K Raheja Corp has been the torch bearer of the green cause for the real estate industry, dating back to 2007 when it signed an MoU with the CII-Green Building Council. From then on, the realty giant has built buildings that are all LEED certified. At present, the company is in the process of developing 32.68 million sq. ft. of green space across India. In an exclusive email interaction with Dibyendu RoyChowdhury, Shabbir Kanchwala, Senior Vice President, K Raheja Corp, talks about K Raheja legacy and their “green vision” to build all commercial as well as residential projects across the country as LEED and IGBC certified.
What is K Raheja’s long-term approach towards the green construction and sustainability?
Going green is the new buzz word of urban life. Developers, builders, property owners, realtors, bankers and insurers are rigorously using “green buildings” in the context of their respective professions. There is a growing awareness on the resource crunch that the country is faced with and increasingly demanding self-sustaining efficient developments that cost less to operate. Green buildings make good business sense as any investment made is paid back within 3-4 years. Even in commercial buildings, there is a growing demand amongst multinational clients.
As a responsible developer, we have a “green vision” that all our commercial as well as the residential projects across the country will be LEED and IGBC certified. In order to increase awareness and optimal utilization of green developments, we have taken the following initiatives under the green rating programme:
1.Training programmes imparted to the green building core team, i.e. architects, engineers and especially sales team to enable them to communicate appropriate and relevant information along with benefits to the property aspirants.
2.Detailed guidelines given to tenants mentioning the green features of the project along with do’s and dont’s.
With the beginning of green buildings in India by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), we were one of the first developers to have entered an MoU with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and IGBC for the implementation of green building measures for all commercial projects across the India.
The rising awareness of global warming and climate change issues and the knowledge that green building techniques lead to a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions are helping grow green building construction. What are the other green building activities and trends?
At the time when the world is faced with a global ecological crisis around climate change, we are at an important juncture where we need to take responsibility and act both sensibly and ethically towards the environment. We, at K Raheja Corp, we have been ahead of the curve in the green development sector.
With a shift in mindsets growing towards the idea of promoting sustainability, green building concepts have taken the front foot in the real estate industry. Looking for an opportunity to become more involved with promoting sustainability, new construction technologies are being developed to pave the way for sustainable construction.
Some of the new technologies used in green buildings are:
- Net Zero Concept (Zero Energy and Zero Water Concepts)
Net zero concept buildings depend on renewable sources to produce as much energy as they use. Buildings that produce a surplus of energy may be called “energy-plus buildings” and buildings that consume slightly more energy than they produce are called “near-zero energy buildings”. The energy is measured over the course of a year. One of its many features is that it does not depend on any external source for energy and water. Extensive use of renewable source of energy like solar panels and wind turbines stand among the technologies used to achieve net zero status. The long-term benefits of energy-saving compel companies to consider it as a good investment.
- HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and Electrical
Today’s modern constructions employ HVAC as functions that designate them as modern homes and buildings. Warmed or cooled or dehumidified air flows through a series of ducts that are distributed to all the rooms of a house. A central HVAC system is the quietest and convenient way to cool an entire home. HVAC systems should consist of water cooled screw chillers with a high coefficient of performance and eco-friendly refrigerant. AHU’s, cooling towers, pumps and jet fans with variable frequency drives are modulated by centralized IBMS with the installation variable air volumes inside the designated areas. AHU’s are interlinked with heat recovery units to reduce the cooling load on the chiller. For better IAQ, use of demand control ventilation system with CO2 sensors is a must. The main objective is to reduce the electricity consumption of the building from the electricity grid, a fossil fuel based thermal power dominated grid and thus contributes to the reduction in emissions of pollutants including GHG emissions. The use of daylight and occupancy sensors for common area lighting and use of LED’s for energy conservation is an option that many are turning to.
Glazing is another technique used wherein a low “e” double-glazed glass is used to reduce the heat ingress into the building. These windows help make the indoor area more comfortable. In turn, this dramatically reduces energy costs and helps create a brighter, cleaner and healthier environment.
