Synergy is required amongst the architects, the real estate developers and the government to design and deliver green buildings. Green buildings are still perceived to be expensive by the end users. While there have been steps taken to orient the market towards a life-cycle approach in estimating the financial implication of construction, operational savings due to lower consumption of energy still fail to attract the necessary investments, believes Sanjay Seth, CEO, Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council, a government-backed non-profit organisation focused on green building ratings. In conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Saur Energy International, Seth shared his views on various issues which the power sector is currently dealing with along with the organisation’s various initiatives in the renewable energy segment. Here’re the excerpts from that exclusive interview published in the Saur Energy International Magazine’s February 2020 edition:
Q. What does GRIHA see as its biggest focus area in the near future?
The GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) Rating, which has been adopted as the National Rating System by the Indian government, has been entrusted to measure, verify and evaluate the environmental impact of new and existing buildings.
The GRIHA platforms also enables a streamlined process to collate data pertaining to the built-environment in order to help the government in determining the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and strengthen its implementation efforts further. GRIHA aims to enhance the stock of green buildings in India, thereby supporting the Indian government to mitigate and adapt to the effect of climate change.
Due to the immense confidence expressed by several international organisations such as UNSW, Sydney and the Danish Government, GRIHA Council is in the process of exploring possibilities for development of codes and standards for other countries with climatic conditions similar to that in India. Through these measures, GRIHA aims to disseminate concepts of sustainable and low-carbon development beyond national boundaries.
Q. What do you think is the level of consumer awareness about green construction in India? How it can be increased?
Consumer’s perception is that green buildings cost more and thus can be afforded by only the affluent. However, the reality is that sustainable buildings can be constructed to provide monetary benefits provided the decisions for the same are made at the right stage. Traditional buildings, which were constructed in the past, incorporated the concepts of sustainability and were designed to respond to local climatic conditions. The green building stock of India can only be enhanced if this misapprehension disappears. Another issue impacting the penetration of green buildings is the absence of adequate information on sustainable material in the public domain.
In today’s scenario, the technical knowledge of advanced sustainable construction is concentrated in metropolitan cities while the indigenous knowledge in local communities is disappearing. Therefore, GRIHA has been actively working towards training industry professionals through our regular capacity building programs.
Q. Shed some light on the incentives/ facilities provided to encourage the construction of green buildings in the country.
Government policies play a very crucial role in promoting sustainable development. It is critical to inform national policies to create a much-needed demand for green or sustainable buildings in the Indian market. I would say that the addition of a new chapter on sustainability in the National Building Code is a huge step towards large scale implementation of Green Buildings.
It has also been observed that a lot of impetus is being given by the government to align the regional building codes with the national agenda of promoting sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Furthermore, an eco-system approach to enhancing the sector has been adopted to ensure the scaling-up and implementation of market-ready solutions.
Several incentives have been brought in the market to promote GRIHA, the national rating system for Green Buildings by several state and central government bodies. All the central government buildings and PSUs have mandated GRIHA for all their buildings since 2009. Following the same, many of the states have been several benefits as listed below:
• Additional FAR
- Urban Development & Housing Department, Government of Jharkhand – 3%, 5% & 7% additional FAR shall be awarded to all building uses (except plotted residential) for achieving a 3-star, 4-star or 5-star GRIHA Rating respectively
- Housing & Urban Planning Department, Government of Uttar Pradesh – Free of cost 5% additional FAR for projects for complying with 4 or 5 Star GRIHA Rating
- Building Code 2017, Government of Haryana – 3%, 6%, 9%, 12% or 15% additional FAR shall be awarded to all building uses (except plotted residential) for achieving a 1-star, 2-star, 3-star, 4-star or 5-star GRIHA Rating respectively
- Department of Municipal Affairs, Government of West Bengal – 10% additional Floor Area Ratio F.A.R. for “Green Building”
- Jaipur Development Authority – Free of cost 5% additional FAR for projects for complying with 4 or 5 Star GRIHA Rating
- Department of Housing and Urban Development, Government of Punjab – Free of cost 5% additional FAR for projects for complying with 4 or 5 Star GRIHA Rating
- Town & country planning department, Himachal Pradesh – Free of cost 10% additional FAR for projects complying with 4/5 star GRIHA rating
• Discounted Development Premium
- Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) – 5%, 10% and 15% discounted development premium for achieving a 3 star, 4 star or 5 star GRIHA rating respectively
- Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) – 5%, 10% and 15% discounted development premium for achieving a 3 star, 4 star or 5 star SVAGRIHA rating respectively
• Fast track environment clearance
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India issued a memorandum to facilitate fast track environmental clearance for GRIHA pre-certified projects.
