Living in beneficial homes
Residential units and homes are arguably the single largest category of building types in India today, going by the square foot area built. While the mega buildings in a few cities and industrial units may appear large in size, they are few and far in the larger land mass of India. If the residential sector, including individual houses, hotels, hostels, guest houses and such others could be turned green, we can equate a major counter balance to the energy guzzling urban public buildings.
Unfortunately most such buildings are small, excepting a few apartments, factories and hotels. As such, the owners tend to ignore the power hidden in their own spaces. For those who are interested, adequate information base is lacking. In this direction, IGBC and TERI are doing pioneering efforts, reaching out the ideas of eco-friendly homes.
The Green Building Movement in India has been spearheaded by IGBC since 2001 and today is known for its rating systems, though it has other activities outside rating also. In 2008 it introduced the Green Homes Rating System, which is based on accepted energy and environmental principles and strikes a balance between known established practices and emerging concepts.
The rating system is a voluntary and consensus-based programme. It is designed to be comprehensive in scope, yet simple in operation. It evaluates certain mandatory requirements and credit points using a prescriptive approach and others on a performance-based approach. The project teams interested in the certification first register with IGBC, submit supporting documents at the preliminary stage and again during the final construction stages. These reports get reviewed by third-party assessors with review comments. IGBC will consider these documents and recognise homes that achieve respective rating levels with a formal letter of certification and a mountable plaque.
The rating system addresses green features under the following six categories:
Site selection and planning
Materials and resources
Indoor environmental quality
Innovation and design process.
Each section has many sub-headings suggesting actions towards varied topics such as land topography, facilities for the workers, rainwater harvesting, efficient plumbing and electrical fixtures, generating and handling waste, local materials, recycled materials, day lighting, fresh air ventilation, cross ventilation, low VOC materials, exhausts, and innovative ideas.
Green homes, the criteria for which are listed by IGBC, can have tremendous benefits, both tangible and intangible. While tangible ones are reduction in energy and water consumption, the intangible benefits include enhanced air quality, excellent day lighting, health, well-being of the residents, safety benefits and conservation of scarce national resources.
However, it is not mandatory that every house project has to seek ratings – it is purely a choice of the owner. Yet, referring to the rating dossier gives us a checklist of options to choose from, thereby assisting every house project to adopt better practices.
P.S.: The author acknowledges IGBC sources for the contents in this essay.