Trends 2011: Green Homes!?

Post date: Feb 1, 2011 8:34:22 AM

I have just finished reading one of my favourite magazines; the January issue of the Indian version of Entrepreneur magazine contains a 2011 trends special. Just like most magazines do in their first issues of the year, the Entrepreneur magazine also contains articles on what they believe will be the forces driving change in 2011. This articles talks about how travel and tourism is going to take off, how social media is going to bring about a revolution in on-line shopping, how the increasingly health conscious population will power a boom in the fitness sector, how healthcare has and will continue to emerge as the most progressive of the service sectors in the country and how the services required by senior citizens will create a huge opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. Now most of us have heard of the progress these sectors have been making for a few years now so these are quite predictable. But one trend that I thought was quite interesting and even slightly surprising was the forecast of increased demand for Green Homes. Interesting because Green Homes and the concept of smarter living offers tremendous opportunity for overhauling an average Indian's lifestyle and surprising because I did not think it would make it to such a list for at least a couple of years. Well, its here now and so I thought its only appropriate to give a further insight into Green homes, what's on offer and what one should expect out of living in such a home.

What is a Green Home...

A Green home is essentially a building which is Designed bio-climatically, consuming less water, optimising energy efficiency, using recycled / renewable materials, generating less waste, both during construction / post construction and providing safe and healthy living space for its residents ...

According to the Indian Green Building Council; A Green Home can have tremendous benefits, both tangible and intangible. The immediate and most tangible benefit is in the reduction in water and operating energy costs right from day one, during the entire life cycle of the building.

Tangible benefits

  • Energy savings : 20 - 30 %
  • Water savings : 30 - 50%

Intangible benefits

  • Enhanced air quality
  • Excellent day lighting
  • Health & well-being of the occupants
  • Conservation of scarce national resources
  • Effective waste management
  • Enhance marketability for the project.

A graphical representation of a Green Home

What's on offer...

Well, the shortest answer to that question is; not much. There are a few developers in cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore that offer certified Green homes to a market segment which is still considered to be niche at the moment. Having said that; most new developments come with certain green features like waste water treatment, energy efficient lighting, visitors parking, design for differently able, Landscaping etc. While these are all welcome, just by adding a few environmentally conscious features a developer cannot claim their offering to be GREEN. Yes! the development can be termed Environmentally Conscious; GREEN no!

Building Green Homes requires one to take an holistic view of every aspect concerning the building's occupants and the environment. Apart from optimising energy performance and being highly efficient in its water use; the home should also ensure there is minimal disturbance to its site. The home should offer superior indoor environmental quality which in turn improves the quality of life and enhances productivity of its occupants. Equally important and perhaps the one with most potential to alter the business of building is that all of the above should be achieved by using material that has the least possible impact on the environment.

How does one choose...

The first thing any home buyer should understand that there is plenty of Green Washing going on in the market. Almost every developer in the market might claim to have done their environmental due diligence before they start marketing a project but in reality there is no one to check if a complete life cycle analysis of materials was done, or whether the design is the most energy efficient possible within the constraints, what sort of emissions are coming out of the chemicals used in the building, the true durability of the building and the systems within it and last but not the least the potential reduction of green house gasses.This might sound like a confusing scenario for a home buyer but it does not always have to be that way.

One of the best and perhaps the least technically challenging method of judging a home is to check if the project has been certified GREEN. Today any developer or for that matter any private home owner has the option of getting their project certified GREEN. These certifications come with varying slabs which inform a home buyer how green the home really is. There is nothing to say that a project that does not have a certificate is not green, the fact is that there are many uncertified developments that take a stronger approach towards environmental conservation than certified one's but who is to check this?

There are two organisations in India that currently offer such a certification: First one and perhaps the most popular is the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) which is the subsidiary of the Confederation of Indian Industry and the other is The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI). Thankfully unlike in the west the Indian market is not flooded with too many rating systems. Both these ratings come from the most influential institutions of the country, one is the largest industrial body and the other is an important government agency.

The IGBC has developed a rating systems called IGBC Green Homes which mainly draws from the USGBC's LEED green building rating system.TERI's rating system called GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) has been developed in partnership with the MNRE (Ministry of New & Renewable Energy). This system is not specific to homes and can be applied to all types of buildings. The IGBC on the other hand has specific rating systems for every type of development. The IGBC Green Homes rates projects Platinum, Gold, Silver or Certified based on the greenness of the building whereas GRIHA rates its projects Five star, Four star, Three star, Two star and One star. As the name suggests, platinum and five star are considered to be the pinnacle of efficiency, health, comfort and quality.

Both these ratings are fairly comprehensive and rate projects by taking most aspects of comfort, health and environment into account. Such a certification is almost impossible to gain without taking the holistic approach I talked about earlier in the article. This provides a win win situation for both developers and home buyers. For developers, such a rating can improve the marketability of their project and for the home buyers it provides a certain guarantee of quality for their investment.

What should one know before investing...

It is very important for the home buyers to appreciate that such a certification has a certain premium attached to it. So it is only natural that developers might charge slightly more for a green home as opposed to a conventional home. Apart from the expense of the certification fees paid to the IGBC or TERI, obtaining such a certification requires tremendous amounts planning, research, perseverance and attention to detail. Green home projects also require a lot more designing time in order to make sure the final product is the most energy efficient possible. There is also extensive documentation involved (up to 400 hours) to prove the compliance with the rating program. A buyer should expect to pay a premium of anywhere between 6% to 15% depending on the rating obtained, technology features and systems added to the home. A home is usually a long term investment and every home buyer should understand that this additional cost has a definite return on investment through savings from energy and water costs, higher durability, enhanced productivity of its occupants and better waste management. The resultant reduction of impact on the environment and reduced CO2 emissions is just a cherry on the cake.

"Just as you feel good when your thoughts, emotions, intellect and physical state are in harmony; So does a building make you feel at home when it is in perfect balance with its inhabitants, environment and the laws of nature."

Article by: Yusuf Turab

Managing Director

Y T Enterprises