• Property tax rebate
- Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation – Discount of 10% on property tax for homeowners in GRIHA rated green building projects
- Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation – Discount of 5%, 8%, 10%, 12% and 15% on property tax for homeowners of 1 star, 2 star, 3 star, 4 star and 5 star rated SVAGRIHA green building projects respectively
• Reduction of permit fee
- Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department, Andhra Pradesh – 20% Reduction on Permit Fees for all GRIHA rated buildings
• Subsidy on capital investment
- Industrial Development Policy 2015 – 2020 by Government of Andhra Pradesh – 25% subsidy of total fixed capital investment of the project (excluding cost of land, land development, preliminary and pre-operative expenses and consultancy fees) for the industries which will obtain a green rating as per GRIHA with a ceiling of INR 50 crore
In addition, Sunref India has been offering additional benefits for the housing projects developers, owners as well as primary lending institutions under the affordable housing segment. In the private sector, GRIHA has signed MOUs with major players such as Vatika Group, IREO, and Conscient Group to ensure that all their upcoming constructions are GRIHA rated. These partnerships have helped GRIHA establish a sizeable footprint across the country with over 1733 registered projects and 52502869 square meters of sustainable built-up space.
Q. In your view, what are the challenges in the road towards developing green buildings in India?
Synergy is required amongst the architects, the real estate developers and the government to design and deliver green buildings. Green buildings are still perceived to be expensive by the end-users. While there have been steps taken to orient the market towards a life-cycle approach in estimating the financial implication of construction, operational savings due to lower consumption of energy still fail to attract the necessary investments. We have been working towards enabling the entire building eco-system to work towards sustainable development and life-cycle approach to construction progressively.
Another hurdle would be that the majority of the buildings that are being developed green are yet to be completed. People believe in things that are physically visible and are supported with numbers substantiating the associated savings rather than just the numbers. While traditional buildings were built on the principles of sustainability, the associated savings were not being monitored and reported in the public domain. Thus, there is a need to put more credible information associated with the green buildings in the public domain.
A major challenge is enhancing consumer understanding of the implication of design, planning and construction of buildings on climate change and the environment. Additionally, infrastructure and financial constraints coupled with difficulties in procurement of sustainably sourced materials are major hindrances towards creating a paradigm shift.
An integrated approach in spreading awareness, creating policy imperatives and mandates for “green” construction is critical. GRIHA Council has associated with Indian Institute of Architects (IIA), Council of Architecture (CoA) and National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) to carry out capacity building programs to disseminate knowledge about green buildings into the building fraternity.
The GRIHA Council in association with TERI has launched the GRIHA Product Catalogue with the intent to provide information about products which meet GRIHA parameters to the architects, engineers, builders and other professionals for use in their green-rated buildings. This has helped in increasing the pool of green building products and provided clarity to building professionals who are often unsure about whether a certain product is sustainable or not.
Q. What is the viewpoint at GRIHA on the surge in usage of glass in buildings? Especially with the massive walls made of glass? Is that appropriate for India?
