Monthly Archives: November 2013

Waste not, want not By Dr. Chandrashekar Hariharan

A green home doesn’t only mean eco-friendly construction, it means an efficient space that reduces dependence on government infrastructure for water, energy and waste

Waste not, want not

 Let’s first make the distinction, for the sake of convenience and clarity, between an ecologically sustainable home and a green home. The former is something that you build with materials that make for the least use of exhaustible natural resources — a typical farmer’s house is the best example, with a combination of clay walls, cowdung surfaces, thatch roofs, limestone-coated walls. There have been homes in the urban context that have attempted to use some ‘traditional’ elements but not always with success on reducing use of natural resources.
What is labelled in current times as a ‘green home’ is what you ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’ in terms of solutions for a regular urban home, taking into account use of building materials for floors, walls, roofs and windows, the use of systems and technologies that reduce consumption of water and energy without compromising comfort or convenience the way you define them as a dweller. If you are willing to spend a little more as capital cost at the start, you can secure savings into the future that can help you recoup your additional capital cost over five to seven or 10 years, depending on what the feature is that you are adding to your ‘green home’.

Green homes can help you save as much 30 to 50 per cent in your energy bills. With the right elements in place, you can rely less on fresh water and therefore increase water security. Beyond such savings, green homes can help you generate some wealth from waste, by managing its conversion into either manure or compost, or even energy for your kitchen. The important thing is that a ‘green home’ in the urban context will help and enable you to reduce your dependence on government infrastructure for water, energy and waste.

The current green market for buildings is focusing on rainwater harvesting for every building, waste water treatment plants that offer 100 per cent recycled water for use, and introducing energy efficiency in the use of pumps and heavy-duty electrical equipment in buildings.

Builders should take practical positions. They should not adopt a textbook approach to sustainability. It has to be replicable, and sometimes scalable. We address the low-hanging fruits that are easier to pick both on demand-side and supply-side management of aspects of water, energy, waste: rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, ‘Grow Our Own Water’ plans that ensure independence from municipal water supply, use deep aquifer water, natural air-conditioning systems are a few examples of such strategic approaches.

We should look for upstream carbon-effectiveness — use of non-river sand based concrete, triple blend concrete, lighter building blocks, debris used for road subgrades, optimising structural inputs for framed structures, establishing micro-climate right at the stage of design and not as an afterthought…. the list is truly long.

The vision is simple: every building must drop demand for freshwater by 40 per cent by voluntary compliance, or by law. The same holds good for power. We should have a drop in demand by at least 40 per cent, with investments made by the building industry for energy generation on their own without dependence on the grid for such local power. All industries should reduce their demand by a minimum 40 per cent for power from governments and local bodies. And they should voluntarily install recharge wells for every borewell that draws from deep aquifers.

Governments don’t offer solutions that are creative. They destroy resources that have been built by earth over many thousand millennia — indiscriminate extraction is only one example of such acts. Governments, as they are structured in India, are simply not equipped to offer solutions into this future before us for these resources and their sensitive management.

At the core, there is only one challenge: consumer behaviour and human behaviour. Can this change? We must not just buy what we need, we have to “buy into” what we need. This means that we as citizens who can afford a certain lifestyle, must bring unto ourselves the joy of responsible buying, and consuming. We have to realise that less than 10 per cent of India’s and the world’s population actually consumes 80 per cent of the world’s natural resources. The poor do not have the money to fulfill their want to consume — not that their aspirations are any different from those of the urban rich. So the single challenge is in bringing about this joy of responsible buying and knowing the significance of what we are buying into.

However, there’s a silver lining. Over just the last four years, the 12-year-old CII Indian Green Building Council alone has managed to certify over 500 million sq ft of commercial spaces. This figure is set to touch the one billion mark (for commercial buildings alone) by 2015. This is because of the clear advantage that commercial builders see in sharp reduction [over 30 per cent] in post-occupancy costs of such green buildings. This is a major draw among B2B tenants that such buildings attract as clients.

