A green building is an environment-friendly structure, in sync with nature, which makes efficient use of land, materials, energy, and water and costs less in terms of maintenance charges. Green building enhances energy efficiency, limits water consumption, and makes maximum use of non-toxic materials by recycling the same. It also generates minimum waste during the construction process and reduces the negative impact on the environment.
Green building concepts in Bharat
The market for green buildings in Bharat is currently at a starting stage of development, with only 5% of buildings being classified as green. The Bharatiya green buildings market is expected to double, to reach around 10 billion sq ft by 2022, valued between USD 35 billion and USD 50 billion.
According to the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), India has achieved 7.17 billion sq ft of ‘Green Building Footprint’. It says that there are almost 6,000 green projects and over 5.77 lakh acres of large development projects in the country.
According to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-GBC Bharat survey, Maharashtra ranks first in green buildings in Bharat, followed by Karnataka, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, India is working to reduce greenhouse gas (A ‘greenhouse gas’ is any gas that prevents infrared radiation escaping into space.) emissions by 35% and carbon (Carbon emissions’ can refer to carbon dioxide entering the air) by nearly three billion tonnes by 2030.
Around 40 per cent of the greenhouse gases emissions worldwide are released by construction activities, considering the huge volumes of energy required to build and sustain the houses. In December 2017, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) very rightly has quashed the environment ministry’s decision to exempt the construction sector from environmental approval and said it violated Bharat’s emission control obligations under the Paris climate deal.
The World Green Building Council (GBC) defines a net zero carbon building as a building that is highly energy efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources. Bharatiya GBC is a part of ‘Advancing Net Zero’ project of World GBC. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report also stresses need to decarbonize real estate sector by 2050.
An ideal house in the village should be built using material that is found within a few-mile radius of the house. The policy should be to build the house without disturbing the trees and water bodies. The design of the building structure should be aligned with the direction of the wind and natural light so that the energy usage is at the minimum level and reduces the dependence on ACs, fans and heaters.
Taking into consideration the above aspects If the house is constructed with eco-friendly material that is available locally, then its construction cost will be relatively cheaper than the conventional house.
Water conservation in Cities
In major cities there is greater scope for generation of captive solar power and water conservation in large apartments and gated communities by initiating the following measures-
- Installation of solar panels
- Water meters for accountability
- Reusing treated water (Sewage Treatment Plant)
- Rainwater harvesting from terrace
In commercial buildings there is scope for generation of captive solar power and eco-friendly toilets that reduce the negative impact on the environment. These measures lead to conserving water and energy resources and preventing environmental pollution from contaminated wastewater.
Incinerating toilets incinerate the waste into a small amount of sterile ash that can be safely disposed of in the natural environment and require no water to function. They’re a popular option in remote areas where there is no access to sewers or septic systems.
The bio-digester technology developed by DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) to meet the sanitation requirements of soldiers serving in the high altitudes of Ladakh and Siachen, is a simple, low-cost technology for treating human waste and providing safe sanitation facility.
The Bio-digester toilets are designed to convert human waste into gases and manure. It converts human excreta into usable water (irrigation and gardening) and gas (cooking and heating). Bio toilets treat human waste at the source itself, eliminating the need for its transportation thereby avoiding the sewage infrastructure and environmental pollution.
Therefore, these DRDO Bio-toilets can be installed anywhere irrespective of land terrain or water availability. The bio-toilet system meets all regulatory and environmental standards.
Similarly, in Ecosan toilets, there is no need to flush and the urine and faecal matter is utilised as valuable urea and manure. This concept totally avoids sewage and manual scavenging.
It is interesting to note that RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) is silent on the environmental issues, and it does not mention about green buildings because environment-related issues in general are covered by other laws such as the Environment Protection Act, Air Pollution Act, Water Pollution Act, etc. There is rising global concern about Carbon Neutrality for the international Building Development Organisations. It is a fact that real estate industry has not been active like the technology industry in tackling climate issues. One reason is that retrofitting existing buildings to make them more sustainable often requires an upfront investment and the related cost savings accrues only over the long term. Therefore, sophisticated techniques like LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and WLC (Whole Life Costing) need to be increasingly promoted in order to create greater awareness among the people on the overall benefits of green buildings.
Government Incentives for Green Building Projects
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of Bharat, offers fast track environmental clearance for green building projects which are Precertified/ Provisionally Certified by IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) & GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment).
The Ministry of Urban Development, Government of Bharat, has announced free of cost 1% to 5% extra ground coverage for FAR (Floor Area Ratio) for GRIHA projects with plot size of more than 3000 sqm.
Several Municipal Corporations have announced discounts in property tax to home owners, for projects that are certified under SVA GRIHA certification.
All IGBC & GRIHA rated green building projects in the MSME sector are eligible for financial assistance at concessional rates from Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).
