Tuesday, May 15, 2012: 08:47:16 PM

Tete-a-Tete

TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

JR Tanti throws light on the trend of green construction, its needs and the various challenges, in a discussion with Vijayendra Sesodia

The move towards sustainable and ‘green’ architecture, design and construction has been evident across the globe for some time now. JR Tanti – Managing Director, Synfera E&C dissects the nature of thismovement and outlines its future trajectory.



What draws developers and buyers towards green buildings?

A green building is one that uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to a conventional building. It is known that buildings have a major environmental impact over their entire life cycle. Resources such as ground cover, forests, water, raw material and energy are depleted to construct buildings, while routine operations have their own energy needs and costs. Lighting, HVAC, air quality control, housekeeping, water and waste disposal are prime areas that call for operational savings.

The costs of electricity and water, and those related to waste disposal, have been constantly going up over time and ostensibly will continue to do so. Anyone conscious of the impact and/or the costs as above is bound to be drawn towards ‘green buildings’. Hence, it is a must for the developers, industrial houses and corporate houses to design and build eco-friendly buildings, which substantially minimises the consumption of electricity and water during operation. Thus, there is a need to be responsible and conscious of these implications and incorporate some mitigating measures while designing and executing the building, thereby making it a ‘green’ building.



The concept of green architecture is in its nascent stage; what is Synefra’s view on the overall industry’s growth potential?
Globally, as in India, green building rating systems are largely voluntary in nature, but have been instrumental in raising awareness and popularising energy-efficient designs. This is especially visible in the corporate world, which is working to build a responsible image and reduce its large environmental footprint.

The ‘green’ design field (following any ‘green building’ rating system) is growing and adapting to change daily. New technologies and products are coming into the market, and innovative designs are proving their effectiveness. Owners are becoming increasingly conscious of high operating costs, and we see a lot of potential in line with India’s growth trajectory.

Initially, this will be seen in larger cities with the more conscious clientele and larger footprints, but is bound to grow beyond all these, as controlling costs become more challenging.

There are around 150 LEEDregistered green buildings and 23 LEED – the country has seen the emergence of certified green buildings in India, also, other systems such as TERI – GRIHA. How does Synefra see the future of green buildings and sustainable in India? Is there a strategy or a point plan that can be followed for better regulation and growth?
Over the past 10 years, there has been a steady increase in the number of projects contending for green credentials. As per the IGBC, as of February 2012, there are around 1,496 registered green buildings and 214 certified buildings in India, which covers more than 1 bn sq. ft green building footprint. Apart from this, GRIHA has eight rated projects, and around 167 projects of several mn sq. ft are being evaluated.

Today, most of the target stakeholders, especially at the decision-making level in the building sector have heard of ‘green buildings’ and demand the same. The future is strong, but the strategy will depend on every individual stakeholder, with respect to his area of business. The green building platforms/organisations themselves have a point plan for working with regulation and incentivising growth, and developers such as Synefra work closely with them, aligning with the overall objective of sustainability for society, while working towards their own business targets.

India wishes to emerge as one of the world leaders in green buildings by 2015. What are the policies that Synefra thinks will be beneficial for the growth of this sector?
The government is focusing on sustainable development and is pushing the environment agenda strongly. This is clearly demonstrated by government policies. Some of which include: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India administers the ‘Environmental Clearance’ (EC) procedure for projects through state committees for qualifying building and township projects.

Notionally, the projects cleared by MoEF are capable of minimising the impacts on environment and have the potential to fulfill most of the requirements of green buildings. The MoEF has also offered a fast-track clearance option for projects that have a pre-certification from IGBC or GRIHA for their project designs, under a relevant green rating programme. The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) and Star rating for buildings by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency is a similarly aimed programme.

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), National Building Code (NBC) govern all aspects of building design and construction, is being amended. A new chapter on sustainability is being added especially for designing and constructing sustainable buildings



Suzlon’s global headquarter in Pune—’One Earth’—has been LEED ‘Platinum’ rated and certified as an eco-friendly building by the Green Building Council. What were the salient steps taken in the construction effort? What lessons were learnt and was any new technology used?
Suzlon One Earth is a Platinum rated building under LEED India NC and Five Star rated building under GRIHA rating system. The precedents were not many, and the One Earth team had to come up with many innovative solutions, both at the conceptual stage and during various points of execution. A brief overview of the challenges and the learnings includes the following factors.

Windmill installation in urban zone: The fact that the site was located in an urban area led to speculation that legal requirements would have to be met before windmills could be installed. However, after a lot of follow-up with the relevant government agencies, the team discovered that legal permission was not essential as per existing laws.
Glass cylinder installation: One of the highlights of the design for One Earth was the installation of huge glass cylinders located in the different wings to allow penetration of daylight inside the building. The challenges involved finding a competent agency to design these unique cylinders, and another to execute work of the required precision, aesthetics and quality.
Co-ordination among various stakeholders: Creating and maintaining synergy among the various stakeholders was one of the biggest challenges. Fortunately, every stakeholder shared the common goal of sustainability, and worked in tandem with others to achieve it. There was a strong synergy among the team members and regular communication ensured that each of them was on the same page at every stage of the project. Proper documentation by all stakeholders helped the team to remain focused, and established greater clarity on contentious issues. This proved more effective than relying on verbal discussions alone.

The first installation of water cooled VRV system in India is among the many firsts that this project saw. The installation of a water cooled VRV system was the first such attempt in India. Though the concept was completely new, a systematic design and construction approach helped to mitigate the risk involved and achieve the targets set out.

Do you think there are any current projects with a scope for improvement, not only by the national standards but also according to international frameworks and assessment criteria, thus increasing the benchmark in green architecture?
There are several registered projects that are attempting to gain the highest ratings. It is going to be a challenge to emulate the dual rating and other successes of Suzlon One Earth, which are evident even after two years of operations. Synefra is also constantly seeking to better its performance by exploring such programmes in its discussions with other clients, while working in parallel with various regulatory bodies on improving the benchmarks and the assessment criteria, while taking the ‘green’ initiative even further.

What is the future forecast for this sector?
Today, school children are taught about environment and specifically about activities to reduce environment impact. Colleges have started specialised courses in green design and low impact developments. Parents are facing pressure from children to practise activities to reduce environmental impact; all government and PSUs have been mandated to go green for new buildings. Private developers are working with similar impacts and footprint and are increasingly cognisant of the need for stringent operational costs. Finally, clients and customers are gaining awareness, and demanding and recognising energy efficiency. Construction of sustainable buildings is no longer a choice, but the need of the hour, and this trend will see tremendous growth.


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