The performance has been even more encouraging on the residential sector front, with over 800 million sq ft of IGBC-green-rated buildings coming up across India. Between the GOI’s GRIHA certification and the Pune-based EcoHousing Rating System, there is another 100 million sq ft of such residential and commercial buildings that have been certified over the same period of four years. The downside is that this accounts for less than two per cent of the entire building/construction industry total footprint of buildings in India. There is a very long way to go.

The green market for home appliances and consumer durables is going to see a major and dramatic shift in the near future. All air-conditioners in the Indian and the world market will shift to inverter-based ACs, which will drop energy consumption by 30 to 70 per cent! The current market for ACs is at about 3-3.5 million per annum. This is set to rise to 6.5 million by 2015. The drop in energy demand therefore will be significant in the decade ahead. Wireless energy — like wireless telephony that came in the mid-90s — is the next big game-changer in green development.
If you step back to discern the longer-term trend, you will see green and energy-efficient buildings are here to stay. zz

(The writer is executive chairman and co-founder of BCIL Zed Homes)

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Green peace By Dr. Chandrashekar Hariharan

A green home entails a little more capital cost at the start, but in the end it helps you recoup the additional cost in 5-10 years

Green peace

 Let’s first make the distinction, for the sake of convenience and clarity, between an ecologically sustainable home and a green home. The former is something that you build with materials that make for the least use of exhaustible natural resources — a typical farmer’s house is the best example, with a combination of clay walls, cowdung surfaces, thatch roofs, limestone-coated walls. There have been homes in the urban context that have attempted to use some ‘traditional’ elements but not always with success on reducing the use of natural resources. So a house built with traditional architecture is not necessarily green.
A green home, on the other hand, is what you ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’ in terms of solutions for a regular urban home, taking into account the use of building materials for floors, walls and roofs and windows; the use of systems that reduce consumption of water and energy without compromising comfort or convenience the way you define them as a dweller. If you were willing to spend a little more as capital cost at the start, you can secure savings into the future that can help you recoup your additional capital cost over five to seven or, may be, 10 years, depending on the feature you are adding to your green home.

Green homes can help you save as much 30-50 per cent in your energy bills. With the right elements in place, you can rely less on fresh water and, therefore, increase water security. Beyond savings, green homes can help you generate some wealth from waste, by managing its conversion into either manure or compost or even energy for your kitchen. The important thing is that a green home in the urban context will enable you to reduce your dependence on government infrastructure for water, energy and waste.

First, green homes don’t cost more — they need a different approach to design and planning; they need your effort to find the right vendors for the right inputs that can offer your solutions that either cut energy and water bills; or increase lifecycle of products you install at home. It is a question of how you spend the money, and not how much more — or less — you spend in building a green home, as opposed to a regular home with conventional materials that we have known for the past 50 to 60 years.

The cost, like in any house, is to do with what you want in a house. Where a green home distinguishes itself is in the way you have employed materials. For example, using soil blocks instead of bricks increases the duration of your building, helps you avoid plastering externally (therefore reducing cost), while also adding to the looks of the building. The use of natural floors increases the aesthetic appeal and even the therapeutic value of your house. Ask anyone with arthritis or rheumatism who walks barefoot at home on vitrified or ceramic tiled floors, and then for some months on natural floors. Their pains dramatically ease with natural floors!

So, a green home is not about price, it is a whole new order of the future. It is building technology that emerges from careful thought on design and human needs. In India, 10 years ago, a few green buildings that were built by pioneers like the government’s Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and by some private sector initiatives, witnessed a capital cost delta of about 16 to 18 per cent in going green. Today, that figure has come down to a cost differential of near-zero — for two reasons: one is that products have become far cheaper (for example, waterless urinals are now available at Rs 6,000 against Rs 30,000 in 2003) and two, for the greater knowledge of how to achieve resource-efficiency among a growing group of architects and water-energy consultants.

