Sustainability – The Way Forward
Jul 12, 2012

Brotin Banerjee, MD & CEO of Tata Housing writes on how and why developers need to opt for sustainability while approaching their projects. The real estate business has recently started to realize the importance of sustainable projects - but an integrated approach needs to be adopted.

Sustainability in all forms is gaining stature and as the most stringent green building standard in the world.  Real estate construction and operation shares a symbiotic relationship with the environment, and is a key catalyst in the direct and indirect effects on the environment. Over the last year or so, realtors have grown to understand the importance of sustainable development. This is based on the environmental considerations which if go unobserved, will prove detrimental in the future.

The real estate business has developed a concept of ‘sustainable design' where an integrated and synergistic approach is adopted in order to deliver better projects to consumers. Developers are beginning to have an increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation that would eventually result in an optimal balance in terms of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits while meeting the mission and function of the intended facility or infrastructure.

The main objectives of Sustainable Green Design is to avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life-cycle; and create surroundings that are live-able, comfortable, safe, and productive. The real estate community recognizes the importance of Sustainable Development and are applying and adapting good practices, demonstrating an ability to bring social, economic and environmental benefits in a holistic way to communities.

While other environmental standards pre-certify buildings based on conformance of design specifications with best practices, several organizations also approve buildings only after rigorously documenting the occupancy phase. The building phase is monitored closely and is based on design imperatives, which are in many categories such as site, water, energy, health, materials, social equity, and beauty. These imperatives, which include mandates like net-zero energy and water use, must be maintained over the full trial year of occupancy, use of banned material including halogenated flame retardants, PVC plastics, and chlorofluorocarbons. Projects must prove their exclusion of these materials through supplier audits for every product used in construction.

Going Green

Green responsibility can be established by providing urban developments that offer sustainable environments to residents.  With a balanced mix of buildings and open spaces, properties must be constructed as sustainable green developments, under the guidance of authorities in green design. All environmental conscious SSO’s and SDO’s like LEED(Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) , GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) and IGBC (Indian Green Building Council )  have aided in developing technical standards, on safety standards etc., which establish characteristics required for a product or process to be safe for humans and environment.  Certification is a way to validate and rate the features one has incorporated in a project, by an independent body. The certification is a voluntary process, and the project proponents may go ahead only by incorporating the green features without having to certify them.

Many developers have adopted these design principles. Tata Housing pioneered Sustainable Integrated Green Township Development in India in 2006. At that time, there was very little awareness on this score. Still, in keeping with our group ethos as well as acknowledging the first mover advantage, we adopted the mandate of adopting eco-friendly and sustainable green building technologies. The company's first green development executed under this motto is Xylem, which is also Bengaluru's first LEED Gold-certified green IT Park. The company follows the principle of green development and hence all its projects including affordable township projects are green developments.
Standardization of a code

The Code should be an overarching framework, which makes it easier for industry to understand policy and regulatory requirements and implement them effectively, throughout all stages of a building's life-cycle. The Code should set out the trajectory and stretching targets for a zero carbon, sustainable built environment - including carbon, energy, waste and water performance. All new and existing buildings would have to undergo environmental impact performance checks at regular intervals throughout their life. Minimum standards would be progressively raised over time.

Further, this Code should be owned by government, but represent a shared vision with the industry. This will require collaborative working, both across the industry and in partnership with government. The Code should ensure consistency of approach between all policies, tools, guidance and initiatives. It should set the standards, metrics and targets that all sustainability tools should be aligned to and compliant with. The government should provide subsidies for making green developments, so that it would encourage developers to go green.  The subsidy needs to be in two- fold where the developer needs to get tax benefit and the consumer needs to get lower registration fee for green projects. Few banks have already taken initiative to charge lesser interest rates on home loans for green projects.

Real estate companies seem genuinely interested in minimizing their environmental impact, but sustainable design also makes good marketing and business sense.


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