Lessons in sustainable living

Long-term benefits

Lessons in sustainable living

Sustainable apartments will very soon become the norm as they  cut down costs in the long run, says Prashanth G N.

Builders in Bangalore, like their counterparts in other metros like New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai are on their way to make sustainable apartments mainstream. There are properties with sustainable features and properties, which are completely sustainable. The former is larger in number compared to the latter. But with increasing awareness that buildings have to blend with specific, local ecological features, the day is not far when sustainable apartments become the norm.

Features involved

Among various features, one that is significant in construction of such apartments is temperature control within homes. The wind, shade, position of the sun, intensity of heat, winter, monsoon and summer conditions are analysed over a period to create a specific temperature within the house.

A city-based builder says, “The living space must be both colourful and ecologically friendly. We use materials that will suit climatic conditions. The direction in which we build the walls, usage of paint, making allowance for controlled sun light and at the same time ensuring its not too cold are factors we take into consideration while designing the house.” Top developers including Mantri, Tata Housing, Sobha, Brigade and several others offer sustainable elements in their properties.

The design of such apartments aims to reduce operational costs of the entire set-up. The primary focus is on cutting costs in energy, electricity and water usage by placing equipment that are automated. This ensures delivery as per settings. For instance, if a motor is switched on, an automatic system switches it off when the water tank is full. In the case of an iron box, the heat is reduced once a certain temperature is reached.
The water levels in your kitchen and rest rooms will be controlled by automated systems that you typically find in high end hotels and airports. Solar systems are used to reduce power consumption of air conditioners in all the rooms.

Sustainable development will also take into account the extent of greenery you must have inside and outside your home, the extent of land that has to be developed, the materials to be used for construction, the height of the roof, size of the windows and the amount of lighting to be permitted inside the house, piped supply of gas, the kind of plants that can be used inside and outside and whether a lawn is suitable or not for the home among other aspects.

According to experts, energy consumption in sustainable buildings can be cut by 30 to 70 per cent, while that of water would be around 30 to 50 per cent. The major concern for home buyers is rising energy costs. With rising electricity bills, consumers find any measure that would reduce electricity charges beneficial. Solar water heaters and solar lighting are also preferred.

Developers now focus on green building and design principles like water harvesting, waste management, use of eco-friendly building materials and on the technology front, apartments come with energy saving air conditioners, high performance glass windows, water saving solutions, composting toilets and efficient building management systems are some solutions leveraged by developers to build eco-friendly homes.

Save more, spend less

These mechanisms are expensive, but have long-term benefits that last for atleast 10 years. The operational efficiency of the house will ensure that you save more than you spend.

The overall market for fully sustainable apartment is around one to two per cent, while for projects with sustainable elements, its around six to eight per cent. Builders say since the initial investment for these apartments is high, people hesitate to ask for such facilities. And since the equipment and technologies are not built on a large scale, costs go up.

Builders therefore offer elements of sustainability so that overall costs of the apartment comes down. They say introducing sustainability stage by stage, rather than in one go, ensures that there are enough buyers. The word would pass around that there are affordable sustainable homes. This means a longer wait, may be another decade, for home buyers to become completely conscious of the value of sustainability.

One of the ways to ensure that sustainability is authentic is to adopt the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment or Griha, which will assess the resources and energy utilised by a project compared to national norms.

This may mean that the apartments would use little non-renewable resources and instead will look at the ability to recycle resources.

The rating is done with 34 criteria that includes site selection, planning, conservation, efficient utilisation of resources and extent of innovation. Each criterion has points assigned to it. It means that a project that has to be rated should qualify with a minimum number of points. Levels of certification ranging from one to five stars are awarded depending on the points scored.

Apart from Griha, there is also the widely-acclaimed Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. If a building scores 80 points on Leed criteria, it is guaranteed a high Leed rating. The Leed rating looks at the base building, operations of different systems like mechanical, electrical and plumbing and fire protection.

The moral of the story is invest high now, and save more over time. A good rating will also help you make the right choice in sustainable projects.

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