This means that a green building costs the same as a regular building, although there is still a segment of the mainstream building industry (and Indian industry at large) that is not willing to concede this for their lack of understanding of design solutions, and the dearth of professional architects and service consultants who have the expertise of incorporating such energy efficiency into their design approaches.

The sum and short of it is this: clearly there is no cost difference. However, there is need for many thousands of professionals who can guide such approaches for promoters and managements of builder companies and industry at large. This is where the concept of zero energy development (ZED) comes into play.

The idea of ZED is central to going green. People do not connect the dots between the specific benefit that a product or a service offers them and the contribution they are making to save the ‘only house we have, our planet’. A ZED idea in action relates to how a customer sees the benefit of financial savings or ROI for the money she puts in to purchase a product or service. It also at once offers the customer the feel of why she is doing well for herself while she is also doing good for the planet. How her purchase is lighter on her wallet, while being lighter on the planet, too. It is therefore not just the buying, but what she is buying into.

Your average home consumes about eight units a day. If half your need (four units) were to come from localised solutions like solar photovoltaic power, the total demand for domestic energy will drop by half as well.

Examples of such ZED ideas in action are: an air-conditioner that saves about 70 per cent on energy and therefore offers a payback of less than four years for the investment on the air-conditioner. You can buy a regular AC at Rs 22,000 and pay three times the energy cost for every hour of its use; or you can buy a green zero-energy-developed AC that (a) uses no ozone depleting substance for cooling the air, (b) works on a 5-amp mode (avoiding therefore the installation of too many 15-amp switches in your home and so saving on the energy peak load for the house), and (c) consumes less than 400 watts as energy load while keeping your room as cool as any other AC.

The example extends to other simple household appliances like a pump for drawing water from a borewell, a washing machine that saves energy or water, a microwave oven that needs a lower ‘surge load’ and so saves on designed energy peak load of the house, or a geyser that works at 0.5 kw against the regular 3 kw system now on the market …. there are dozens of such examples.

The ZED idea in action usually also demonstrates reliability, economy, efficiency, excellent function and finishes that are the finest. The customer also understands how to connect the dot to the larger picture of how a saving in his house can bring down dramatically at the city’s level (if all of us take to such ZED practices) the demand for energy; how a saving of 70 per cent in energy will reduce our dependence on coal for thermal plants and therefore bring down the abuse and degradation of forests for coal extraction.

Another example of such ZED ideas in action is the purchase of a house that reduces about 3,000 carbon tonnes for every set of 70-80 apartments of 1,500 sq ft. The natural resource-efficient structural systems, the avoidance of bricks and clay blocks (because of top soil abuse), use of chemical-free waterproofing compounds and non-toxic waterproofing treatment systems or paints, avoidance of use of ceramic tiles which are high on embodied energy in their manufacture.

Use of ZED air-conditioning systems that are pollen-free and not ozone-depleting in their functioning, treatment of all waste water in a way that they can be up-cycled and reused for flush tanks or gardens or car wash, and such other use at home (which account for over 50 per cent of water use in any house), use of rainwater harvest systems to ensure that about 60 days in a year come from such capture of rainwater, use of flush tanks that reduce by 70-80 per cent the drain of water with every flush, use of reused steel where possible for construction, use of treated water for construction and reduction of construction water with systems and smart protocols for construction management.

These are just a few examples, there are, in fact, about 58 such ZED practices that make for either reduction in use of manufacture energy or offer post-occupancy efficiency in the use of energy and water. Going green, actually, is not just about eco-friendliness, it’s about economics as well.

(The writer is executive chairman and co-founder of BCIL, Zed Homes)

Citizen Journalist ‘Govt must make Housing Affordable’ by Chandrashekar Hariharan

Citizen Journalist ‘Govt must make Housing Affordable’ by Chandrashekar Hariharan

Bengaluru has the dubious distinction of being a city with a very high slum density. We have had this tag for the last 12 years as over four million people live in semipermanent homes in the city.

