation which adds up to savings, ensures a quicker clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, for buildings that fall under its purview.


Developed as an indigenous building rating system, particularly to address and assess non-air conditioned or partially air conditioned buildings, GRIHA is a tool to measure the environmental performance of a building in the context of India’s varied climate. The code undergoes technical revisions every year and the last Technical Advisory Committee meeting held in July, 2012 led to GRIHA version 3.

GRIHA integrates all relevant Indian codes and standards for buildings, like ECBC, NBC, local by-laws, CPCB guidelines, and acts as a tool to facilitate implementation of the same. The certification criteria are site and building planning; construction; building operation and maintenance; and, innovation. Depending on the points earned by fulfilling these criteria the project can get between one to a maximum of five stars as rating. So far, 21 projects have received the GRIHA rating with built up area over 1 million sq m.


CIDC, jointly established by the Planning Commission, Government of India and the Indian construction industry, launched its version of green building rating system, the CCGR, in December 2011. The CCGR rating system, which applies to residential, commercial, industrial and institutional buildings, is calculated in percentages based on compliance with criteria such as site environment and natural resource optimisation; resource recovery systems; hygiene, health and human environment; building materials embodied energy optimisation; resource optimisation of building operations and maintenance; and, management systems for sustained focus on greenness of building.

The director of CIDC, Sunil Mahajan said, CCGR takes into account total comparative energy consumed from planning to demolition. It does not focus only on on-site green practices, but also on off-site green methods. There is thus emphasis on the energy embodied products used in construction. As the production of materials could be polluting, it needs to be factored into calculating the greenness of a building. As quoted by Mahajan, buildings account for 15-19 per cent of the infrastructure in India, while almost 83 per of the infrastructure is dams, roads, bridges power plants, etc. CIDC intends to include this remaining 83 per cent in its rating system.

Materials for green construction

According to the director of Environmental Design Solutions, Anamika Prasad, green materials are more easily available at prices comparable to those in the international markets today than they were in 2003—when the first green building was made. Materials for green buildings are available for construction as well as for interiors. Flyash bricks, recycled carpets, high albedo roofing materials, high performance glass, certified wood, low VOC paints, high COP chillers and CO2 sensors are just a few of the green materials available in the market. IGBC has developed 50 green products for a variety of uses like insulation, efficient motors, efficient pumps, solar systems, LEDs and better glass. In some places solar energy is being used to cool buildings. However, the price of green materials is still about 10-15 per cent higher than regular products; as also the knowledge about product use is still not prevalent among architects and engineers, opines Prasad. Srinivas S, the head of the Confederation of Indian Industry – Sohrabji Godrej Green Building Centre adds, that by conservative estimates, the green material market is likely to grow to 100 billion USD in the next five years. According to the head of ABL Architects, Ashok B Lall, he finds more people asking for green methods and materials in the recent past.


Performance of green buildings

It is not without cause that less than 1 per cent of built-up area in India has turned ‘green’. To begin with there is a poor level of awareness among the stakeholders. Builders and promoters often do not promote the ‘green’ agenda and only offer details when specific demands are placed. A common perception has been built about green buildings that they cost much more than regular buildings. However, increment in costs have been decreasing over the years. Also, it is well documented that the extra expenditure in constructing green buildings is earned through savings made in operational costs.

Speaking to our correspondent, Srinivas S added that these buildings have mapped a 30-40 per cent energy and 30-50 per cent water saving. He emphasised that people working in such environments have 12-15 per cent more productivity than their non-green counterparts as green buildings are always fresh.



Although promoters and builders continue to advertise a building’s ‘green’-ness, misinforming the common man, the various certifications do put construction of large buildings in perspective. The mandate towards holistic conservation of resources is a glorious one, although it would remain to be seen whether voluntary submissions would suffice in this arduous task. The fact that the various certifications have not been made mandatory by the government of India speaks a volume for the commitment of our policy makers. According to Srinivas, who advocates the voluntary and market driven system, compulsion would encourage people to cheat. He also believes that governmental incentives are necessary to promote green buildings as the incremental costs are repaid and energy and resource conservation leads to monetary saving, which is an incentive in itself. Lall feels that there should be disincentives for inefficient use, such as higher charge per capita consumption of electricity above a predetermined limit. Prasad adds that since we cannot ask consumers to invest 10-15 per cent extra on construction materials and technologies, we should move towards making certification or codes mandatory as these practices are for public interest and general good of the nation. For a country that hasn’t been able to assure food, health services and shelter despite specific policies in place—what fate would voluntary commitments for water and energy conservation in buildings have? As construction projects become larger in scale, the mandate of green buildings needs to be asserted to reduce operating costs and conserve energy and effectively preserve the health of the population and environment.

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