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How green is your home?

If you are sensitive to environment and want a living place to match, you need to get a hang of what to seek. We give you a lowdown, Varun Soni tells more......
Hindustan Times | By Varun Soni
UPDATED ON MAY 14, 2008 04:38 PM IST

Realising the serious implications of global warming and climate change, building green homes that are sensitive to the planet’s long-term future has become a trend among developers these days. And the concept is no longer restricted to commercial developments and is slowly creeping into the minds of individual homebuyers as well.

It is no wonder that at the recent launch of India’s first rating for green homes in Hyderabad, 50 homes (totaling up to 50 million sq ft ) got registered under the category of environment-friendly homes. The rating system has been started by the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

The term green in essence means disturbing the environment and eco-system the least. In real terms, the concept of a green home starts form the time that one thinks of building a house. However, that does not mean that one cannot, even if in a limited sense, convert an existing structure into an energy-friendly one at a later date.

The basic principles of conserving on non-renewable energy resources and avoiding the wastage of precious fuel or water is central to the philosophy of green homes.

Here are some ways in which an existing home (as well as one about to be built) may be converted into a green one:

The roof is responsible for the maximum heat gain during the day. You can insulate the roof with materials like polystyrene boards. “In case one would like to go for cheaper yet effective options, one could choose overbaked earthern kullars and keep them upside down on the terrace before filling the spaces in between with mud phuska and terracing over it. The air cavity in the kullars, thus created, provides excellent insulation against heat,” says architect Sanjay Singh, who has designed a number of green buildings in the country. Indirectly,this can help you cut down spending on electricity for air conditioners.

You can replace all incandescent and tungsten lamps with the energy efficient Compact Fluoroscent Lamps (CFLs). “A tungsten lamp consumes 100 watts and blows it fuse in six months. Even a cheaper Chinese lamp is not recommended as it uses a lot of mercury, which is poisonous,” points out Dr. Prem C Jain, Chairman, Indian Green Building Council.

The disposal of used CFL bulb is a matter of concern, though the government is coming up with a policy for the same. Once the system for safe disposal of used/ defective CFL is in place, there should not be any worry on this account, says Singh.

You can replace the plain float glass in windows with double glass that has a dry air gap. This would also bring down the overall heat gain of the building and subsequently energy consumption. Add chajjas (traditional awnings) in front of all glazing to protect it from the vagaries of weather.

Go for only three-star and above categories when you buy air-conditioners, washing machines, electric motors etc. These categories are specified by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to save on electricity consumption. Do not buy a one-star product or one without a star. “Most companies are manufacturing BEE compliant products. So a consumer need not worry as to where such products will be available from,” says Dr. Jain.

Buy faucets and shower systems with nozzles as they suck in the room air and pump out half the water. This results in less wastage of the precious resource.

Use dual flush systems in your toilet, preferably three and six litre ones. The practice all over the world is to use two and four litre flushing systems, something that is still not available in India as of now.

Let in plenty of sunlight inside your home so that there is no area that is dark and dingy. For a yet-to-be built house, a courtyard-styled design is the most ideal. If you are going in for a builder home or apartment, ensure that there is a lot of usage of glass so that your living space is always flooded with light. “This will ensure less dependence on artificial lighting,” says Dr. Jain.

For flooring, one should use bamboo shreds rather than real wood. Bamboo floors are available at one-third the price and are less environmentally damaging. For furniture, you can use pieces made from recycled wood.

Have windows on all sides so that you can cross-ventilate whenever it gets too hot. This will also reduce the load on air-conditioning.

Rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment plants are a must for any locality or apartment complex. Dr. Jain cites the example of Singapore where sewage treated water (named Nu Water) is available for drinking commercially. “It can also be used for horticulture and for flushing,” he says.

Use flyash bricks while building a new home. (Flyash is a byproduct arising from wastage in power plants). Not only is it cheaper, but it is also cooler than the normal bricks.

It is advisable to use non-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints or those that are low on VOC. They are less polluting for the indoor air. Most paint products offered by Indian companies offer the same.

By adopting such means while building your home, you will be working towards a greener planet and sustainable development in your own small way.

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