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Eco-conscious consumers looking to buy green properties in India and benefit from the incentives offered might find that the change is coming, albeit slowly. Though many major developers are jumping on the green bandwagon, it has been a case of a slip between the cup and lip when it came to translating that into reality, according to Yusuf Turab, Managing Director at YT Enterprises. He is also an Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) Accredited Professional and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate.

"The green building market is expected to touch $50 billion (about Dh3 billion) by the end of 2012. India is the second-largest market for green buildings (only behind the US) and there is a good ecosystem forming domestically, which is expected to ensure our buildings follow the best practices in sustainable construction. India still lags in the choice of green materials available but this scenario is quickly changing," says Turab.

It was recently announced that developers who submit green rating certificates to the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be given priority for approval of their projects, with the proposal being approved in a week. The state and the BMC have started rolling out schemes such as rebate in tax and additional floor space index, according to media reports. The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation in Maharashtra also announced that green building property owners will get a discount of 10 per cent on property tax. Delhi has decided to adopt the green building technology across all its major construction agencies. Meanwhile, the Haryana and Andhra Pradesh governments have also announced incentives for green buildings.

"I understand that there is plenty of policy framework but actual progress is slow," says Turab. "The environment ministry recently said that green buildings would be given priority in the environmental impact assessment process. This will add value by quantifying environmental benefits that are measurable and can be monitored. So I assume it is only a matter of time before we start hearing of more local bodies offering cash and non-cash incentives for green buildings," he adds.

Green rating systems

India has two green rating systems in place. GRIHA — or Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment — is the national rating system of India. It has been conceived by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi and developed jointly with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Currently, 130 projects are being evaluated by GRIHA and eight buildings have been rated so far. Significant ones include the Police Training Campus at Tasgaon, Maharashtra and Suzlon One Earth at Pune.

The second rating system is offered by the IGBC, which has around 1,278 registered green building projects and 195 certified buildings. The IGBC is the local chapter of the US Green Building Council, which created LEED standards. Projects from developers such as Kalpataru, Mahindra Lifespace Developers and Inorbit Malls have been certified with the IGBC rating, and the progress of other project ratings can be viewed on the IGBC website. "The IGBC's rating systems seem to be more popular among the private developers and GRIHA is well supported by new government constructions. The rating systems from both institutions are very relevant and have been designed keeping the Indian context in mind," says Turab.

The standard norms were earlier available for stand-alone buildings only. "In the recent past, LEED came up with new standards, which included neighbourhood development, called LEED-ND. Following this development, IGBC took up the mandate to create similar standards forgreen townships in India," says a spokesperson from Lavasa Corporation.

"No certification systems existed when Lavasa was conceived way back in the year 2002. Hence, we decided to engage internationally-renowned town planning consultant HOK, who were selected through an international competition. While creating the master plan, the aspects of green and other important aspects such as social inclusiveness, compact development, creating walking communities applying the principles of New Urbanism, etc were adopted. Now that the green township standards are available, Lavasa will look at registering for this certification shortly," says the spokesperson.

Establishing guidelines

The MNRE also released guidelines recently, which will be useful for developing a campus or a township into a green campus or township. Last year, projects such as Vedanta, Posco, Lavasa and Navi Mumbai airport ran into trouble due to non-compliance of environmental regulations, and recently the environment ministry refused to clear the first phase of construction of the Lavasa township project.

Hence Turab feels that those who plan to buy property will have to be more vigilant. "There is plenty of greenwashing going around. But I am not entirely convinced that it is with the aim of providing false information or trying to cover up facts. In most cases, it's due to lack of awareness on what truly constitutes green. Hence, green building ratings are highly desirable as they are the easiest way for a consumer to verify any green building claims," he says. "Most developers have started to realise this and are willing to go an extra mile. This augurs well for the future of the Indian Green Building movement. In the Indian context, I believe the most sensible green building project would be one which costs the least to build. There is no point spending millions in creating infrastructure that only a handful can afford to enjoy."

Buildings rated by IGBC and GRIHA

• Terminal 3 at New Delhi's airport opened in July 2010 and was the world's first, and largest, terminal building to win green building's LEED gold certification.
• Acron Developers' project Vicente Greens is the first building in Goa to be certified as Platinum by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).
• TOI Housing and UrbanDevelopment Corporation Limited will soon construct only energy-efficient buildings that will havea minimum three-star rating.
• The Law Officers' Complex (50,000 sq ft), coming up as part of the new AdvocateGeneral's Office on the Kerala High Court premises, is expected to become Kerala's first green-rated government building from Green Rating for IntegratedHabitat Assessment (GRIHA).
•The Hindustan UnileverLimited Mumbai campus has received the LEED India Gold Certification and was awarded the GRIHA certification earlier this year.

— S.N./compiled from various Indian media


GRIHA benefits

For developers: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), India, provides reimbursement of 90 per cent of the fee for registration and rating for projects up to 5,000-square-metre built-up area with a minimum three-star rating, and for projects more than 5,000-square-metre built-up area with a minimum four-star rating.

For design team: MNRE provides for architects and consultants to be awarded Rs250,000(about Dh18,000) for projects up to 5,000-square-metre built-up area with a minimum three-star GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) rating and Rs500,000 for projects more than 5,000-square-metre built-up area with a minimum four-star GRIHA rating. 

For urban local bodies: MNRE provides Rs5 million to municipal corporations and Rs2.5 million to other urban local bodies that announce a rebate in property tax for green buildings and make it mandatory to get the new buildings under both government and public sectors rated under GRIHA.

— S.N.