Growing spaces into green towns
With input costs on the rise, realtors have a business reason in going for eco-friendly development
Oct 27, 2013
Source : The Times of India


MUMBAI: As electricity bills soar and water scarcity looms every summer, it would be obvious that living in a building that enables its occupants to conserve water and power makes sense. Imagine living in a community or town geared towards conserving natural resources. Where public spaces are available for people to socialise and children to play, the roads are pedestrian-friendly and the work spot is within walking distance.

This is what building and town planning is moving towards, say experts. And that is what most modern towns are gearing up for — green towns and cities.

Pushing it forward

After spearheading green buildings concepts the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry hopes to enthuse developers and authorities to go for green towns.

But some incentives from the authorities will expedite such development, says S. Raghupathy of CII-IGBC. Over the last decade, the IGBC has promoted the concept of green buildings in India. By this it refers to buildings designed to be energy efficient, conserve and recycle water, use natural light and ventilation, and which use recycled materials where possible. Compared to a conventional building, these save up to at least 20 per cent of the resources and can go up to 40 per cent saving.

The council has facilitated the creation of over 1,745 green buildings with a footprint of 1.21 billion sq. ft. These include commercial and residential spaces, hospitals, retail, factories, townships and SEZs. IGBC standards for green homes are of international standards.

Over 45-50 per cent of the projects under development are targeting some level of green building certification. Over the last two years more than 60 per cent of the projects registered are green homes, says Raghupathi.

Need for incentives

“We are discussing with State Government and local authorities on incentives for green buildings,” he said, talking on the sidelines of the Green Building Congress 2013 inaugurated in Chennai on Thursday. There are a few instances of such incentives but these need to be more widespread.

For instance, the Noida municipality allows 5 per cent more built-up space for gold-rated buildings as compared with the normal floor area ratio (FAR) or floor space index (FSI) allowed for conventional buildings.

The Ministry of Environment provides for fast-track approval for projects that opt for green rating. But there is little awareness of this provision. Just about a dozen projects in Maharashtra and one or two in Tamil Nadu have opted for this scheme.

The National Housing Bank is also considering interest subvention on home loans for green buildings. But in most places, regulations are focussed on commercial buildings.

Look at any city: where are the open spaces, where are the playgrounds…?

According to Raghupathi, green ratings are now going beyond individual buildings to townships – entire projects of 10-20 acres of mixed development. This means where people live in self-contained communities, are able to walk to work and avoid hours of commuting, where transportation costs and pollution are down, and cities become healthy.

Business reasons

Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-GBC), a centre of excellence under CII that facilitates environment-friendly construction and urban spaces, says there is a strong business case for commercial buildings to opt for green development and the business case will only get stronger as costs increase. From the obvious benefits of saving on power and water, the focus is now spreading to the intangible benefits of good interior air quality and using daylight rather than artificial light wherever possible.

Both increase the wellbeing of occupants and improve efficiency and productivity at the workplace.

Over the years the cost of promoting a green building has come down. For just about a 1 to 5 per cent higher cost, builders are now able design and construct energy- and water-efficient buildings. But the premium they attract is much higher from the buyers.

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