Friday, June 30, 2017

Green Buildings; Whose Baby Is It?

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.” ...Mahatma Gandhi.

These words were the first which came to my  mind when I sat to prepare a presentation for a seminar about Green Building’s Costing & Finance, jointly organized by PCMC & GRIHA, a rating system for green buildings developed by TERI i.e. The Energy & Research Institute. As, had we the human beings, would have kept our needs in control there wouldn’t have been need arise for urging green buildings. This seminar was way different than hundreds of which I have attended on the subject of green buildings as first time the financial aspect was the focus & not just green ways. Especially on the background of demonetization, RERA & now GST, already real estate is in its worst phase of sales, making costing as key factor. Already appreciation is gone from real estate as well all other costs related to building are sky rocketing & on top of that there is burden of expectations to reduce the home prices is there. This all makes green buildings take a step back as indeed there is added costs involved to implement these aspects in construction but frankly (I wanted to say unfortunately) everybody wants green buildings but no agency is ready to pay for it or absorb the added costs is a bitter fact. Will cover that aspect later but before that let’s have a look at various aspects of green buildings & its impact on the construction cost. Keeping this mind for first time this seminar’s special invitees were from finance field; Tata Housing Finance Limited MD as well very senior officers from National Housing Bank & AFD France an Institute which finance Govt of India for smart city mission, were few names present at the seminar.

On large the Eco housing or Green buildings can be categorized on seven fronts, so if we study each front in depth then a lot can be achieved. Actually this each front has multiple factors & they varies from geographic to financial fronts depending on project size, use of the structure so what we have to do is analyze every project on this scale to make it Eco friendly. So let’s see head wise, what’s scene in real estate…

     1. Energy or Power
     2. Water
     3. Garbage
     4. Greening or Biodiversity
     5. Materials
     6. Social Awareness
     7. Public Infrastructure

1. Energy or Power: Here power means electric energy. This is probably the most important aspect of present times as power is costly & it needs natural resources like coal & gas, as most of power in our country is by thermal energy! We can make homes which will use maximum natural light as well natural source for energy conservation like solar / wind.  Use of solar for water heating is a must & should be backed up by gas instead giving electric backup. Rooms should be planned in a way to have maximum sunlight & minimum artificial light. Number of points should be restricted. Here is strong need of policy revamps by electricity board, like electricity should be provided on reduced tariff for the home which will utilize maximum natural resource for their needs. Wind energy is yet costly affair & not viable mainly due to storage issue. Though a lot can be saved in fittings by use of LED lights but then as developer we can give just common area lighting. Also the planning plays a vital aspect so as to accommodate maximum natural light as well ventilation, reducing operating costs by les consumption of electrical energy. But then such planning needs every room having outer surface making the construction more costly as that means less common walls. Considering all such aspects the Impact on Construction Cost is Approximate Rs.20-50per Sq.ft. of salable area. All areas I am considering salable as that’s the language a builder understands best!

2. Water: This may be even important aspect than the Energy in coming years, rather this will be deciding factor for the real estate. Water must be supplied via meter only & think of changing on use than supply like we do for electric energy. Rain water harvesting & any water recycling equipment like water pumps or sewage as well water treatment plants should be subsidized by PCMC as well MSEDCL tariff. Also the users must get good reward for using the same in property tax. Tariff of electricity should be less & PCMC also should try for it. Using separate storage tanks for domestic & non domestic use as well provision for such plumbing arrangement is a must. The entire cost of recycling is the vital factor as up to what level we want to use the recycled water decides its installation as well operating cost. Impact on Construction Cost is approximate Rs.25-100 per Sq.ft.
3. Garbage: This is another future problematic front. Treatment at source should be promoted. Allow use of amenity spaces for vermiculture or garbage digesters as well for water & sewage treatment plants. Promote numbers of developers in one locality to come together & run garbage treatment plants. Local bodies should stop collecting wet garbage or charge high property tax for such projects. Impact on Construction Cost is approximate Rs. 10-25 per Sq.ft.

4. Greening / Biodiversity: This is very important yet extremely neglected aspect & needs special attention. We need to conserve the balance of not only trees but grass, creepers, native trees, birds, insects, reptiles as they all make this city which was once very rich in biodiversity. And for that we need to create thousands of biodiversity pockets. We need to change the policies a lot for this like in EC not to consider parking in built-up area as people will plan less covered parking’s i.e. multi-storied parking’s & encroach the spaces for trees. Even if we may force the developer but the residents won’t allow the trees to grow considering them as obstacle.
We need to give space of every other specie to survive & for those norms like coverage, height, side margins needs to be reworked & fast as each day a building coming up with our age old norms is an encroachment on greens! Relate property tax with the trees survived in the complex. Our rivers & natural streams/nallahs can be best source for this, which unfortunately are in very bad shape right now.  Right from planting new tree policy to allowing cutting the tree in essential cases, needs to be streamlined. Or else we are making people enemy of trees is a fact! Here we use a simple system, we make our every flat holder to plant a tree in the project they have booked flat as well put their name board alongside the tree, This gives them bonding as well ownership feeling with the tree & the family sees that their tree survives! Impact on Construction Cost is approximate Rs. 10-15 per Sq.ft.