Over the last five years, things have gone from bad to worse. It is time the government came up with a viable solution. What we need to do is make homes more affordable for people. But how can we do that when the land prices are soaring and nobody wants to make a bad investment?

The solution could be letting private builders own the buildings rather than selling them the land and then allowing them to lease or sell the houses at affordable EMIs or rates that would encourage the real buyers.

Now what the government is doing -the job of the realtor builder without addressing the issue of providing affordable houses. If we had controlled private players instead, we could make houses available for all.

The problem that Bengaluru is facing is not unique. Ahmedabad too has a similar problem, but we can learn from the way it is addressing it. If we are ready to learn and adapt, there are several lessons to take from Japan, Singapore and other countries as well.  But to start with we must be willing to learn.

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Rainseed marks new Mysore Milestone

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Another carefully crafted residential layout it was launched in October softly. Says Chairman Hariharan, “Over ten years, BCIL has managed to create two fine residential layouts in the Royal City that are the envy of most Mysoreans.”

BCIL has built a formidable reputation over the last decade for unmatched features and amenities that make your investment worth the longer while.

For the young investor who likes to grow money smartly with capital appreciation in either the short- or the long-term, an investment in a plot at Zed Rainseed is the best hedge.

Here’s your Zero Energy Way to retire

DSC_0580There’s another exciting launch in the offing. 25 compact spaces, all of them with low-energy, high-impact AC’s, and a host of other services being offered at ZedEarth.

It’s a limited edition launch. “With the campus offering so much as facilities, and with 150 families living there, we said it’d be great to host just a few senior citizens who will derive great joy and comfort in making home here,” says Dinesh, Executive Director. “It’s great to see people who share your values, and who secure the comfort of some fine living and dining in the graceful years of their lives,” he adds.

BCIL invited to rare forum

Speakers from the past were stalwarts like B G Verghese, Justice Santosh Hegde, Vandana Shiva, and the legendary Maj Gen Cardozo. It was the Gyan Ganga series.

Chandrashekar Hariharan was invited to be the fifth in the series of such august speakers since its inception.

The event? The annual gathering of the Pune-based Indira School of Management Studies, a high-ranking business school in western India. The hall was filled to capacity.

The theme Hariharan chose to speak on was Public Concern, Private Cause. “It was inspiring for the hundreds of post-grad students who listened rapt,” said Prof. Vijairaghavan of the institute.

ZedEarth launches Casablanca

OctCasablanca. The name evokes memories of a romantic era post-World War. It also evokes enchanting images of white homes (Casablanca in Spanish) that stand out against the lush green of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

ZedEarth offers a specially crafted cluster of 30 homes. All of them painted the timeless azure and albeido that marks the Qasbah anywhere in the Arab world right down to the sunbaked cities of Balmer and Jaisalmer.

ZedCasablanca homes offer options at 3- and 4-bedrooms. They are sun-filled, expansive, sunlit, and cool on the interior, elegant on colours and tones, and leafy in natural decor.

These spaces are great for asthmatics (pollen-free air), and curative for arthritics and rheumatoids (with floors that are warm to touch, and free of vitrified tiles).

Says Sanjay Ramanujam, “These offer healthy living spaces with systems that make Casablanca Homes affordable; secure on energy and water for the long term with grid freedom for both water and waste; and sophisticated yet rugged systems that make for great living.”

Kochi marks green week

KochiIt was a very small gathering. It was called to mark the Green Building Week Celebrations across India.

The Kochi Chapter Chairman of the CII Indian Green Building Council, Ar. Ajit, had organized it with the help of SEEM (Society for Energy Efficient Managers).

Even if the attendance was thin, at about a hundred people, it was a discerning lot of architects and engineers and business leaders from the green business sector. Hariharan was invited to deliver an address to the gathering. “The discerning questions and their interest in the ZED range of green products and technologies was amazing,” he said.

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