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Decoding Green Building Ratings

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Green buildings and sustainable development form the very backbone of the sustainability movement that has started around the world to check global warming and climate change. Though relatively new, the concept is taking roots in India as well and we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the type of constructions being done in the country, says Rumi Engineer, Head – Green Building Consultancy Services and Energy Conservation, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.

How do we define green buildings in the market? We require a neutral, third party audit to help define them, to inform how environmentally sound a building is, providing clarity to what extent green components have been incorporated and which sustainable principles and practices have been employed.

This is where green building certifications come in. Rating or certifying a green building helps to remove that subjectivity and informs occupants and the public about the environmental benefits of a property, while disclosing the additional innovation and effort the developer has invested to achieve a high performance building. Moreover, strategically integrated mechanical, electrical, and material systems often create substantial efficiencies, the complexity of which is not always transparent. Rating a green building identifies those differences objectively and quantifies their contribution to energy and resource efficiency. It ensures better communication of what those high performance features are, and helps differentiate the building in the market.

Ratings are needed for developers to take advantage of the ‘reputation’ aspect in marketing, improved environmental performance of buildings and capitalize on their investments in them. Ratings also aware consumer clientele who can then influence the property market by pitching demand for green credentials of the buildings and help them to compare buildings and make the appropriate choice. This in turn creates incentives for resource-efficient buildings that are urgently needed in our cities to reduce the resource impacts. Therefore, rating is a legitimate way of changing practice and influencing change and can be a powerful tool in mainstreaming a large number of green measures that can collectively make the much required impact.

Incentives for Green Certifications

Acknowledging the benefits of sustainable development and green building certification, the government has taken certain positive steps in the form of regulations and incentives to popularize the practice. These include:

• NOIDA and Greater NOIDA have incentivized LEED & GRIHA projects (on a plot of more than 5000 sq m and above) with free of cost 5% additional FAR for projects that complying with GRIHA 4 or 5 star rating / LEED Gold or Platinum rating.

• The developers in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) get discounts in the range of 10-50% on the premium amount of building permission charges, as per the level of rating awarded by GRIHA.

• The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Government of Punjab has notified that an additional 5% floor area ratio free of charges shall be permissible to buildings that provide relevant certificates from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency or from GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment). This notification has been issued under the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 1995 towards ensuring resource optimization in the built environment.

• SIDBI has been providing financial assistance to IGBC, GRIHA & LEED certified Green Buildings by offering concessional rate of interest, presently 50 basis points.

Green Rating Tools

India now has three competing systems to rate green buildings viz. Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) and the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA). LEED is a globally recognized and accepted rating system, whereas IGBC and GRIHA rating systems are recognized and accepted at national level.

Right now all these rating systems are voluntary and market driven. However, with government’s growing interest and support the scale for such ratings is on the rise.

Incremental Cost for Green Buildings:

A certified or silver rated green building would have incremental costs in the range of 3-5% over conventional building, whereas the cost can go up further for Gold or Platinum rated projects. However, by using building materials with good thermal insulating properties, high efficiency HVAC and lighting equipment, solar water heating, water recycling plants, rain water harvesting systems, etc. as a policy decision for all projects, the incremental costs can come down to as low as 1-2%.

In commercial green buildings, these incremental costs could be easily recovered within a few years through energy savings, provided best operation and maintenance practices are followed post occupancy. More than anything, it is the attitude and understanding of the people that can boost the cause of green buildings. We should understand that green buildings are more about sustaining the resources for future generations than about generating economic returns out of them. It is our social responsibility to build responsibly and without harming our environment. Only then can we expect the same kind of growth in green buildings in India as found in the developed economies.

Case Study

India’s First LEED Gold Rated Mall under EBO&M category (Existing Building Operation & Maintenance)

respite from the heat outside. Bright and colorful lighting draws attention of consumers to each and every corner. Escalators, elevators ensure minimum fatigue.

However the flip side of such transformation is that millions of units of electricity is consumed, Gallons of liters of water is wasted and tons of waste is generated. Indirectly, the consumption pattern also leads to rise in pollution & CO2 emissions resulting in global warming and climate change. Thus at times where the resources are scarce, lots of questions arises on such a transformation.

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