Green Building Certification in India: The Future of Infrastructure

As we stand at the crossroads of a significant shift in the industry, the green building movement in India has evolved from a niche luxury to an ethical and financial imperative. The residential real estate sector is not just a spectator but an active participant in this transformation. India is making its mark with over 10 billion square feet of green building space. The green building market in India was projected to grow at a CAGR of 20% during 2019-2024. The premiums commanded by such properties are not mere statistics but forerunners of a seismic shift in market dynamics and consumer preferences. Yet, the mere construction of green buildings is not the endgame; it’s actually the certification that distinguishes the truly sustainable from the superficially green.

The Imperative of Green Buildings in India’s Urban Landscape

Amid India’s urbanisation and environmental concerns, the importance of green buildings is increasingly evident. These eco-friendly structures are a remedy for the increasing energy and water crisis and a strategic response to the alarming rise in air pollution across urban cities. Data from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) underscores this point: green buildings in India conserved over 45 billion kWh of energy and 14 billion litres of water in 2022 alone while mitigating 40 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the green building sector is poised for exponential growth, with a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20% over the next half-decade.

The Financial Upside of Eco-Conscious Construction

Beyond their environmental benefits, green buildings are emerging as financially lucrative investments for both developers and residents. According to a study by Jones Lang LaSalle, green-certified properties in India fetch a premium of 10-15% over their non-certified counterparts. This financial incentive is gradually shifting the market dynamics, making sustainability an ethical choice and a compelling economic one.

The Transformative Power of Certification

In India, the IGBC Green Homes Rating System has become the benchmark for sustainable, resilient design & construction, evaluating buildings on a spectrum of environmental criteria—from energy efficiency and water conservation to indoor air quality and the use of sustainable materials. The certification process serves multiple purposes: it significantly lowers operational costs due to energy and water efficiency, enhances indoor air quality, thereby contributing to the well-being of the occupants, and minimises the building’s carbon footprint. Moreover, the certification elevates the property’s market value, as more buyers are willing to invest in homes that align with their eco-conscious values. Importantly, this certification process also brings a much-needed layer of transparency and accountability to India’s real estate sector, allowing developers to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices and assuring buyers of a home built to rigorous environmental standards.

Energy, Water, and Cost Savings: The Triple Win

A report by Anarock highlights that green buildings can reduce energy consumption by 20-30% and water usage by 30-50%. They also have a lower carbon impact compared to traditional structures. Although green homes can cost 15% more than traditional structures, easier access to green materials is driving costs down. Moreover, integrating green concepts at the design stage can reduce these costs, making it a wise long-term investment. The long-term savings on utility bills can offset the initial investment, making it a win-win for homeowners and the environment.

The Material Revolution: Alternatives for a Greener Future

The use of alternative materials like geosynthetics not only speeds up construction but also reduces costs. These materials are durable, leading to long-term savings and minimal maintenance. A careful cost-benefit analysis is essential before implementing green building technologies, as savings depend on specific project requirements and site conditions. This approach to material selection is not just about cost savings; it’s about building for the future, ensuring that our structures are resilient and adaptable to changing environmental conditions.

India’s Global Standing and the Need for Wider Adoption

India’s second-place global ranking in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) of green buildings in 2022 has been commendable. India’s consistent placement within the top three countries on the list over the years reflects the country’s increasing adoption of LEED to reduce emissions, minimise environmental impact, and promote citizen health and well-being. However, less than 10% of buildings in India are certified green, indicating a significant gap that needs immediate attention. While tier-I cities are making strides in adopting green building concepts, the focus must shift to tier-II and tier-III cities to accelerate this adoption. The government and policymakers must incentivise green construction in these areas to ensure a more uniform adoption nationwide.

The Awareness Gap and the Road Ahead

One of the most significant barriers to adopting green buildings is the lack of awareness about their benefits and the perception of high incremental compliance costs. Given India’s geography, focused sustainable development techniques are crucial for conserving natural resources. The government should look at introducing fiscal incentives for using sustainable construction techniques, thereby encouraging more developers across tier 1 and tier 2 cities to join the green movement.

A Call to Global Action

The Green Building Principles and the accompanying Action Plan serve as a blueprint for what it means to be net-zero carbon in real estate. Leaders across industries must come together to adopt these principles, with a target to slash building-related emissions by half by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon real estate portfolios by 2050. Today, this is not just a corporate responsibility but a global imperative.

The Future is Green: A Collaborative Vision for a Sustainable Tomorrow

Green certification transcends the realm of business strategy to become a moral compass guiding society towards a sustainable future. It serves as a pledge to homebuyers, the planet, and future generations. The act of certifying residential projects is far more than a procedural formality; it’s the foundational stone for constructing a greener and more sustainable future.

In the years ahead, the focus will be on broadening the scope of green initiatives. Integrating innovative technologies and ground-breaking design principles will extend beyond mere energy efficiency and water conservation. The aspiration is to foster holistic living spaces that enhance individual well-being, encourage community engagement, and contribute to expansive social and environmental objectives. Transparency will be a cornerstone, with regular updates on progress and challenges and the sharing of best practices to instigate change across industries.

The journey towards a sustainable future is not a solo endeavour. It involves active collaboration with policymakers, developers, industries, environmental experts, and community leaders to push for more stringent green building standards and incentives. This is a collective endeavour, part of a larger ecosystem where every action—or lack thereof—has a ripple effect on sustainability goals.

The commitment to a greener future extends beyond individual projects or specific industries. Currently, educational institutions are engaged in weaving sustainability into their curricula, thereby equipping the next generation to be the torchbearers of this vital cause. Furthermore, supply chains are being scrutinised to ensure that sustainability is a core consideration, influencing everything from material selection to partnership choices.

Given the escalating climate crisis and its catastrophic implications, inaction is no longer viable. The tools and knowledge are at hand, and the moral obligation to act is unequivocal. The call to action is immediate, and the future, without a doubt, is envisioned to be green. This is an open invitation for all to participate in this transformative journey, redefining collective responsibility in the 21st century.