India: most ‘green’ buildings may not be green

If you are planning to buy property, then don’t get easily swayed by a project’s green tag. Chances are that it may not be “green” in the true sense of the word. While many high-end projects are generously using the “green building” tag to boost sales, only a handful has availed of the government incentive for eco-friendly buildings.

Last year, the state introduced a scheme where buildings with green certification were given priority for environmental clearance, which often takes over a-year-and-a-half. However, the response to the scheme has only been lukewarm. Said secretary of environment department Valsa Nair Singh, “Only five in 300 buildings are availing of the incentive at the moment.”The poor response is surprising considering that the “go green” concept is in fashion. Even Singh said she had anticipated a better response.

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) defines a green building as one which uses less water, optimizes energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to a conventional building.

The requirement of an official green certification could be one of the reasons for the poor response, said a senior state official, adding that the process of certification is tedious and can cost up to a few lakhs of rupees. “Construction material and technologies for green certification raise the cost of a project by at least 10%,” he added.

Sunil Mantri of Mantri Realty admitted that getting the certification was a challenge. Pointing out that lack of awareness about the government sop could be the reason for the poor response, he said, “I did not know about the incentive even though I have three ongoing green-certified projects in Mumbai,” he said. “Even green projects have to go through the normal channel.”

Niranjan Hiranandani of the Hiranandani Group also said that he was unaware of the incentive. Welcoming the move, he echoed Mantri’s views and said the state must spread awareness about it.

Mantri meanwhile claimed that the state needs to do much more to encourage green buildings. While admitting that the “green” tag attracts buyers, Mantri demanded concessions in scrutiny fee for proposals and higher FSI for such buildings. He said that while the state has been considering sops for green buildings for a while now, it is yet to announce these.

Last year, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that the government would soon announce a “green code” to encourage eco-friendly buildings. He had said it would have mandatory as well as optional aspects such as creation garden and green spaces on roofs, rainwater harvesting, soil preservation, water efficient fixtures, etc. Singh informed that the proposal in this regard was in advanced stages.

It was proposed that citizens who buy flats in buildings following the “code” would get tax concessions. Developers of such projects, too, stand to gain concessions in fee. Singh said the proposal was in advanced stages.

Singh said that the green code would first be applied to government and semi-government buildings. The government is yet to take any stand on the increased FSI demand. Mantri also demanded that green building be exempt from environmental clearance, a demand which state officials and activists have opposed.

Source: Times of India

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