Environment and Climate Real Estate Social Responsibility

Green and intelligent

Through sustainable building systems that conserve environment and natural resources, developers look to offer the home buyer health, comfort and security in the long term.

By  Bijoy Ghosh

Green and intelligent buildings are fast becoming the norm as developers and buyers see concrete value in them.

Green buildings are about environment and natural resource conservation and creating an ambience that contributes to improved efficiency and human health. Intelligent buildings are about automation systems that bring in the precision of a modern factory into the office and home.

Whether it is the lights, water, electrical and electronic appliances or access to people and material — everything is automated enabling conservation and efficiency. In addition, automation brings in two invaluable features to a buyer — security and comfort.

Saluting key initiatives

It is these two concepts that the World Standards Day on October 14 brought together, under the theme ‘intelligent and sustainable buildings.’

It pays tribute to experts across the world that have, and are, collaborating within the three principal international standardisation organisations — the International Electrotechnical Commission, International Organisation for Standardisation, and the International Telecommunication Union.

These organisations develop voluntary international standards facilitating trade, spreading knowledge and disseminating technological advantages.

At the event organised by the Bureau of Indian Standards here in Chennai, a key message that emerged was that by the end of this year more than half the world’s population would be living in urban areas.

This urbanisation drives the construction industry, which consumes nearly half the raw materials and energy used globally and more than half the electricity generated.

Thus buildings have an impact on all three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.

Creation of wealth too

At the meeting, Professor A.R. Santhakumar, Emeritus Professor, IIT (Madras), said intelligent buildings eliminate waste and create wealth.

From the basic sensor that stops a water pump in time to prevent overflow, building automation has evolved to bringing under automatic control the entire array of mechanical, electrical and electronic gadgets in a house.

Movement sensors can switch on and off lights when a person enters or leaves a room; water taps turn on and off as needed; air-conditioners maintain not only room temperature but work with gadgets that monitor the quality of air for comfort and health.

The coming generation of intelligent buildings will offer the latest in information and communication technology, including broadband and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), contributing to the work efficiency and comfort of the residents.

For a building owner these are significant savings — operational costs come down, the number of personnel needed to maintain the building comes down, management cost and energy cost are down, Prof. Santhakumar said.

Awareness up

Mr T. Chitty Babu, Chairman and Managing Director, Akshaya Homes Pvt Ltd, which is testing the Chennai market with a project offering a fully automated 3,000 sq.ft home for Rs 4.5 crore, says automation is not just about luxury features such as automated window curtains or switching on the TV or audio system with the snap of a finger but also about energy efficiency and security.

Whether it is opening the entrance barrier just as a resident’s car comes in or monitoring entry of guests or service providers, keeping an eye on your kids at home while you are busy at office. With the use of the Internet this monitoring can be done even if the owner is in a remote location.

Of course, all this come at a price. Mr Chitty Babu estimates that of the total cost, about Rs 30-40 lakh would go into automation.

According to Mr Sathiaram Ram of En3 Sustainability Solutions Pvt Ltd, a green consultant, for leading projects such as the World Bank office building in Chennai, and large commercial and residential space totalling over 30 million sq.ft of built-up space, a major contributor to the high cost of automation is the lack of locally manufactured building automation systems.

Even the basic fire detector is only assembled by a leading international brand and costs five times what it costs in the international market.

But it is a matter of time, say manufacturers. With increased awareness market prices are bound to come down — as they have for green building products.

According to Ms Deepa Sathiaram of En3, the cost of developing green buildings has come down significantly over the last five years.

Green rating

Green buildings are rated on five main parameters: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Based on these parameters buildings are rated as certified, silver, gold or platinum. The most popular rating system is the US Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which has been adapted for India by the Indian Green Building Council, a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.

Ms Sathiaram says the cost is on a par with conventional buildings up to silver rating if builders plan for a green building from concept stage. When they spend more on one product they save correspondingly on related costs.

For example, when you choose an appropriate grade of glass for the façade — there may be a cheaper product in the market — it can help you save on the power you need for air-conditioning. Builders are interested in a return on investments of less than five years and if it is a owner-occupied building they go the extra mile and are willing to wait up to 10 years.

For higher levels of conformity to green building standards, the cost, as compared to conventional buildings, could be up by 3-5 per cent for gold rating and 7-10 per cent for a platinum rating.

Just five years ago, when the CII introduced this concept in India, the cost increase was double these levels.

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