Taming the housing monster
The government should provide incentives such as additional floor area ratio and reduced interest rates on loans for promoting environment-friendly buildings
Modern houses are monsters. This is especially true for urban houses. According to some agencies, an average modern house devours 8,400 units of electricity, 132 kiloliter of water and releases around 120 kilolitre of sewage, besides generating 2,900 metric tonnes of garbage per annum. Buildings are monstrous for they are responsible for almost half the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission (Source: TERI).The situation would worsen as India is about to witness a tremendous growth in infrastructural development.
With the prime minister’s initiative of Housing For All by 2022, the increment of 20 million houses would add at least another 1.8 trillion kg of carbon dioxide, by the consumption of electricity alone. This will have a profound impact on India’s economy, environment and the quality of life. Energy consumption would continue to rise unless suitable actions to improve energy efficiency are taken up immediately. The damage can be mitigated by making the buildings green. If these new houses that are to be constructed are made green, it would mean saving up to 9.94 billion kg of carbon dioxide emissions and 1.8 trillion litres of water every year.
This concept is all the more relevant for India, which is bound to reduce the carbon dioxide emiss ions as per the Kyoto protocol.
The green buildings reduce the dependence on non- renewable sources of energy by incorporating increased use of solar power, natural heating and natural lighting which also enable cutting down of the costs. The enhanced affordability of photovoltaic solar panels for solar energy and new technologies of solar energy have now become very much relevant in harnessing the natural solar energy without much recurring cost. The use of solar energy in India is more relevant than in other countries because most parts of the country get sufficient sunshine during a major portion of the year. The ambitious target of the government to generate 100 GW of solar energy in the next five years also supports the concept of green buildings.
Thus, it is very important for India to create green buildings. In order to do this, there is a need of an assessment tool to measure the environmental performance of buildings. One such rating tool that can be used to measure the degree of greenness of a building is Green Rating Integrated Habitat Assessment ( GRIHA). It considers various local issues in addition to minimising ozone depleting substances, adapting efficient construction technology and accepting non-air conditioned buildings Through the GRIHA initiatives, the occupants are benefitted by reduced cost of energy use, better air circulation, cleanliness, use of locally available low cost materials and the enhanced image and marketability of the building. In addition to this, for making the building structure, fly ash bricks are encouraged as they reduce the permeability to water and aggressive chemicals at a low cost. In broader sense, the system has been designed to suit the needs of the varied climatic conditions of the Indian buildings. These initiatives ensure that the occupants have better places to live/work in.
To promote green buildings, there is a need to create an ecosystem for encouraging construction of such houses. This can be done by creating awareness about GRIHA. Creating model buildings and providing fiscal benefits would also encourage compliance with the GRIHA initiative.
In addition to reimbursement of certification expenses, inter- est rates on house loans should also be decreased. Although the design and construction of a green building costs more than those of ordinary buildings, the operation cost is much less. The cost to be incremental is minimal and has an estimated payback period of around five to six years. Further, in order to overcome the hurdle of incremental cost, the banks could give rebate of, say, one percent on the interest rates for the construction of GRIHA compliant buildings. This would provide occupants an incentive to opt for green buildings.
The banks could provide the rebate in the interest rate through private sector lending. The government can provide incentives for promoting vertical growth by increasing FAR for GRIHA-compliant buildings.