What really IS ‘sustainability’ in real estate terms? I think a fair definition would be ‘addressing the demands of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In view of what is happening to the planet today, it is certainly an important consideration. India is no exception to the rule that a sustainable future calls for sustainable action in the present, especially in terms of residential real estate.
The term ‘Green Housing’ or ‘Eco Friendly Homes’ relates to making residential building sustainable. It is an integrated approach to minimize the impact of construction and operation of residential buildings on the environment. Green buildings also promote a better lifestyle, because they make the experience of day-to-day living much healthier.
The Nuts And Bolts Of Eco Friendly Homes
The processes that govern green housing projects are all about reducing the use of scarce resources such as water, energy and materials during construction and occupation. The idea behind designing sustainable buildings is to include features that make the most of natural light, reduce heat gain and improve the quality of indoor air.
Sustainable construction requires specific technology and the use of certain design parameters. The Projects and Development Services division at Jones Lang LaSalle India also advises its developer clients on the use of equipment and fixtures that consume less water and electricity, the segregation of waste at source, the recycling of water and waste and a host of other ‘green’ aspects.
I’m often asked how green homes differ from those available in most other modern housing projects. That’s not surprising, considering the ‘green’ claims many developers make about their projects these days. It’s true that some of the latest roll-outs of housing projects have features such as rain water harvesting and solar water heating, but few of these projects include the full gamut of features that officially make them ‘green’. Projects with genuine eco friendly homes need to conform to a Green Rating system.
Green Homes – The India Context
This brings up another question I’m often asked – does a country like India really NEED green housing? Shouldn’t we be focusing more on housing the masses rather than on ‘Western’ concepts like these?
My answer is simple. It is true that India currently has a shortage of over 20 million housing units, and that the need for housing is growing at an annual rate of 14%. However, it is equally true that we also have severe shortages of energy and water everywhere.
The fact is that India is perched precariously on the knife-edge of energy availability. Solid waste disposal is a major environmental problem in all our cities; a problem that is compounded by the limited availability of landfill spaces. Simultaneously, our lifestyle requirements are changing rapidly, and these translate directly into increased waste generation and energy consumption. We have little choice but to look at new ways of using the natural resources that we need for sustenance in residential complexes, and to minimize waste generation during construction and occupation.
In short, it is high time that we got our heads out of the sand as far as green housing is concerned. We cannot credibly hide behind the convenient label of ‘developing nation’ anymore. The fact is that India already consumed irrational amounts of non-replaceable energy, generating huge volumes of emission in the process. We owe it to our children and to future generations to do something about it.
We are also surely going to face the heat from various agencies focused on sustainable practices across the globe to address this issue over the coming years. The fact that Indian real estate will lose its current priority ranking among international property investors if we fail to do this is probably the least of the problems.
As always, proactive prevention is better than costly cures at a later stage. There is therefore no question that green housing is most definitely a vital need of the hour in India.
My Advice To ‘Green Home’ Buyers
If you’re about to buy a home in a project that calls itself ‘Green’, you would do well to check on some of the most basic qualifying parameters for eco friendly homes:
- Is the project close to public transportation systems that minimize the need to use private transport?
- Does it use low water consuming fixtures?
- Does it have energy efficient common area lighting systems and fixtures?
- Does it feature solar water heaters, sewage treatment plants, rain water harvesting and dual plumbing to use recycled water for flushing?
- Can you confirm the presence of natural ventilation, and is the building orientated in a way that reduces the usage of air conditioning?
- How large is the green cover, and what kinds of plants does it feature? Remember that native species are always preferable
- What type of construction and roofing material has been used?
- Is there covered car parking, with coverage provided by trees or otherwise?
- Does the project have waste disposal features such as vermi-compost or bio-methanation of waste?