The real estate sector in India is expected to reach a market size of US$1 trillion by 2030. This means that there will be a huge increase in the carbon footprint of the sector. Currently, buildings in the country account for 40% of the total energy consumption, 30% raw material use, 20% water use, and 20% land use. They also generate 30% solid waste and 20% water waste and are responsible for 24% of the annual CO2 emissions. These findings stress the importance of the need for sustainable habitats. The government has tried to address this issue with its Smart Cities Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, all of which focus on the need for ‘green buildings’

Over the years, three popular green building rating systems have evolved. The first is the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) which was developed by the Energy and Resources Institute and is endorsed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It’s a point-based rating system that consists of 34 criteria categorised under various sections like site selection and planning, conservation and efficient utilisation of resources, building operations and maintenance, and innovation. The scheme helps decrease the carbon footprint of buildings by lowering their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy consumption, and stress on natural resources. Buildings like Suzlon One Earth in Pune, Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, and IIT Kanpur are all GRIHA-rated.

The second most popular system is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED-certified buildings have 34% lower CO2 emissions and consume 25% less energy compared to other buildings set up in the country. Both these systems have been rated and registered by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which is a non-profit research institute having its offices in CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad, a LEED-certified building.

The IGBC is closely working with state and central government agencies to promote the green building movement across the country. Various policies include the fast-track environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change for green building projects which are pre-certified by the IGBC and the financial assistance for all IGBC-rated green building projects in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.

The third system, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), has also developed its 1-5 star rating scale with more stars meaning more energy efficiency. They developed an Energy Performance Index for buildings where each unit of kWh per square metre per year is considered for rating buildings. With the BEE Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) being implemented and mandated in Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal, we now have an index guaranteeing “ECBC-compliant buildings”.

When the green building movement first came about, the incremental cost of developing these buildings was 12-18% higher than other buildings, but with increased awareness and uptake, these incremental costs have now dropped to just 5-8%. With the growing demand for land, water, and electricity in metros and cities, green buildings are becoming easier to construct and maintain. This push for green buildings has led to India moving up to rank 3 in the world for LEED-certified buildings, with almost 900 certified projects overall. However, this adoption is not without its challenges.

A large selection of Indians are still unaware of green buildings including many architects, engineers, contractors, and workers. Developers also have to go through many tedious processes of various approvals that can cause delays. Further, the lack of mandatory laws to enforce the large-scale implementation of green building norms is not helping the cause. To sum up, although the policy initiatives in the country look promising, there is still a long way to go before we can see the large-scale implementation of green buildings. 

Real estate developers and consumers need to be educated about the massive benefits of green buildings. If states across the country adopt energy-saving building codes and leading developers implement them in commercial buildings, an estimated 3,453 TWh of electricity could be saved by 2030. This is the equivalent of powering 358 million homes annually between 2014 and 2030. We need to encourage the government and regulatory bodies to enable developers and consumers to understand the need for green buildings.

Summarized from RenewableWatch

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