India: The Impact of Sustainable Real Estate on Environment and Natural Resources

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New Delhi: The tremendous rate of real estate development across the globe, and especially young, emerging nations, is imposing immense pressure on the environment and its natural resources. With such a rapid development, there is a lot at stake when we look at important factors such as energy availability and environmental sustainability.

The real estate sector is one of the major contributors to global warming due to the extensive pollution during the construction process as well as emission of greenhouse gases during the lifecycle of the resultant buildings. On an average, buildings consume about 20% of the total energy available in a country, and this trend is increasing with every passing day.

Mounting concern for the environmental impact of real estate has necessitated the formulation of sustainable solutions. This has led to the advent of the sustainable real estate and related ‘green homes’ concepts. At its basis, sustainable real estate is all about using resources sustainably and addressing the demands of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Green housing or eco-friendly homes are an integrated approach towards minimizing the adverse effects of construction and its operation on the environment and promoting healthier living for people. It has been extensively documented that living in conventional buildings has been working against residents, both in terms of living standards and the costs of excessive energy consumption.

The process that governs eco-friendly homes is limiting the use of scarce resources such as water, energy and materials used during construction and occupation. The idea is to incorporate features that make the most of natural resources such as light and water while reducing heat gain and improving the quality of indoor air. Green buildings not only enhance quality of life but also reduce the cost of living, as these buildings involve significantly lower consumption of energy, water and other resources.

Constraints to Faster Growth

The first and foremost constraint for the proliferation of green buildings in India is the lack of information and incorrect perceptions. It is generally believed that green buildings cost more and take a long time to pay back in tangible energy savings. Such a perception leads to lower demand levels from the larger buyer base. In fact, the additional cost factor is rapidly reducing as more and more developers get into the ‘green homes’ arena, since there is increased competition. Also, green homes result in significantly reduced utilities bills right from the start.

Also, many developers are deterred from adopting the ‘green mantra’ in their projects because green buildings may involve increased construction costs. They may also find it challenging to obtain the necessary technologies, source green building materials and find appropriately qualified architects and contractors in India. Nevertheless, developers are aware that the ‘green wave’ is catching the fancy of more and more home buyers in India and want to get on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a lot of residential projects which project themselves as ‘green’ without adhering to all the mandatory parameters or having obtained the necessary certification.

Know What to Look For

The overall benefits of green buildings depend on the extent to which sustainable features are included during the initial planning and design. In some cases, such features can also be incorporated after the building is complete. But the point is that a few green features do not qualify a building as environmentally sustainable.

Because of the increasing interest in this concept by home buyers, many developers have begun promoting projects under the banner of ‘eco-friendly homes’. While many of these projects are indeed accordingly certified by competent authorities, others are merely seeking to get on a popular bandwagon without actually delivering the goods.

To ensure that a genuinely ‘green’ residential project is not mistaken for one of the many wannabes, it is important for their developer to obtain accreditation from the green rating systems followed in India. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) is one such system which verifies all that a building has adhered to all the prescribed parameters, and that the materials and processes have been used at every stage of construction. Once all the requirements are met, the project is credited as a ‘Green Building’.

Check list for green home buyers:

•Does the project offer ready access to public transportation so as to reduce the need for private transport?
•Does it use have fixtures that facilitate lower water consumption, and are the systems and fixtures used in common area lighting systems certified as energy-efficient?
•Does it use solar water heaters and have sewage treatment plants, rain water harvesting and water recycling/reuse features?
•Does it feature natural ventilation so as to reduce the need for air conditioning?
•Does it have adequate open spaces and green areas?
•Does it offer covered car parking?
•Does it have sustainable waste disposal features?

Source: IndiaTVnews

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