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Green movers

We saw the Indian real-estate sector record a stellar performance during the 11th Five-Year Plan, where investment in the sector spiked from 5.5 per cent to 8 per cent between 2007 and 2012. This growth in the sector was expected to become even higher in decades to follow as the Government had developed a high-growth environment with liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in 2005, introduction of the SEZ Act, and allowing private equity funds into real estate. Rs 50,000 crore was also allocated for improvement in urban infrastructure to 63 cities under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

However, soon enough, one started hearing of delays in getting approvals and environment clearances, outdated floor space indices, high burden of taxation, stunted cash flows and delays in no objection certificate, which led to lack of confidence and reduced investor interest in the sector.

While the pleas and recommended solutions from members of the building and construction fraternity ranged from seeking a single-window clearance to the need for more R&D on building materials and technologies, end-users felt more empowered with the release of the draft real-estate bill, which emphasised transparency and accountability to the end-user. Around this time, the once unorganised sector started its journey towards becoming a more organised one. The Government and the private sector started laying stress on the construction of environmentally sustainable and affordable housing, promotion of standardisation, and use of appropriate construction materials, fixtures, fittings and construction techniques. Implementation of environmental commitments and synchronisation of existing policies became buzzwords.

It was in this environment and climate of development that GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) proved conformance with Indian policy for environment-friendly construction, and became identified as a cost-effective design, implementation and operation tool for real estate in India.

Globally, green rating systems have been designed to address local needs on resource efficiency with an approach that is embedded in local heritage and culture. With several years of experience in designing and operating green buildings and enabling green building design in several sectors, TERI took upon itself to devise a set of tools that are effectively designed to address local implementation issues with rigour and scientific backing.

GRIHA responds to the imminent need for addressing challenges of resource use; enhancing efficiency at design, construction and operation of buildings; strengthening knowledge base of practitioners; and assisting implementation with an intent rooted to local conditions. GRIHA also strives to meet objectives of national and regional policies and programs in the domain of urban development and buildings. Subsequently, GRIHA received greater acceptance by the private sector, started getting recognised as a design-cum-implementation framework that ensures transparent implementation, and became known as a framework that assists in credible quantification of resource optimisation on site.

Several policy and regulatory mechanisms devised to address urban challenges have now started getting implemented through national plans and programmes, and the GRIHA rating platform. The ministries and agencies at the Centre have linked environmental clearance that ensures efficiency in resource use for large projects (i.e. over 20,000-sq-m built-up area) with GRIHA precertification; linked additional floor area ratio in NOIDA and Punjab (free of cost) to GRIHA compliance; and in areas such as Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in Maharashtra even linked financial incentives for developers and property owners to ensure resource optimisation through the GRIHA platform.

GRIHA is a continuously evolving a system that attempts to address India specific-challenges in the sector through a robust yet flexible rating framework and strong implementation focus that is linked to attaining national and regional goals for the sector.

Some distinguishing features of GRIHA are as follows: Built forms should respond to local and regional site context. Hence, the same benchmarks may not apply uniformly across all building typologies. Thus, GRIHA has evolved a set of benchmarks that are customised and applicable based on climatic location and usage of the building. Strategies such as rainwater recharge into ground, topsoil preservation and tree preservation are site-specific and may not be applicable for all sites or projects; for instance, recharge of rainwater into the ground may not be feasible for sites with a high water table. GRIHA is a flexible rating criterion that allows projects to cater to local and regional sensitivities. A building project is exempt from storing topsoil (if the soil is beyond repair) or recharging rainwater (if the water table is high, or from heating water using solar energy; if daily hot water demand is <500 l), treating sewage on site (if generated wastewater is 10kl/day) or treating organic waste on site (if organic solid waste generated is 100 kg/day). The rating level does not get impacted and the project is not encoraged to adopt measures that are not desirable owing to site constraints or have nominal environmental benefit from its application.

GRIHA looks at supply-and-demand side resource optimisation and efficiency with equal emphasis.

The adoption of GRIHA directly facilitates the achievement of government targets in meeting its sustainable development agenda. The corporate sector also benefits in achieving its corporate social responsibility mandate through demonstrating environmental responsiveness. GRIHA mandates adoption of the Energy Conservation Building Code of India, mandates installation of renewable energy systems to offset demand for conventional energy, and mandates water conservation through usage of water-efficient fixtures, recycle and reuse. Variants of GRIHA are designed to address sectoral issues. While SVA GRIHA is designed as a design-cum-rating tool to help individual homeowners and designers of smaller buildings with built-up area lower than 2500 sq m to design and get their buildings rated green without going through an elaborate rating process that may require engagement of specialised services of green consultants; the GRIHA for large developments looks at macro issues of habitat design. The GRIHA for large development shall rate neighbourhood, campuses, SEZs and large developments based on net impact on various resources (more details on www.grihaindia.org). It looks at carrying capacity, carbon footprint and addressing the urban heat island impact of large developments as well. All rating systems have a strong pool of experts who provide regular inputs on enhancing their credibility and technical strength.

In conclusion, the poll-related promises in all the four states have a readymade framework and platform in GRIHA that would assist in meeting resource optimisation and mainstream sustainable development in our country.

"Of all the sectors in an economy, the building sector presents the greatest potential for mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Consequently, the design and construction of buildings in a manner that uses resources efficiently is crucial for attaining a sustainable pattern of development and for mitigation of GHG emissions. These would also carry significant co-benefits. It is for this reason that the use of the GRIHA rating system and consequential improvements in building and construction can be a powerful means to bring about the development of sustainable habitat for the benefit of this generation and those yet to follow." Dr R K Pachauri, Director-General, TERI and Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and President, ADaRSH

(With inputs from Priyanka Kochhar, Senior Programme Manager, ADaRSH)

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