At first glance, it looks like any other construction site. But look more closely, and you notice that the usual heaps of bricks, gravel and stones are missing. Raheja Vistas, a tower coming up in Powai, one of suburban Mumbai’s posher neighbourhoods, is being made of fly ash blocks and earth dug up from its foundation.
“The building will absorb less heat,” explains the man in charge of the site, who won’t reveal his name because of company policy.
The tower will be one of the city’s few residential green buildings. Although Mumbai has the most green buildings in India, at 103, according to the Indian Green Building Council, only one fifth are residential. The rest are office
towers. (See box ‘Number crunching.’)
Green buildings cost roughly 10 per cent more than normal ones, according to experts, which might be one reason there aren’t more, especially in the city’s overvalued reality market.
“Government sops for green home buyers could spur demand,” said Shabbir Kanchwala, vice president of project co-ordination at K Raheja Corps, which is building this tower.
The Pune Municipal Corporation, for instance, offers a 50 per cent rebate on property tax to a buyer of a green home. (See box, ‘Green light for government plans’)
Spreading greater awareness about the long-term benefits of such buildings will also probably spur demand. For despite the higher initial cost, such buildings lead to recurring savings in the form of lower utility bills: recycled construction material and eco-friendly glass make homes cooler than conventional buildings and therefore consume 25 to 30 per cent less energy. (See box ‘What is a green building?’)
The Powai tower, for instance, is being built so that its flats get more natural light and will require less air-conditioning.
But in green buildings, private benefits also mean some public good. Already, the city is not self-sufficient in power during peak time, and has to buy costly energy from outside.
Air-conditioners guzzle nearly 40 per cent of the city’s power consumption, according to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission, so going green will ease some of this load on the system.
Green buildings will also help save water at a time when the city is facing one a huge scarcity. In green buildings, sewage treatment plants treat waste water and use it for non-drinking uses while efficient plumbing and equipment, such as smaller flush tanks, cut down on usage.