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The Merits in GRIHA & LEED

13 May

India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

In a free market economy the stimulus to growth is competition. An idea is brought forward and soon someone else comes up with a better one which prospers. The original idea is revisited and improved to compete with the new one and this cycle continues.

With every new idea the society benefits and thus people & Nations grow stronger. But this very free market economy which allows for both domestic & foreign ideas to live side by side at times creates a quandary of a situation. Which product or idea is better? Who can decide with absolute certainty that one idea or product or service is better than the next one?

This same argument is valid in the case of the certification systems to be followed to have a building audited for its “green” factor.In India we follow two type of Energy Efficient & Sustainable Design rating system or rather “Green Building” rating system as is  popularly known.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design advocated by CII [confederation of Indian Industries] formed  Indian Green Building Council and in short is known as LEED -India  and the recently established National Green Building rating system, which came into fore keeping in mind the National Action Plan for Climate change, the ECBC guidelines, the BEE guidelines and the NBC codes. This was named GRIHA [ Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment ].

I have been advocating and practicing both these rating system and in the following paragraphs I would attempt to show the merits in both, as I see it. Let me begin by asking a simple question – what would you like to wear in the evening? A heavy tweed suit or a cotton “kurta -pajama” ? I’m sure the answer to this would be somewhat similar to – “depends on the occasion and the weather, my friend ! “Now if I ask you which is a better attire, Western or Indian?  your answer would more or less be the same or if you have strong preferences you would choose one over the other.

The same logic must apply when one chooses a Green rating system.It must reflect the building typology, the climate zone and the economics.

Should you be choosing to do an IT park or a BPO or a star Hotel which needs to cater to the international standards & aesthetics and where FDI is tied to the project, choosing LEED has a marginally better benefit as the foreign Bankers would understand the documentation proving reduction in Energy & Environment safe guards slightly better as it more or less would conform to the western standards.And even the end-user would find it “closer to home” which by every measure a very big USP for sale of your project.

Whereas should you be looking at building residential complexes and your sphere is right from metropolis to tier 1 to 3, GRIHA is the perfect choice. From high-end palaces to a humble cottage built by the local mason, all of them can be dealt with across 5 climatic zones. One can surely design commercial complexes, hospitals, institutions etcetera in GRIHA there is no denying that, but they are not as important whether they get designed in LEED or GRIHA.  As long as it is designed under a green rating. Why? one may ask !

Simple for every green commercial building which gets occupied by say 100 occupant in the least to 1000 + or more on the higher side , each and every occupant and the visitors & the service men  who work there require a home to live in!  So the ratio is 1: 1000+.

There is no denying that to design a true LEED building it has to achieve the Platinum Certification, because it is only at the apex level all the points necessary to call the building truly green can be met. Same can be said for GRIHA.

Now if one follows the LEED certification matrix; to achieve this level, the rating system is designed in a manner wherein it becomes more product oriented. So for example, if you want to achieve top points in HVAC you need to have your product which is rated 5-star and above in performance. Now every high performing product which uses cutting edge technology would obviously cost higher than normal. This then becomes true for your paint, your woodwork, your controls, plumbing, lighting and then the BMS to check all these for optimum performance. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that. HVAC is one of the biggest energy guzzlers and its only through LEED certification process we have understood the way to reduce this high energy consumption. The technology to have a lead-free paint would have costed a lot in R&D to the company and thus it is justified in collecting its expense form the consumers. And there is absolute documented evidence that this initial cost gets paid back and the building becomes cost negative in the long run.

But, how many home owners can afford in India, to have their buildings/ individual homes dealt with such high-end sustainability solutions which has a high initial cost? India is not limited to the megalopolis which compares and at times surpasses (only in certain sections of the city) the  per-capita income of the developed world. Then are we to deny sustainable building to the rest of the population? Whose lifestyle and economic strength are different? Knowing fully well that 40% of the Global emissions occur due to building related activities?

GRIHA is the answer. No other rating system in the world I know of, allows a simple village mason to walk-up to an institution of building excellence and can ask his building to be rated for sustainability. This is principally because GRIHA was designed from the grass-roots upwards. It leans heavily on the age-old wisdom of vernacular design. The use of product is made complimentary to the perfect use of proper architectural & interior design of spaces. Whether you design a bungalow, flats, non -A/c or low-cost housing, GRIHA can rate them with equal ease as it would a high-end A/c edifice.

topographic map of IndiaYet there is a lot to be done. As I have pointed out in the beginning, competition is a great stimulus for excellence. Today in LEED one can rate Factories, Neighbourhoods, Commercial Interiors, Existing buildings and many other. The Indian Green Building Council [IGBC] is adapting most of these U.S.A rating matrix to the Indian scenario. GRIHA has to catch up to it. Simply because it is Economic opportunities which would drive the market towards Ecological best practices.

At the end I would say that it is entirely up-to our individual choices as to which rating suits us most, as long as we continue to believe and promote sustainable living and become true Earth Patriots!

 

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