The walls are cream. But look again — Arjun Vallury’s home is greener than green. There’s natural light even in the basement. The taps let out just 1 litre of water a minute — a fifth of what gushes forth from other taps in the neighbourhood. The 41-year-old technocrat makes 40 per cent of his electricity with his own solar power plant. All his water is solar-heated too. How to make your building green
The two-storey, 15,000-sq-ft building where he lives is so eco-friendly, in fact, that it was awarded the highest green building certification. It is the only residential structure in the country to have an internationally recognised ‘Platinum’ tag.
All this cost just about 10 per cent more than a regular home of the same size would have taken to construct. And was worth it, he says — just six months after he built his dream home, Vallury is saving over 60 per cent in power bills.
Plus, “you can’t put a price on the planet,” Vallury says.
With small innovations like his, India could begin to ease its energy crisis.
After all, if all new buildings in urban areas were made to adopt green building concepts, India could save up to 3,400 MW of power — enough to light up half of Delhi, or 5.5 lakh homes a year, according to estimates by The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), a thinktank headed by Nobel laureate R.K. Pachauri. This would also save the country Rs 40,000 crore per annum, TERI estimates.
And, given that a four-member home consumes 540 litres of water per day, about 1 lakh additional homes could get water for five years from the annual savings we would make if all new buildings were green.
So here’s what we suggest: Make basic green norms — like rainwater harvesting and graywater recycling — compulsory for all new buildings in all 5,161 cities, towns and urban agglomerations in India.Governments, however, don’t yet see green. Vallury was hoping the sops promised by the government would help rationalise the cost too. But he has been told he does not qualify for any rebates, since did not share his plans with the government before construction.
It doesn’t matter that he’s saving the state power. Rules are rules, he was told.
As power and water cuts go from civic inconveniences to all-out war, it is just such tunnel vision that could be crippling a green movement in its infancy.
So we also suggest a timeframe for all existing buildings to begin to meet these basic norms, with stringent fines for defaulters, particularly large corporate offices and residential complexes.
To push builders and property owners — especially corporates — to go green, the government should also offer significant tax breaks in return. Green buildings could have drastically lower property tax rates too.
Another incentive that might get builders moving in the right direction would be a higher floor-space index (FSI).
FSI determines how high a structure can go. FSI is still very low in India, and builders are always seeking ways to push it up. The profits they would make from the sale of the additional space would also help offset the additional cost of the green construction.
Finally, the government should institute subsidies in slabs for the more expensive technology, like solar panels, with increasing aid for smaller projects — like individual bungalows.
“We definitely need tax rebates for green buildings. Floor space index too must be higher,” says S. Raghupathy, head of the Indian Green Building Council, a CII initiative with representation from the building industry, experts and the government, which certifies green buildings across the country. “Rainwater harvesting, garbage segregation and solar energy for water heating must be made mandatory at least in commercial buildings.”
A small start is already being made in Mumbai, where recycling of graywater (kitchen waste, washing machine water etc) has been made compulsory — at least on paper. And where a chronic shortfall of 500 million litres of water a day has pushed the Maharashtra state government to declare that all new building plans must include rainwater harvesting and recycling facilities. In Pune, the civic body is also planning to reduce property tax for green buildings.
It is vital that such norms be enacted — and enforced — across urban India.
Our country is now the world’s fifth biggest carbon emitter — behind the US, China, Russia and Japan — despite having one of the lowest per capita carbon emissions.
The high income group, says a Greenpeace survey called ‘Hiding behind the Poor’, emits 4.5 times as much carbon dioxide as the lowest income group. This high-income group is 38 per cent of the population.
And while that might not seem like much, in a population as gigantic as ours, that amounts to nearly 40 lakh people — just a little less than the entire population of Ireland.
This demands that urban India set common but differentiated responsibility for CO2 emissions reduction — meaning urban India must mend its ways.
“Conserving water and energy must be the primary concern of the country. And the onus should be on people who can afford it, particularly India Inc,” says Vishal Garg, associate professor of building technology at the Indian Institute of Information Technology.
Garg feels major policy reforms are urgently required. “The government must offer incentives to people to install green components in buildings,” he says.
Instead, the government is penalising, in a way, the Indian Green Building Council itself. The council’s headquarters in Hyderabad was the country’s first platinum-rated green building, and one of the eco-friendly features was water-free, chemical toilets.
The municipal corporation, though, is still charging the building Rs 2,000 per month for effluents, though the building does not discharge any.It is unclear how a building, green or otherwise, can not discharge any effluents, the council has been told.
Living green, building green
India is the world’s fifth biggest carbon emitter, and the country is facing
massive power and water shortages that green buildings could help alleviate. Yet, the cities — where most of the pollution originates and where most of the power and water is used — are not being pushed, or encouraged, to go green.
n Make basic green norms — like rainwater harvesting and graywater recycling — compulsory for all new buildings in all 5,161 cities, towns and urban agglomerations in India.
n Set a timeframe for all existing buildings to begin to meet these basic norms, with stringent fines for defaulters, particularly large corporate offices and residential complexes.
n Offer significant tax breaks to builders and property owners — especially corporates — if they agree to use green building techniques. Green buildings could have drastically lower property tax rates too.
n Offer additional development rights to builders constructing eco-friendly structures.
n Offer subsidies in slabs for the more expensive technology, like solar panels, with increasing aid for smaller projects — like individual bungalows.
Government speak: Dr B. Bandyopadyay
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