Using local and recycled materials having lower embodied energy is very important. The reduction or no use of low-VOC paints, adhesives and sealants is better for the environment and indoor air quality.
Efforts to increase water capacity should be balanced with greater conservation and water efficiency efforts. Low-flow fixtures, sewage treatment through reuse of recycled water for flushing and landscaping, and appropriate use of drip and high-efficient sprinkler irrigation need to be taken care of. Technological innovations in green building concepts not only help in reducing operating cost in terms of lesser energy and water bills for the end users but also build a reputable corporate image amongst developers. The Government of India is offering various incentives like fast track approval for green building projects, which will definitely help developers commence and conclude projects within stipulated deadlines.
In conjunction with the above, there are opportunities with new technology that has been successfully executed in the international markets and making an entry into India. Some of these include:
Geothermal energy: A promising renewable source because it relies on heat energy from within the earth, which varies little from place to place, in contrast to solar and wind power limitations.
Radiant cooling: A popular choice for net-zero energy structures due to its ability to balance energy consumption and renewable energy creation.
oSolar façade: A system to generate energy through solar power. Building a photovoltaic facade is a fully integrated system with no visible add-ons. It is suitable for new buildings and renovation and can be used in office, commercial, industrial and residential construction.
Green natural roof: A century-old traditional building technique where natural, local materials were used to provide shelter from the cold, the rain, the sun and the wind. The ecology-sensitive design helps buildings blend back into their environment.
Green buildings also make good business sense, delivering return on investments within 3-4 years. Though the use of new technology might see additional effort and funds required in the construction of a green building, the rewards of these are far higher and satisfying. Use of technology helps in the green efforts, benefiting workforce and society as a whole, reducing operating costs and elevating brand value.
Do you think that developers are using “green” as a tool to market themselves?
Marketing is a major driver for any developer, and green buildings and technology have now become an essential for an effective marketing strategy. Initially, all developers treated “green” as a marketing tool, but they all lacked a green ambition and were not totally convinced about its potential. Now there’s actually a positive trend and benefits of green building can be seen by the developers. Companies are also seeing an upward trend for the requirement of green offices and affirming their social responsibility.
India has three primary rating systems, including GRIHA and IGBC. You are also an integral part of several rating organizations. How important are these ratings systems? Do they have a right approach to sustainability?
All the rating systems are important and have different criteria for evaluation. GRIHA, for instance, assess a building out of a total of 34 criterion and award points on a scale of 100. Whereas IGBC rates new residential buildings which include construction categories, such as individual homes, high-rise residential apartments, gated communities, row houses, existing residential buildings and redesigned in accordance with the IGBC Green Homes criteria.
GRIHA and IGBC green rating systems encourage selecting materials, which are available locally and have recycled content and good thermal resistance properties. This proposition adds value to the project and does not have an impact on the overall project cost.
Tell us about the landmark green projects you have been associated with.
One of our landmark green projects is Mindspace Building No 1 located in SEZ campus in Airoli, Navi Mumbai. It is conceptualized as a state-of-the-art green building which is multi-storied and multiple occupancy building developed by the group.
The project has received LEED Core and shell GOLD rating from the Indian Green Building Council. The configuration of the building is stilt floor to the third floor allotted to parking space, and from the fourth floor to the eleventh floor is dedicated to office space.
There are major parameters which are followed and have resulted in the reduced electricity consumption in the HVAC system of Airoli Mindspace office building. The tangible benefit is in the reduction of operating energy cost right from day one during the entire life cycle of the building. Intangible benefits like enhanced ventilation, better views and daylighting that improve the productivity of the occupants. Even though a green platinum building costs 10-15 per cent higher than the conventional building, the payback period would be 3-4 years with a reduction in operational costs. It promotes environmental, economic and social benefits while protecting the needs of future generations.