A green estimate

Rating system

A green estimate

GREEN MODEL The entrance of the Suzlon One Earth campus, with the globe. Pic courtesy: Suzlon

Reduce, reuse and recycle –  this mantra of those who promote environmental conservation is applicable in construction as well. And it’s mainly on these counts that buildings across the country will be rated under GRIHA, for their ‘green’ value.

GRIHA –  Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment – is a rating system that assesses the resources and energy utilised by a project in comparison with national benchmarks. The aim is to ensure that the building addresses environmental issues in an integrated and scientific manner.

This means that the building will use very little non-renewable resources, while utilising these resources to the optimum when in use; to ensure maximum reuse, recycling of available resources, and utilising as much of renewable resources as possible.
We were doing fine until...

“In India, we’ve been building green buildings for over 9,000 years, and we weren’t going wrong until 20 years ago,” says Gaurav Shorey, Area Convenor, GRIHA.

“It was only after liberalisation that we started building in the Western style, with the use of a lot of glass, etc. So, the energy consumption for buildings shot up. And as lifestyles changed, modern buildings needed higher energy,” he explains.

So, considering India imports 72 per cent of its oil, has severe water and power crises, and buildings are the prime consumers of energy, the concept of a 'green building' was introduced by TERI, and developed jointly with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

What’s a green building?

A green building is one that provides maximum comfort to its occupants – both visually and thermally (which means that the building should not make them feel too hot or too cold). Anything additional is considered a luxury. So, it would provide the maximum comfort, while using the least amount of energy, conserve resources and also have low environmental impact.

“When we say that a building consumes resources, we refer to the energy and water that goes into the construction. The nature of materials used makes a difference – if you use aluminium composite panels or cement, for instance, there is a significant energy impact,” says Shorey.

The rating

Currently, any building that is over 5,000 square metres in area can apply for GRIHA certification, except for industrial sheds (in which the consumption of energy is not solely dependent on the building, but also on the industrial process). The building is evaluated by a third-party evaluator, who hails from the city in which the building is located. “His or her attachment to the city ensures that no building that incorporates 'wrong' elements is ratified. We bring in experts too – for instance, if there is a landscape element, then a landscape architect is brought in. This will also raise awareness and sensitivity about the local environment, which has not been possible due to centralisation,” Shorey adds.

Rating under 34 criteria

The rating is done under 34 criteria, in various sections like site selection and planning, conservation and efficient utlilisation of resources, building operation and maintenance as well as points for innovation.

Eight of these 34 criteria are mandatory, four are partly mandatory, while the rest are optional. Each criterion has a number of points assigned to it. It means that a project that has to be rated should qualify with a minimum number of points.

Different levels of certification (ranging from one to five stars) are awarded, based on the points earned. So far, two projects have been certified – the  Centre for Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building, IIT Kanpur; and Suzlon One Earth, Pune. (See box)

Minimising energy needs

The rules themselves are taken from the National Building Code, which was formulated many years ago. “These codes and standards were practiced in the 1970s and '80s, when the energy crisis was even more acute,” says Shorey.

According to him, there are simple, passive methods that can be followed: For instance, ensuring that the windows of the building face either North of South, so that the harsh rays of the sun do not fall on it, and ensuring proper shading.

The choice of materials – stone, for instance – will help keep the building cool. This way, the need for a fan or airconditioner is minimised to a great extent.

“It is important to maximise the availability of natural resources on the site, like having a natural wind flow, design it such that you get as much natural light as possible, etc,” says Shorey. “It's a common misconception that a green building is more expensive. This belief we get from the West, where they first designed glass towers and then try to construct green buildings. But in India, many such materials are not needed at all,” he adds.

GRIHA, which is the first such rating specific to India, differs from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an international rating, in the sense that it takes into account the rich architectural history of the country, the climactic conditions and the power and water crises.

ONE EARTH Central park with Deepastambh. Below: A view of the Central Park Bottom: Suzlon Excellence Academy view.Subsidies

The government has introduced certain incentives to make eco-friendly buildings more viable. For all independent houses that get a high rating, the government reimburses 90 per cent of the registration fee, provides a 30 per cent subsidy on Renewable Energy Systems up to a maximum of 100 KW, and offers a cash prize to the best design team, acknowledging its service to the nation.

Above all this, a green building is more economical – both during the construction and after – and minimises the use of various sources of energy. 

For greener houses

For those who aspire for certification of their projects, or for those who simply want 'greener' houses, here are some tips:

Choose materials that have minimum impact on the environment, while adapting it to modern conditions

Use eco-friendly construction technologies

Incorporate good water and resource management. For instance, design the building in such a way that maximum daylight is used during the day, and place shades along the windows, so that you do not need too much electricity, or airconditioning.

SUZLON ONE EARTH PROJECT, PUNE

- The project in Hadapsar, Pune, is one of the first to obtain GRIHA certification – it has won five stars, the highest rating any project can get.

- The design plan, similar to a campus, is based on an 'urban village' concept  – it has horizontal open spaces instead of linear overbearing structures, large 'interaction courtyards' instead of only meeting rooms, wide landscape (185,578 sq ft of functional spaces) to encourage activities instead of “keep off grass” signs, state-of-art outdoor lighting, functional and aesthetic outdoor furniture, prominent water bodies, traditional elements like Deep-astambh, etc. The campus can accommodate around 2300 employees.

- The company has won the highest LEED rating for its whole-building approach to sustainability by attaining key areas of human and environmental health, sustainable site development, efficient water, energy and waste methods, materials and resource selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design processes. It has achieved an overall 30 – 40% reduction in operating costs due to 40% energy saving and 30% water saving solutions.

- Seventy per cent of construction material is low energy, manufactured regionally and uses higher recycled content.

- Hundred per cent renewable energy powered campus (solar and wind), along with deployment of CFC and HCFH-free air conditioning systems.

- Eighteen on-site functional wind turbines.

- Building Integrated Photovoltaic Panels (BIPV) to generate solar energy.

- Maximum capacity rainwater harvesting system and an onsite sewage treatment plant that aids recycling sewage water for air conditioning and landscape.

- The campus uses a ‘pebble drain’ technology to reduce soil erosion and collect rain water.

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