Green Buildings: Make for India

With the growing trend towards sustainable and eco-friendly construction across India, Sandeep Menezes tries to look at the need for green buildings in the Indian context while trying to gauge the opportunities that could be tapped through its fast gaining popularity.


Sustainability or green building is often misinterpreted as curtailing use and stifling developmental activity. This is a huge misconception and nothing can be farther from the truth. The number of certified green buildings in India has witnessed a four-fold growth in last four years alone. This is testimony to the growing popularity of the concept.


The nation is witnessing tremendous growth in infrastructure, construction and real estate. The construction industry reflects one of the largest economic activities of the country and as the sector grows, preserving the environment poses many challenges. Therefore while construction is needed for economic development – the path taken towards achieving this growth needs to be sustainable of eco-friendly. Or else current growth will be achieved through the surrender of well being of future generations – which is not acceptable.


But one must also understand that simply copying the green construction trends in other nations and introducing them to India is simply not the right approach. The needs of India in terms of climate, resources, goals, development etc vastly differ from other nations. Therefore the Indian approach towards green construction should be one that is made for local needs and suits domestic conditions.


Need For Green in India:

There is a major notion nation-wide that green buildings are for other countries, not ours – but India is the second-most populous country in the world and if experts are to be believed, it is en route to pip China from the first rank by 2025. This only points towards an ever increasing pressure on our already scarce natural resources. The growth forecast in the real estate segment is anywhere between 8 to 10 per cent annually – it points towards increasing demand for preferring the sustainable path.

At present, the building and construction industry is one of the largest economic activities in India. It is estimated that the construction industry has contributed around 8.1 per cent to India’s GDP in 2010-11 up from around 5.1 per cent in 1999-2000. One survey reveals that built space in India will increase 5-fold over the next decade. This growth will put enormous pressure on various resources such as energy, water, materials, and will have a discernible impact on the environment.

India lies in the tropical zone with enough sun and precipitation (4,000 trillion litres) throughout the year, and it is imperative that we harvest both. Therefore from both the opportunity and requirement perspectives this is ‘going green’ in our real estate developments – it is as important for us as is for any other nation.

Faced with an increasing scarcity of resources, the construction sub-sector which directly impinged on the viability of the sector, there was an increasing focus on ‘green buildings as a solution’. As a result, India has emerged as one of the world’s top destinations for green buildings and has implemented a number of home-rating schemes and building codes, which open up a wide range of opportunities in construction, architecture and engineering design, building materials and equipment manufacture.


Benefits of Green Building:


Green spaces not only allow for 14 to 16 per cent increase in productivity but also reduce the operational cost of the building, consume less energy, water and other resources, leading to office which more environmentally responsible and has a lower carbon footprint.


Today with various local and state governments pushing for green buildings to be constructed – there are various types of regulatory concessions offered. The regulatory clearances are much faster in the case of green buildings.


Also with customers or users becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of green construction – it is fast emerging as a fast selling proposition thereby giving a marketing push to green projects.


Need For Green Buildings:
Green buildings may cost a little more to design and construct, but it is more economical to operate green buildings. In addition to the immense environmental benefits that these buildings have, they are also a better place for occupants to live and work in. Across the globe, the areas valued highest for Real Estate sale or purchase, are the greenest parts of a city. These offer the best quality of life in terms of clean air, cooler climates, ample ground water, rich flora and fauna, natural lighting, ample wind-flow, recreation areas for children and adults, etc. With the unrestricted use of glass facades and extensive air-conditioned spaces, today we design buildings that work towards isolating the internal from the external environment, thereby resulting in very high energy consumption.

It is imperative we alter that trend to minimize the detrimental impact on the environment and to create a new future for our children, our towns, cities and our country. Green Building reduces energy consumption without sacrificing the comfort levels. Destruction of natural areas, habitats and biodiversity are also saved. From water consumption to pollution loads it benefits to the owner’s users or society as whole.

Demand Drivers for Green Buildings:

The main driver for the construction sector for developing green buildings has been the growing country-wide shortages of resources such as water and power. The other drivers for the green building sector in India are coming from the private sector, spurred by the introduction of the Indian LEED rating system along with other rating systems by IGBC and The Energy Resources Institute of India (TERI), and investor and occupier demand for more amenable and efficient living and working space.


