Going green is a matter of survival

Giving the green signal to construction projects is a cumbersome process, but it can be made faster through GRIHA, which offers pre-certification that is recognised by the environment ministry

Transparency, accountability and corruption- free transactions dominate political and social agenda in present times. The newly introduced real estate bill also attempts to protect consumer rights, and strengthen the debate around the need to disclose correct information on delivery time, areas sold and so on. The real estate sector has been the centre point of several debates and controversies.

There is a constant tussle between balancing the environment and development agenda, while meeting consumer needs and aspirations. Environment clearance of construction projects is a sore point that every developer and builder laments about. A builder/developer is expected to ensure that every resident has sustainable source of drinking water, has access to electricity and safe and healthy living. Often these needs may be compromised by sheer choice of location that may have little or no supply of water, may have remote access to basic infrastructure provision or may have erratic and unreliable power supply.

Green/environmental consideration is a matter of survival and there should be no choice but to adhere to the measures that promise sustainable and healthy living in our homes. The process, however may be made faster, transparent and more objectively assessable. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) offers precertification that is recognised by the ministry of environment and forests at the centre and state level for faster clearance of projects. This is what GRIHA does:

GRIHA (www. grihaindia. org) is an indigenous rating system for design, evaluation and rating of green buildings in India. It has been endorsed by the government of India and is increasingly being adopted as an instrument for incentivising greener and cleaner habitats. Its 100-point rating system spread over 34 criteria addresses environmental, energy, social and health issues that are essential for a good building/habitat. It is important to understand that green is good and not a burden. Provision for sustainable and clean water for daily needs is good for us and requires planning to ensure that.

In addition to ensuring reliable source, avoiding wastage and ensuring its prudent use by putting in low flow fixtures and fittings, or using lesser water to maintain greenery around our buildings helps us in the long run. Rainwater harvesting and waste water treatment systems need utmost attention and careful detailing. Planning and installation should be followed through by efficient and lifelong maintenance. It is in fact detrimental if these systems are not maintained. It is often observed that rainwater harvesting pits breed mosquitoes and insects if not cleaned and maintained. It is much better not to put in a system than not maintaining it after installation.

Sewage treatment plants and effluent treatment plants need maintenance and it is important t o work out an appropriate system for financing its maintenance and upkeep through its life. Every system that operates on mechanical and electrical parts need maintenance. Systems the are heart and soul of buildings. We have to maintain systems for air-conditioning, water treatment, waste water treatment, rainwater harvesting to ensure their proper functioning over the years. Realising the need to ensure transparency and performance, GRIHA embeds a performancebased rating that not only meets the rating requirements, but ensures seamless integration with environmental regulations.

For example, meeting GRIHA requirements would naturally fulfill requirements of environmental clearance (EC) and other codes and standards such as the Energy Conservation Building Code of India or the National Building code of India. GRIHA precertification thus, looks into requirement of EC and pre-certifies a project based on requirements of EC and GRIHA rating.

However, one needs to understand the difference between rating and EC. There is fundamentally a difference between green rating and environmental clearance. While the former is a voluntary system, the latter is a mandatory requirement. Typically, rating systems have provisions of voluntary and graded performance requirement.

To cite an example, green rating may exempt a project from not putting in a waste water treatment system and thus sacrificing the points assigned to it in the framework of the rating system. However, provision of waste water treatment is a mandatory requirement as per environmental clearance (for projects that need EC). GRIHA pre-certification that is linked to EC, ensures checks and balances with respect to requirements of EC. All criteria that are mandatorily required to be fulfilled as per EC are reviewed and considered while pre-certifying a project as per GRIHA.

Thus, GRIHA pre-certification helps the developer to face the EC committee in a more prepared way. Further to the process, site compliance is crucial to future performance of any system. Often several crucial issues are overlooked during the construction process.

Take the example of overdeck roof insulation. Roof insulation is done as a measure to reduce heat gains through the roof. The key to effective insulation is its proper laying and installation and water proofing. Insulation may easily lose its property i f water seeps t hrough i t . Puncturing an insulated roof shall destroy all its insulating property. Thus, proper commissioning and maintenance is crucial if you really intend to benefit from any green measure.

Often we blame solar water heating systems for not functioning properly. Panels need to be cleaned regularly and piping systems need proper insulation and maintenance if we want it to function properly.

GRIHA rating system is a performance-based green building rating system that attempts to provide a comprehensive approach towards achieving best performance from green measures. It addresses our countryspecific environmental issues in a pragmatic and doable manner. Due diligence and transparency in process is the backbone of the system.

The rating i s backed by facilitation support offered by trained professionals who have extensive experience in design and operating green buildings. Green rating should not be perceived as an additional layer of services being rendered for a building. Rather it is a complementing process that facilitates an integrated design that results in a good and functional building that delivers its function, ensures environmental sustainability, is energy and water efficient and saves cost over its life cycle.

Environment clearance and compliance also gives similar results and should be perceived and followed in true spirit of the intent, rather than being perceived as a hurdle in the development process.