The GRIHA Council, an independent not-for-profit society set up jointly by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), is presenting a business case for green buildings through advocacy and partnerships, and the underlying principle of ‘what gets measured gets managed’
By Sanjay Seth
India’s green footprint as of today is a minuscule percentage of the total built environment; in fact, the footprint is less than 2%. Having said that, the number of green buildings in the country is growing at a rapid pace. This growth can be attributed to the top-down as well as bottoms-up approach in terms of regulatory and policy push, and rating systems that have been put in place. The addition of a new chapter on sustainability in the National Building Code, and the impetus being given by the government to align regional building codes with the national agenda of promoting sustainability and reducing GHG emissions are examples of government interventions intended towards adoption and implementation of green buildings in India.
Rating systems such as GRIHA, IGBC, USGBC, etc are primarily tools to evaluate the greenness and resource efficiency. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) has been recognised as the national rating tool. We, along with other agencies, are working towards the goal of reducing carbon footprint and increasing/improving resource efficiency.
Getting a Green Rating
It’s easy to claim to have constructed a green building, but the larger question is how to go about verifying the claims, leave alone measuring the effectiveness of the green building. At GRIHA we take into consideration various parameters such as orientation, site planning, reuse of water for consumption, use of recycled material, solid waste management, and occupant comfort and well-being, among others, to evaluate the greenness and resource efficiency of the building.
At GRIHA we evaluate various types of buildings – existing, new, affordable housing, small, and large developments. As the first step towards acquiring a GRIHA rating, a feasibility study is conducted right at the design stage. The project is then required to be registered with GRIHA Council, after which an orientation workshop is conducted for the project team – client, architect, MEP consultants, landscape consultants, project manager, etc. Two site visits are conducted during construction to provide guidance and verify the compliances on site. The third and final site visit is done after completion of the project. On completion, the project team compiles information and evidence to demonstrate compliance with the respective criteria, and submits it to GRIHA Council for the award of rating. Once the documents are validated by third-party reviewers, the rating is awarded. The project needs to submit post-occupancy performance audit data for minimum one year, to validate the claims. The post-occupancy performance audit is a unique feature of the GRIHA rating process.
GRIHA has been built keeping in mind the way we design, build and operate our buildings, the climate conditions, construction materials used, etc. However, nothing is set in stone; the rating system keeps evolving.
Missing Consumer Demand
The biggest stakeholder in this set up is the consumer, and ironically the biggest challenge affecting the growth of the green building sector is lack of awareness and demand among end users. We, as consumers, have to demand green. Unless we become demanding, the growth of the green footprint will remain slow. Take for instance the star labelling program instituted for electrical appliances by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). It’s only after massive awareness campaigns were undertaken that consumers started demanding electrical appliances that had at least three-star rating. The manufacturers got the message and gradually they phased out products with one or two stars. This trigger from the consumers pushed the market for energy-efficiency, and we believe that the same will soon happen for green buildings as well.
Amongst the many challenges being faced is that green buildings continue to be projected and perceived as expensive by the developers. This deters the consumers from investing in them. Further, the concepts of lifecycle costs and paybacks are still not understood properly by the consumers.
We at GRIHA Council have taken upon ourselves to engage with resident welfare associations (RWAs) and spread the message of greenness, water conservation, waste management, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, etc. This initiative, we feel, helps us answer the question: what’s in it for me; and explain to residents that they are the real beneficiaries. For instance, energy efficiency helps reduce energy bills, and these are tangible benefits that consumers can avail.
Collaborations with ULBs, Government Agencies
Although building codes and standards remain voluntary, many states and ULBs have either mandated or incentivised green buildings in order to spur the market forward. This has resulted in a gradual increase in green building construction. Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), besides other municipal bodies, is offering discounted development premium to green buildings. While this benefits the builders, end users are being provided substantial rebates on their property tax. Of course, builders are bound by their commitments through bank guarantees, to ensure that their buildings continue to perform as per the prescribed green norms well after they have been occupied.
As for government agencies, CPWD was the first government agency to adopt GRIHA ratings for its projects and it updated its schedule to incorporate minimum three-star compliance. Institutions such as IITs, IIMs and AIIMs are registered for obtaining GRIHA rating for their campuses. Airport Authority of India (AAI) has also registered many upcoming terminal buildings for certification. We engage with all such large establishments to explain the benefits of sustainable building design practices as well as their evaluation through GRIHA ratings.
Currently, we are working with Maharashtra Government’s PWD ministry for capacity building. GRIHA has partnered with the ministry to create ‘GRIHA trained certified green professionals’. They do part of the due diligence and documentation under our supervision, while certification is done by GRIHA Council. Also, we have set up GRIHA cells in Amravati, the upcoming capital city of Andhra Pradesh, to handhold various project developers and help them comply with green parameters.
The theme of the 10th edition of our GRIHA Summit is ‘fostering partnership for sustainable habitat’. We have invited experts and industry representatives to deliberate on the interdependence between organisations, systemic sustainability management, and feedback loops for better resource efficiency. The Summit is scheduled for 11-13th December in New Delhi and will be an excellent venue for not only understanding the market opportunity for green buildings but also developing strategies and forging alliances.
More recently our parent body TERI and Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd (MLDL) launched the first-ever Centre of Excellence (CoE) to boost energy-efficient real estate in India. The CoE, which is a joint research initiative, will develop databases for market-ready, scalable and energy-efficient materials and technologies. At present we are populating the database, and shortly we will put the research output in the public domain so that it is adopted by developers, architects, and individual homeowners.
The author is CEO at GRIHA Council, TERI