Also green projects are much easier to sell to today’s attentive buyers who have gained knowledge of these emerging technologies and know that the cost of maintaining and usage is much lower in green projects vis-à-vis conventional construction.

Designing Cost Effective Green Buildings:

While it is true that the costs of construction of green buildings are marginally higher initially by 3-5 per cent than the conventional buildings, the returns are realised quicker thus making it a good business proposition.

We can easily design a cheaper green building by integrating resource-efficient features into a building’s design from the pre-design stage itself, and by ensuring that the architects, engineers and contractors follow established environmental principles addressing local needs. If properly planned then designing a green building is easy and may cost lesser than a conventional building in the longer run.

The following steps need to be considered when designing green buildings:
-Adopt integrated design approach such that the client, architect, engineers, and consultants design the building in a coordinated manner with a common goal – sustainability.
-Follow regional development plans (such as the UDPFI guidelines, master plans) and local building by-laws.

-Follow India’s national codes and standards.

-Optimize site conditions (trees, water bodies, wind-flow, orientation, etc.) and harnessing them to cater to the thermal / visual comfort requirements of the building.
-Adopt sound architectural practices and take examples from India’s traditional architecture
-Adopt locally available construction materials and giving impetus to local arts, crafts, architecture and artisans.

-Design precisely-sized energy systems and not basing them on broad thumb-rules
-Reduce resource consumption of building and its inhabitants so that waste generation is reduced.
-Adopt energy efficient technologies (EETs) and equipment.


Emerging Opportunities:


These trends suggest significant and growing market opportunities for green buildings in India. It is apparent that the market is large (given that the share of green buildings coming up in India is still only 3 per cent) and is (therefore) expected to grow exponentially. Hence, there is going to be a serious dearth of experienced professionals, material manufacturers and service providers in this area. This gives plenty of opportunities for budding entrepreneurs in this sector.


Opportunities for green building services in India include:

-Architectural and engineering services for high-rise structures, theme parks and hotel.

-Urban planning and design.

-Other niche architectural services like creating designs inspired from the traditional Indian architecture.


There is demand in India for green building materials & equipment including:

-High-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

-Low-emission window and day lighting technologies.

-Affordable green building materials, with consideration for the life cycle perspective of building costs.

-Water saving, water efficiency and non-mechanical treatment systems.

-Fire and safety systems and other intelligent building systems.

-Other environmentally friendly green building materials and equipment that help score points under the various IGBC and TERI’s Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA3) green building rating system.




The emergence of sustainable or green buildings should not be looked upon as an increase in capital expenditure rather it should be seen as an opportunity through which the lifecycle costs of the building can be reduced and building life extended while being sensitive to environmental concerns.


People Quote:



Bhumesh Gaur, India Chapter Co-Chair, CoreNet Global


“A green building uses less energy, water and natural resources than a conventional building. It also creates less waste and provides a healthier living environment for people living inside it. Green buildings incorporate several sustainable features such as efficient use of water, energy-efficient and eco-friendly environment, use of renewable energy and recycled or recyclable materials, effective use of landscapes, effective control and building management systems, and improved indoor quality for health and comfort.”




Gaurang Pandya, Managing Director – UTC Climate, Controls & Security Products, Carrier Corporation India.


“Technology is available today to improve the energy efficiency of buildings by 30 per cent. Doing so would have an internal rate of return of 28.6 per cent over a 10-year period – that’s four times better than average corporate bond yields and double the returns seen by high performing venture capital firms.”






Thanik B., Director – Business Development and Strategy, Eco-Buildings, Schneider Electric India


“The green building movement is now mature enough to show proof of its economic green value in the real estate market for both building owners and tenants. Investment in green buildings can produce measurable financial value, such as increased rental rates and asset value, reduced risk of depreciation and higher tenant attraction and retention rates.”




Amol Desai, Business Development, Supreme Petrochem Ltd


Nowadays ‘Green Buildings’ is a term frequently used in the building design and construction industry. ‘Green’ or ‘sustainable’ buildings in some way serve to protect the environment so that today’s use of materials does not compromise tomorrow’s ability to exist. Many organizations define the term, each a little differently, so that its definition has become as varied as the number of buildings claiming to be green.



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