The energy footprint of a building consists of ‘visible’ elements like air-conditioning, lighting, water pumping, fire alarm systems, building control systems as well as ‘invisible’ elements like nearness of the building to public transport or central location (so that energy is saved by occupants in commute). Energy consumption per unit built-up area can be reduced through mechanisms such as efficient lighting (for example, LED lights) and better thermal efficiency (for example, use of AAC or CLC blocks for building envelope).
What is a Green Building?
Of late, the concept of ‘Green Building’ has caught on in India, as well as the world. A Green Building not only aims to save energy but also tries to reduce all environmental damage. For example, saving water by use of water-less urinals or by using technology like sensor driven taps for water.
Different Green Building Rating Systems in India
There are three popular Green Building Rating Systems in India.
- Indian Green Building Council (IGBC): https://igbc.in/igbc/
- Green Buildings Rating System India (GRIHA): http://grihaindia.org/
- Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) Rating System: https://beeindia.gov.in/content/buildings
These rating systems measure buildings on a set of predefined criteria and classify them based on their fulfillment of these criteria. For example, The IGBC system has criteria under the following broad heads for new buildings.
- Sustainable Architecture and Design
- Site Selection and Planning
- Water Conservation
- Energy Efficiency
- Building Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
- Innovation and Development
Categories of Green Building Certifications
These rating systems typically have different criteria for different types of buildings. The types of buildings that typically opt for ratings include office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, hospitals, public buildings like airports, factory buildings and large residential buildings.
The system is yet to catch on with independent homes and smaller 3 to 5 storey residential structures or large affordable housing projects. The reason for this include: –
- Builders of small structures are not yet aware of the existence of such rating systems.
- Builders of small structures feel that their investment will go up if they opt for constructing a green building.
- Rating systems have criteria that are not as relevant for small or affordable structures. For example, use of electric or CNG vehicles.
- Some of the criteria are too complex for layman to understand and implement. The language in the rating documents are also fairly complex and difficult to understand, as they are intended for professional use.
- The certification fee is considered too high by builders of smaller structures.
Green Rating System for Independent Homes
Given the above context, rating systems for smaller constructions like independent homes have been developed. For example:
These systems have criteria specific to independent homes and other smaller structures. Further, they bring down the cost of certification and reduce additional investments needed for compliance.
Green Rating System for Large Affordable Housing Projects
There is also a need for different rating systems for large affordable housing projects. Such projects are on a tight budget and maybe using innovative construction technology for faster construction, which may have an impact on their green credentials.
We believe that every building in India should be ‘Green’. The higher cost of initial construction is easily paid back over the life of buildings; both financially as well as through better comfort of occupants. It is a small price to pay in an increasingly warming world. General public should be made aware of green practices in construction. After all, majority of structures outside of large cities in India are independent homes or other small structures. It is important that the Green Building phenomenon spreads to all new construction. It cannot afford to remain restricted to large premium buildings in major cities.