5. Materials: On this front the scene is literally there is no R & D when its new green materials or innovations are concerned, neither efforts like any discount by PCMC on LBT for eco friendly material. And do mind we can’t afford trial error runs for a multi storied building keeping in mind safety aspect when its use of new material. PCMC should think of coming up with research center along with CREDAI for alternate materials options. Right from taps with controlled water flow to low energy consuming fittings to fly ask bricks, in every step we need to promote eco friendly materials. But at the same time they should be available in ample as well in proper time & at affordable rate. Impact on Construction Cost is approximate Rs. 50-100 per Sq.ft.

6. Social Awareness: Remember eco housing isn’t just a building or project but it’s a life style & PCMC along with Credai should join hands on every platform for this. What you do outside of your project like saving particular endangered species of a frog in Western Ghats should be equally considered as importance while we built our project in Pune. As somewhere a forest is alive so we can breathe here comfortably, this concept has to be digested by ourselves first & then carried to every citizen of this city! Also what we do for the poor segments of the society is to be taken in consideration along with making the entire society aware about nature conservation. Making school children aware by running Nature clubs in institutes is on great effort, which can be jointly by PCMC & Credai. The developers can think of giving common Laundromats reducing use of washing machines individually. At Sanjeevani we are planning to give a bicycle with every flat to promote use of cycles; such many initiatives can be worked out.  Here PCMC Commissioner put forward a very important aspect that we need not just green buildings but make them social too ie allowing people to come together by providing enough open spaces for such gatherings. Here let’s understand the energy in the form of people is also a natural source & we must conserve it by utilizing fullest & that should be focus of planning of green buildings. Impact on Construction Cost is approximate Rs. 50-100 per Sq.ft.

So if we combine all the above aspects then we can say the impact on construction coast can range from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per Sq.ft. depending upon means you use as well the end result you want to achieve! Here one more aspect I need to put forward & that is …
7. Public Infrastructure
We have limitations on individual level when its infrastructure outside of our project. PCMC should tie up with individual or group of developers for such issues which will reduce burden on natural resource. Like starting a PMT bus route for a particular destination with the support of bunch of developers in that area so more & more people will use public transport. Or letting group of developers develop their amenity space for shopping complex, so as there will be minimum need for traveling for the residents. Or giving one point water supply in a locality & allow the group of developers developing water network in their area & discounting the same from their premiums, a lot many things can be done.
Same is applicable for issue like public lavatories’, as the city which can’t provide clean & good public toilets to its citizens which are a very basic need, how we are going to promote such city to the world! Many things can be taken jointly & for that the developer should get rewarded.

Lastly what is most important is speed of the change once we acknowledge & accept the change! This I meant in terms of policies. Age old norms should be removed & new ones if accepted should be implemented. Right from fire norms for residential buildings to giving a common toilet on top common terrace, so many things we all understand & accept that are necessary but don’t make them a reality! EC norms & certification, which can be done on PCMC level itself but unless PCMC takes lead & ask Govt, it won’t be done.

As a project getting delayed by one year means all the revenue of PCMC itself getting delayed by one year! Same is with MHADA policy; accommodating those small homes in same building is directly making the planning difficult, which isn’t in tune with green buildings! Just making stringent norms won’t solve the problem; but give rewards & fast to the right guy & punish the wrong one, will only make the change! To conclude I want to ask…”With all such seminars happening around, still why not many Green Buildings happening around?” Just because we are repeatedly failing on following aspects…

1)       Promoting Green Building promotion policies!

2)       Promoting Green Rating Systems like Griha.

3)       Passing on subsidies to end user like developers as well residents quickly and effectively; remember a subsidy delayed is subsidy denied!

4)       Making end user aware about his/her responsibility towards Green Buildings as it’s a life style we are referring to & not just a onetime structure!

Now coming to the bitter fact I mentioned i.e. no agency is ready to bear the cost of green buildings. For e.g. Govt sanctioning authorities which we call local bodies like PMC or PCMC keeps on increasing their premiums on various fronts for plan sanction. They do offer subsidy to green buildings but its peanuts in compare to the costs incurred in making green buildings. Think of green fsi & see that it’s in proportion of the added costs, remember no developer is in business for charity so unless we have a carrot we won’t get bunnies attracted to the same. Agreed many will say isn’t green buildings is a responsibility of developers, well it is but not only that of developers but every bodies! Because on the same lines then why common people are not ready to pay some more extra rupees for green building is the question I will ask, are they not responsible for green buildings? Rather common man don’t demand green buildings & that’s why developers doesn’t build them is the fact. Same way I appeal to all the financial bosses to finance certified green buildings at lesser interest rates & flexible installments, both to developers as well to the flat holders. This can be big help as well carrot for entire real estate segment to promote green buildings.

Lastly I will request GRIHA team to make the assessment simpler, flexible as well faster as we want green buildings & that science is ever evolving as well depends on local conditions. At the same time maximum credit must be given for the developer’s efforts to make his clients as well common man aware about the importance of green buildings & our responsibility towards the same as there only lays the future of the green buildings & eventually future of entire mankind!
Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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