Bharat is also well placed to pioneer agriculture-related carbon credit trading. Few Bharatiya start-ups have already sold significant carbon units from agricultural waste. The carbon credit trade offers scope to generate funds for green energy projects. It is estimated that, between 2020 and 2070, Bharat would need about $10 trillion investment in the power, hydrogen and transport sectors. According to Refinitiv, a data analytics company, the value of traded global markets for carbon dioxide permits increased by 164 per cent last year to a record €760 billion ($851 billion). The voluntary carbon markets touched a record high of S$1 billion in 2021. In Bharat, carbon trading was worth approximately $300 million last year. It is expected to touch $100 billion by 2030. In August 2022, the Lower House of Parliament passed a bill to establish a domestic carbon credit trading scheme. This signals the Government’s focus on creating a climate mitigation framework to meet its climate targets.
Green buildings picking up momentum
2022 has seen a surge in the number of builders using more sustainable methods, with common alternative materials that include the following:
Grasscrete: A technique of layering concrete flooring in a way that allows grass and flora to grow, creating a natural bio-filter and improving storm-water absorption.
Bamboo: A cost-effective, quickly growing material that is easy to harvest, making it a sustainable material source.
Recycled plastic: With a lifespan of 30 to 50 years, plastic is a durable and long-lasting building material.
Wood: Use of wood absorbs carbon dioxide and requires less energy-intensive processing methods.
Hempcrete: Made from hemp wood, water and lime, this sustainable material is durable and long-lasting.
Other alternatives to traditional building materials include papercrete, engineered wood, cob, steel frame and insulating concrete foam.
Research by the law firm Baker & McKenzie in its Global Sustainable Buildings Index, says Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK score highest ranks in this Index. This index gives due weightage to sustainable policies, schemes, trends and practices.
Recent Bangalore floods (floods in major cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore are mainly due to encroachments of water bodies like- river banks, canals, water tanks and ponds) is a testimony to the negative effects of abusing the ecosystem.
Enormous scope for Green Cities in Bharat
The ‘Housing for All’ plan in Bharat can provide an opportunity to assimilate affordable and green housing and thereby, create a sustainable change to Bharat’s residential housing market. Depending on the economic status of the people green buildings can be – low cost, medium cost, and high-cost models. Low-cost houses for EWS (Economically Weaker Section) may be constructed under green building models. Integrated town ships (both residential and industrial) may be developed under green building models to recycle, reuse and reduce the waste.
Plastic roads/ solar power roof top roads may be part of such integrated townships. It is estimated that the total plastic waste available in the country would not be adequate if all rural roads in India are converted into plastic roads!!! Plastic roads also provide a permanent solution to the disposal of waste plastic.
scientists at Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute, Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat (GERMI) have suggested the construction of roof top solar panels on the roads particularly on national and state highways, which will be relatively less expensive and more durable than the direct solar power roads ventured abroad (China, France and Netherlands) that have solar panels on the surface of the road covered by unbreakable glass. Additionally, these roof top solar power roads provide shelter to the roads leading to lesser repairs and maintenance costs. Scientists estimated that a PV roof cover over the four-lane 205 km Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate 104 MW of power while the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway, 93 km long, can reap 61 MW of electricity. Therefore, on a conservative basis the existing network of national highways that cover a distance of 1,32,500 KMs have the potential to generate 66,000 MW to 70,000 MW (66-70 GW) of solar power. (Bharat has an installed capacity of 406 GW as on 30 th August, 2022.) The current state highways and other road network in Bharat covers a distance of 1,56,694 kms and 56,08, 477 kms respectively also have vast potential to generate solar energy.
State Highways and District roads built under PPP model where the road contractors are struggling to collect toll revenues can be converted into roof top solar power roads that provide scope for alternative mode of revenue generation by selling the solar power. Road contractors may be permitted to sell the solar power to the rural population as well as the electric vehicles through charging stations subject to the pricing regulations stipulated by the Government. This will also give a fillip to the expansion of EVs in Bharat and the solar power roads.
Climate change and the Bharat Commitment
At the COP26, Bharat has committed to almost impossible targets of Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2070. This goal imposes on the Corporate and Business sectors in India some very stiff environmental targets by 2030:
Non fossil fuel energy capacity of 500GW; 50% of energy required only by renewable energy; CO2 emissions to be restricted to 1 million tonnes; Carbon intensity below 45%.
Over the past decade, green real estate assets – across top six cities in Bharat (NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai), have grown significantly, with their share in the total office stock increasing from 24% in 2011 to 31% in 2021. NCR and Bangalore are much ahead of others and together account for ~ 54% of the total certified office stock of Bharat. NCR and Hyderabad are leading in terms of the share of certified buildings in their respective total stock, with a 44% share each; followed by Chennai at 37%.
Coordinated and integrated approach between three major transformative Urban Missions viz., Smart Cities Mission (SCM), Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U) is very much needed for achieving better outcomes in Green Housing. The macro level policy in this regard should aim at the following with a strategic approach:
- self contained habitats/ villages
- Self contained houses in towns and cities
- Self contained apartments
- Self contained townships
- Self contained cities
RBI and NHB (National Housing Bank) should bring out a policy to incentivise green -house financing in Bharat. Bharat needs USD 20 billion worth of investments each year to achieve its climate targets and fund its green transition, according to FICCI & Trilegal in a report. Let us hope the government will give a serious thought to this issue and take the necessary policy measures and implement the same in right earnest with collective participation of all the major stakeholders.