Owners' Envy

Tags: Real Estate

The green movement gains ground in India with over 20 projects registered under the IGBC EB rating system. These include hotels, corporate offices, IT parks, hospitals and malls

Owners' Envy
Consider this. The iconic Bombay House, headquarters of the Tatas’ business empire in the Heritage Mile area of south Mumbai, has recently emerged as the country’s first heritage building to get green rating from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

Mind you, this building was built in 1923, 91 years ago. Bombay House has been rated under IGBC’s green existing buildings gold (operations & maintenance) rating system for implementing measurable strategies and solutions in five categories — site and facility management, water efficiency, energy efficiency, health and comfort and innovation.

In India, there are already over 20 projects registered under the IGBC EB rating system, which include hotels, corporate offices, IT parks, hospitals, malls, and many more are expected to go the green way with IGBC.

The existing building stock offers huge potential in lighting systems, air-conditioning equipment, systems and controls, also enhancing the insulating properties of wall, roof, glazing, usage of ultra low flow and flush water fixtures, to name a few.

This may well be the beginning. “The urban core of most Indian cities comprises substantial volume of occupied and operational buildings. Typically, such existing buildings are characterised by varied vintage, different levels of operational efficiency as well as wide ranging climatic and regional settings. The transition of such buildings to improved levels of energy, water and resource efficiency along with improved habitation standards would not only help such buildings achieve a more sustainable asset lifecycle but also assist in making them even more environment friendly,” said Tanaji Chakravorty, a Delhi-based urban economist.

Points out Chakravorty: “What started as a trickle a decade or so ago, the green building movement, has grown into a significant wave across Indian cities and building typologies. Increasingly, new built projects including commercial offices, industries, hotels, malls, homes and institutional buildings have led in embracing green building norms. With the introduction of India specific green existing building O&M programme, the prospect of greening ‘operational and occupied existing’ buildings, through enhanced operational and maintenance efficiency and resource conservation, can also be achieved.”

The fact is, while the environmental performance of new commercial buildings in India has improved dramatically in recent years, most existing buildings were constructed when energy was less expensive, technologies less advanced and environmental performance rarely a priority; existing buildings generally use significantly more energy and water than new buildings of the same size and function.

Existing buildings comprise the largest segment of the built environment. It is important to initiate energy and water conservation retrofits to reduce consumption and the cost of operation. As per CII estimates, at present, the country has nearly 30 billion sq ft of buildings which is expected to grow to 100 billion sq ft by 2030 and therein lies a huge opportunity to convert them into green by effective operations and maintenance.

And measures towards achieving the goal are underway. Steps are now being taken to change existing buildings to green buildings. And two important aspects of these new initiatives are: this new rating system is designed to enable transition from existing buildings to green standards, as most of the green buildings till now were freshly built, most of the rating standards of IGBC now customised to Indian conditions.

Experts think that IGBC has aptly come out with a rating system addressing existing buildings in addition to USGBC’s LEED existing buildings operation & maintenance. The purpose is it to make the rating system more pertinent to India. The ministry of power’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has come out with energy performance standards of buildings that figure as inputs in the existing green building rating introduced by IGBC.

The government is also contemplating making energy performances mandatory. In the future, schemes such as ‘perform achieve and trade (PAT)’ for designated consumers may include buildings as well. This move may still be at a nascent stage in India, but markets like Australia and Singapore are already tracking and reporting sustainability performances with metrics and tax matters are linked to such metrics.

“The UK and Singapore are markets that have the highest incidence of green retrofit and renovation projects being planned — over 65 per cent. Furama City Centre Hotel, Six Battery Road and Bugis+ in Singapore are typical examples of green retrofit programmes. Once this becomes realistic in India, the existing building rating systems will have more relevance and focus,” said Rajat Malhotra, COO (West Asia), integrated facilities management, JLL India.

But can all existing buildings be converted into green buildings or only some? Malhotra felt that the availability of resources — namely energy and water — and their impact on operating costs, tenant requirements in terms of sustainability and the government initiatives would determine the case for converting existing buildings to green. When tax components are linked to such performance metrics like in other parts of the world, building owners will be forced to focus on energy and water performances in the future, he said.

The advantage is that the Indian market is sharply aware of the technology developments related to energy efficiency and green concepts and viable technology is available. For example, an IT firm in south India has achieved an energy performance lower than 86 kWh/sqm/year incorporating technologies such as radiant cooling.

The fact is that retrofits definitely involve upgrades in lighting, controls, building envelope modifications — all of it translates into capital investment. When this is to be implemented for an existing, operational facility, considerable planning is involved. From a tenant’s perspective, it is a question of either accepting to live with inefficiencies or impress on the building owner to introduce such modifications. The market in India is in the process of maturing and veering towards achieving such sustainability performance gains and in the next few years we will see more such upgrades becoming more and more of a growing trend.

“The question in the minds of building owners needs to be ‘Is it worth it?’ and not ‘Is it too expensive?’ Most sustainable measures have excellent lifecycle costing, and it is worth investing in them considering the stressed present and future energy and water scenario in the country.

Typically, retrofits are worthwhile when the building has been operational for at least a few years and has inherent inbuilt inefficiencies,” said Malhotra.

However, the issues are often non-technological in nature, which include:

n Tenants who foot the bill don’t own the facility.

n Building owners need to plan in advance, and may potentially lose rental revenue during the period when modifications are done - especially when they are major modifications.

n Government regulations do not have an impact on tax or related matters linked to energy or sustainability parameters.

At the end of the day, what matters is that green practices in existing buildings can help address concerns like water efficiency, energy efficiency, reduction in fossil fuel use in commuting, handling of waste and conserving natural resources, said M Anand of IGBC.

Most importantly, these concepts can further enhance occupant health, happiness and well-being. Green buildings can have tremendous benefits, both tangible and intangible. The most tangible benefits are the reduction in water and energy consumption. The operational savings through energy and water efficiency could range anywhere between 15 to 30 per cent. The consumer waste generated in the building can also be substantially reduced. Intangible benefits of green existing buildings include enhanced air quality, health and higher satisfaction levels of occupants, said Anand.

But even if one changes an existing building into a green building, would it be as energy efficient as a new green building or would parameters be different?

Anand has an answer for that too. “Any change/retrofit in an existing building will result in significant enhancement in energy efficiency. This would lead to substantial reduction in power demand and result in tremendous national benefits. However, the challenges in existing building may be completely different from green field projects, as green field projects can go green by design and could incorporate all the possible features by design. Whereas, the existing buildings may have some restrictions in implementing certain measures such as replacing the existing walls, roofs, glazing’s, etc. Hence, the IGBC green existing buildings O&M rating system’s intent and requirements are different from IGBC’s rating programme for new construction,” he said. He should know.

ritwikmukherjee@mydigitalfc.com

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