Friday, May 20, 2016

Does Green Buildings Makes Business Sense?

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man”… Stewart Udall

Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician and later, a federal government official. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969 & sure the guy has understood importance of green buildings even then when the building industry or call it real estate, was a toddler industry! Well that’s why USA is way ahead of the entire world especially in thinking about future if not implementing it; leave the sarcastic part as that’s inherent Puneites characteristic, though I am a Nagpurian but have adopted some of it!  On the back ground of our beloved PMC i.e. Pune Municipal Corporation i.e. governing local body of this city has adopted or approved or join hands with GRIHA, a green building rating system, I thought above quote is most apt for the situation! What is GRIHA & how it will rate a green building that we will discuss later eventually; the title of this write-up is what makes it more interesting as in the awareness program conducted jointly by GRIHA & PMC team I have been honored to speak as an engineer & topic was  “Does Green Buildings Makes Business Sense?”. 

At first while standing on the dais I was bit confused as in what capacity I should speak? Because if I speak as a environmentalist then my fellow developers won’t be liking it neither my PMC friends, if I speak a friend of PMC guys then also I am rubbing wrongly to the environmentalists’ around & if I speak as a builder then its biggest crime in itself to be a builder in this city & on top of it speaking something about green issue then you had it! But fortunately I got introduced as an engineer so that made my task easy as it’s my profession which I should stick & comment on what I feel about the subject, that’s all!

That way green buildings popularly known as eco housing is now well known term though I doubt how much, many actually knows about it. But before knowing more about Griha or green buildings, let’s have a look as why suddenly we started needing green buildings around. Back in 1970’s when real estate started in this city, the buildings were more open in planning & low rise i.e. hardly four storied. Parking wasn’t an issue & there was lots of open spaces around the buildings also driveways were of shahabad stone laid with open joints to percolate rain water in the ground. In many cases drive ways  were of just water bound macadam paving & no trimix concrete like today around the buildings, allwaoing most rain water to percolate in ground. There was no use of glass facades no alucobond cladding. The passages & staircases too were kept open with ample of light & ventilation so no need of artificial light & ventilation to common areas was there. Basement parking was unheard of & as landscape architecture wasn’t in picture, all what people used to plant was big growing native trees like mango & jack fruit & many such, giving ample shade as well greens for various species of birds as their habitats! Most important population was less & the public transport then was able enough to take care needs of the citizens of the city & yes there were cycles still on the roads so no issue was there of any vehicular exhausts pollution! As the population was less so was the water demand of the city. The water consuming amenities like zacussy or sauna & swimming pools weren’t demanded by the residents of the projects; appliances like washing machines in the homes were absent! In so many ways while entering in to twentieth century we have eroded the nature right from extensive use of natural resources like sand & soil to water that finally the terms like global warming & urban heat island came in existence! And then we started feeling need of balancing the damage to the nature which we only have done! Here is where terms like eco friendly homes or green building came in existence & obviously we need to define exactly how we are going to call a building eco friendly, so that’s why a rating system for green building is required!

Earlier eco friendly homes were like an elephant defined by the blinds in a folk story i.e. the blind who touched elephant’s tail described it as a rope, then who touched his legs described it as pillar, the one who touched his tusk, described it as a banana tree steam while the one who touched his ear said it’s like Sup (an instrument which is used to segregate grain from dirt & shell) & so on but nobody could describe the elephant in totality just because they were not been able to see it in complete form! Let’s understand that to define some object we should be able to understand the full form of the object in holistic manner & that’s what GRIHA, which is arm of TERI & Renewable Energy Ministry, does for green buildings. It’s a rating system which first defines different aspect of the building on its green fronts & then measures it on scale its efficiency for the same! In short, to define success of any technology, first we must be able to measure it on some scale & that’s where GRIHA comes in when it’s green building. Simplifying more, for example when we say some tap is water efficient then what we mean? So first we have to decide how much water quantity is ideal for every action i.e. say hand wash. Then what flow rate should the tap have to allow that much flow of water per hand wash & then we have to check how much water flows through the tap per second & then we can say a particular tap is water efficient or not. Similarly when we say a particular building is energy efficient then we must be in position to know how much energy is essential ideally for that building & then we can analyze the electric appliances used in that building & only after counting their output we can decide its energy efficiency quotient! So when we call a particular building a green building then only after measuring all such aspects we can decide its success & this too has a scale as even green has shade! I using this term to make common people understand what is rating of green building as it’s not like black & white i.e. its not either a building is green or its not; on various parameters the building is rated that how much really green it is!

To decide the green rating of any building there are six to seven basic criteria’s such as energy efficiency, water conservation, greenery & biodiversity, land use, construction materials, safety & welfare of construction workers involved. All these criteria’s are then divided on finer points such as use of technology & how much saving in energy or conservation actually is happening at site due to use of that particular technology. Means if there are existing trees on the site then are they needed to cut or the planning is such that they he existing tree cover has been preserved. If they are needed to cut then is their effort made to relocate & replant them? All these things have different marks or points. Also if there are no existing trees at site then these points are neither added nor deducted from the tally. Such hundred points total are given to every aspect & on basis of how much points a project has got for its all above aspects decided the final rating of the building. It starts from fifty points which is one star category & then it goes to five star level if the project gets above ninety points. On top of all above aspects special points are given for innovation in technology or efforts to make the stake holders aware about the green buildings & its aim.

Now days a lots of end users i.e. the people who will be living in the new building are aware about the green aspect of the home they will be living in. But to be aware is first step & to know is the home you are living is really green & up to what level, one must know its finer details. And that’s why unless & until not only the builders or the architects but the common man also gains this knowledge & demands such green homes, then only the green buildings will make business sense! For this every segment right from the developer to PMC officials should try to advertise the green rating systems & there is a lot to do. In many ways we can make people aware about their homes on green front, one of the easiest ways is printing such slogans on property tax bills which go to every property in the city.  Agreed PMC has offered nearly fifteen percent discount in property tax for the residents of five star rated projects as well same percentage rebate has been given to the developers in their premiums which PMC charges yet these doesn’t compensate the expenses involved for making a building green. So a balanced ratio of how much exact discount can be offered to the developers as well to the end users needed to be worked out. Let’s understand that green buildings is an ever evolving science & entire our policies must be made in such way that they will be green oriented & not just FSI or parking focused as then only we will be able to make more & more green buildings. For that we have to form a Green Cell with representative of every stake holder at PMC, which will take cognizance of new issues & clear them with positive mindset!

Along with Griha, PMC also has tied up with IGBC i.e. International Green Building Code, which also is a rating system for green building, so the developer can choose any one of the two systems to rate their green buildings. At the same time developers & the architects also should accept that green buildings & getting them rated is their moral & social responsibility too, along with making some money! As one may be an engineer or a builder or PMC official but before that he is citizen of this city & each of us has a duty towards the city we live in.  

For years we have been part to the sin of damaging the city by some or other way, directly or indirectly, but by making more & more green buildings we can undo the damage, at least some of it! There only lies future of our generations next or all we will be leaving behind is a concrete jungle & pollution & a history written with SHAME in front of our name!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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