The increasing building energy use due to space conditioning calls for a more nuanced design of building envelopes specifically since a majority of the heat ingress in buildings can be attributed to glazing and roofs (nearly 50% and 25% respectively in single-storey structures and 48% and 9% respectively in multi-storied buildings). Consideration of heat gain is usually secondary to the aesthetic or brand appeal and is not given sufficient importance during the design stage.
The current market trends and international architecture zeitgeist is geared towards the use of large glass façades. Such an approach to design inevitably increases the heat ingress into buildings and can result in an increased cooling load. Depending on the envelope design and construction adopted for residential buildings located in a particular climate zone, the minimum and maximum sensible cooling demand can vary by as much as 1:3.
However, the underutilization of transparent construction can also lead to a dimly lit building, resulting in increased energy consumption due to artificial lighting. Therefore, GRIHA sets the standards for the use of glazing and the daylight requirement for comfortable and energy-efficient habitat.
Q. Can the building and housing sector help India achieve its emissions targets going forward more easily?
The building sector has the largest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other major emitting sectors. This emissions savings potential is said to be as much as 84 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) by 2050, through direct measures in buildings such as energy efficiency, fuel switching and the use of renewable energy.
The bulk of the building infrastructure is yet to be built. In this respect, GRIHA has been acknowledged as the tool to evaluate the reduction in emission intensity through habitats, as part of a mitigation strategy for combating climate change in India’s NDCs submitted to UNFCCC.
GRIHA’s initiatives have been instrumental in reducing carbon emissions from the building sector considerably. Last year, the PWD in Maharashtra had mandated all upcoming government buildings and retrofitting of existing buildings to comply with green building concepts and to be rated by the GRIHA Council. “This small initiative in its first phase led to an annual reduction of nearly 2721 tonnes of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to eliminating 600 vehicles from the roads.
The potential impact of GRIHA registered projects, with 2525 MWp of renewable energy installation, 8,48,71,412 MWh/ annum of energy savings and nearly 2,81,60,249 tCO2/ annum CO2 emissions offset is a clear indicator of how green buildings will be fundamental in helping India achieve its emissions targets.
Q. Just as renewables energy found larger adoption only when they reached price parity, are green buildings making a strong case for immediate economic benefits too?
There are several sustainability parameters that affect the ‘greenness’ of a building. While there are various technologies and systems such as efficient glazing, directly leading to higher capital investment, there are many no-cost and low-cost strategies and technologies which can enhance resource efficiency. Ironically building procurement decisions are predominantly made on the basis of upfront capital cost and there is a lack of life cycle approach including operational factors affecting cost, performance and ease of operation. This has led to the general notion that green buildings are expensive.
Constructing a green building is only a question of engaging and understanding the nuances of climate responsive design. The hindrance in large scale adoption of green buildings can also be attributed to the low demand for green construction. The onus is also on designers and architects to promote green building practices and dispel the notion of high capital costs associated with green buildings.
The government has acknowledged the importance of green buildings and in consonance with this plan; various state governments have introduced incentives for developers promoting green construction. Several state governments allow increased floor space index (FSI) in case of green buildings based on certification by rating agencies such as GRIHA Council.
To list a few, Housing & Urban Planning Department, Government of Uttar Pradesh is offering free of cost 5% additional FAR for projects for complying with 4 or 5 Star GRIHA Rating; Building Code 2017, Government of Haryana – 3%, 6%, 9%, 12% or 15% is awarding additional FAR to all building uses (except plotted residential) for achieving a 1-star, 2-star, 3-star, 4-star or 5-star GRIHA Rating respectively; Department of Municipal Affairs, Government of West Bengal is awarding 10% additional Floor Area Ratio F.A.R. for “Green Building”.
When energy conservation projects increase the initial capital cost of a new building or incur retrofit costs in an existing building, Life Cycle Costing can determine whether or not these projects are economically justified from the investor’s viewpoint, based on necessary investments, reduced energy costs and other costs implications over the project life or the investor’s time horizon.