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Steps to Sustainability

Every stakeholder derives benefits from GRIHA’s green building strategies

By Ar Namrata Amarjeet Mahal

Construction activities inevitably bring disruption in the immediate environment, at a speed that is likely to surge exponentially in the coming years. Research studies have long established this insurmountable challenge, with data. One such study says, around half of all non-renewable resources consumed by mankind are used in construction, making it one of the least sustainable industries in the world. Nonetheless, it also offers enormous opportunities to harness the potential of technology advancement to minimise the detrimental impact on the environment. Having said that, GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) has positioned itself to recognise and seize these opportunities, such that it lays a proportionate blend of best global practices and rational approaches.

While revolutionising the concept of green buildings in India, GRIHA was adopted and endorsed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in 2007 as the National Rating System for green buildings. Since then, urban local bodies and state governments have incentivized GRIHA in their respective jurisdiction by offering free of cost additional FSI (Floor Space Index), discount in the premium amount and property tax paid and so on. The latest being the Government of India highlighting GRIHA as one of the national strategies for attaining the emission reduction targets set in its ‘INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution): Working Towards Climate Justice’ document submitted to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Green Building Strategies

GRIHA is a (point based star rating) tool to evaluate the environmental performance of a building in a holistic manner, over its entire life cycle, thereby providing a definitive standard for what creates a ‘green building’. Nationally accepted codes and standards like ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Code) and NBC (National Building Code) create the foundation of GRIHA; still, green building is yet not a common practice.

What really does it take to make a building green? It’s just the ‘thought’ to make a difference and the onus to deliver in an integrated manner until the end. GRIHA framework aligns the thought process towards sustainability and may be simplified as an eight-step strategy to make a green building (see graph). These strategies work splendidly well because every stakeholder sees a benefit in it. Few of them are enlisted:

  • 30-50% reduction in energy consumption from the GRIHA energy benchmark (encourages energy demand optimisation and installation of renewable energy systems to offset the optimized demand)
  • 40-60% reduction in building water consumption as compared to GRIHA benchmark (encourages water demand optimisation and installation of water efficient fixtures)
  • 40-50% reduction in landscape water consumption (encourages recycling and reuse of treated waste water)
  • More than 50% of the living areas are day-lighted (reduces the requirement of artificial lighting)
  • More than 40% fly-ash or any other BIS approved waste used in the block work (low embodied energy material)

Best Advocated Practices

GRIHA is structured on a very simple philosophy, i.e. first optimize the demand of the resource; secondly use efficient systems/products to meet the optimised demand, and lastly offset the demand through renewable resources. Optimising demand for the resources is majorly a design and planning intervention. So, let’s take a quick look at few of the low environmental impact materials, efficient systems, and products available in the market.

 Way Forward

Forethought and well-planned actions in a unified manner, with the entire project team, by responding correctly to the context while using modern materials and technologies can be less detrimental to the environment around us. Undoubtedly, GRIHA can act as a guiding tool to achieve the desired degree of sustainability in the built environment.

The author is a manager at GRIHA Council, India. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. ')}

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