Category Archives: Green Homes

BCIL bags more scalps

Zed Awards2013 ended with a harvest of 5 coveted awards for the leadership in Zero Energy Development that BCIL has spearheaded over every project.

Both the realty TV channels in India, CNBC Awaaz and NDTV were compelled to offer their top green award to BCIL. Said Manisha Natarajan, the Chief Anchor at NDTV Profit, “No matter which way the members saw it, the jury just could not turn away from the compelling work that BCIL has done over so many years. 

It was a decision that required hardly any debate among the jury. It’s hard to believe that a builder company actually is as hugely responsible, while having succeeded on the ground to have brought freedom from the grid for water, energy, and waste. I can only wish that there are more such builders. BCIL today is in a very small minority of just one!”

CNBC Awaaz’s Vipin Bhatt said, “It’s humbling for us at CNBC Awaaz to actually know the ZED group that does such distinguished work with a commitment that is rare and distinguished. It’s an honour for us to be offering an award to BCIL for its incredible work. We only wish more customers in the marketplace buy these places and encourage this road toward saner cities.” Link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NtC2h6YiL0&feature=youtu.be

The other awards that came BCIL’s way during the year were the ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY PROJECT OF THE YEAR, NORTH BANGALORE. Silicon India in association with LIC Housing Finance Ltd, conferred this honour upon BCIL at the Bangalore Real Estate Awards 2013′.

There was then the Social Responsibility Award at the World CSR Congress Excellence & Leadership Awards at Mumbai in Feb 2013. Later in the year BCIL received ’it second CMO Asia Pacific Award in Singapore.

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Kolkata hosts the best builder minds as IGBC plans the future

KolkataIt was a weekend meant for reflection. Some of the finest minds in the country now spearheading the building industry’s future in terms of both powering the industry growth, as well as shaping policy met at a quiet resort outside of Kolkata.

The leaders present were the heads of national building majors – Tata Housing, DLF, Raheja, Daikin and Carrier Aircon, and many other national majors who are mentoring the greening of India’s building professionals.

They were from 15 cities and 8 states represented with the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the City Chapters at the conclave.

The agenda was: to see how they could bring about greater enrollment to the purpose of not just building but offering inspiring directions in managing sustainably natural resources that go into making of building infrastructure.

“I have not had a more intense and mentally fatiguing day!” said a first-timer leader participant. The first day saw over 14 hours of exchange of views, opinions, perspectives on what role the Indian Green Building Council can play in mobilizing opinion and galvanizing action among builders nationally.
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Reflections by the Brahmaputra


BrahmaputraThe IIT Guwahati on the banks of the great river that runs over a km wide at this state capital, had its students hold their annual festival, Udgam in early January. About a thousand students of the 6000 on campus of B. Tech, other bachelor degrees, PHDs, and Master students combine to hold this festival once a year.

It is a lecture series held over the weekend with eminent business wizards and entrepreneurs delivering lectures on their work. The intent is to have them share their experiences and inspire the students. People from diverse fields of knowledge participate in the event and share their knowledge. Among them this year was a brand specialist from Bangalore, an Education Network consultant and Hariharan of ZED.

Among those who have been speakers at this platform are stalwarts from industry like Mohit Dubey (carwale.com), Arun Shourie, Mira Sanyal (former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland), Soumodip Sarkar, an economist, and the CEO of Mumbai Dabbawala Association, Anuja Chauhan, a former executive creative director of J Walter Thompson, and so on.

Other such events of the IIT Guwahati are the half marathon, the Technothlon, and the Techniche. Says Hariharan, “The quality of thinking among the young as I found at the Sabarmati Ashram two weeks ago among 450 other students, and now here at Guwahati is remarkable.”

Here were about 650 first year students and about 2000 students from the subsequent years of the IIT programs at Guwahati, participating. “Their levels of concerns on India are truly beyond their age in terms of maturity,” he added.

“There were B. Tech students of chemistry and mathematics who had rejected offers of up to 1.3 crores last year! These boys have opted to continue their masters and then to get on to research rather than fall for the lure of money.”

These islands of relative excellence in India are securing a greater commitment from the youngsters trained in their portals, unlike in the past when their predecessors went with the sole intent of taking attractive salary packages, and not putting their learning to better use.

This trend has nothing really to do with the institutions themselves; it is to do with the change in India’s young.

It is heartening to hear such commitment from the young especially when we know that there are 600 million Indians who are under 25 and 150 million of them just crossing 18 years as they gain their right to vote in the Parliamentary elections for the first time.
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Baroda gets a taste of ZED insights

Picture 156President – ZED Communities, B.S. Harikrishna made a presentation in late November in Baroda to a very discerning audience of architects, urban planners, and students of engineering and architecture. It was at an IGBC event in the once royal city of Vadodara.

He received a standing ovation. At the end of his presentation, Karan Grover, a well-known architect in practice from the town, who is also the chapter chairman for the city, picked up the mike in a moment of enthusiasm at the deep impact that the presentation had made and said, “I make a commitment to get Harikrishna to meet Modi, the Chief Minister.
Let me see how the government can help his company secure a land where they can demonstrate these ZED approaches to energy, water, and waste.” We haven’t yet heard from Karan or the Gujarat Govt. But let’s hope someday there’ll be the opportunity to push such frontiers.
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BCIL raises Rs 900 million to fuel growth

Rupees-symbolIn a major breakthrough, BCIL has signed a deal closure for Rs 900 million from a large Bombay-based funding institution. The transaction is a combination of funding in the two premium BCIL projects exceeding over 1 million sft between Bangalore and Chennai.

This is the first major fund that the green major has accepted after establishing itself as an undisputed leader in energy-efficient buildings.

ZedEarth in Bangalore is a half- million sft. development that cuts fresh water demand by 70 per cent, uses no borewells and cuts energy demand also by 60 per cent with a combination of demand-side and innovative supply-side solutions.

ZedRia in Chennai offers over 600,000 sft of similar zero energy developed homes with no dependence on external water supply and sewerage board.

Energy and water harvesting and urban agriculture are unique to each of these zero energy developments. Both projects are under way and will offer a total of nearly 1,000 homes over the next 1 to 3 years.

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For gridless power at home or office.

Solar installation at a ZED home

Just the 5 star geysers refrigerators and AC’s in India are saving about 9000 MW of power generation every day. India produces 220,000 MW. Government has cleared 80,000 more MW. And they want to raise this to 700,000 MW. Where’s the coal? India is creating 3 nuclear plants when Germany and Japan have closed all their N plants after 20 years. Coal mines destroy lives, livelihoods, forests and rivers.

Actual end-use power used is a mere 30,000 MW, if local power from solar and wind is not fed to grid but used directly by homes, offices, factories, hotels and hospitals.

The power industry lobby fears loss of the massive business if local power is promoted. Governments don’t want to lose the opportunity big spending offers of making speed money.

A solar station costs no more than 4-10 lakhs at about 2 lakhs to a KW of quality generation. It saves money on Gen-sets and UPS. Diesel power costs Rs. 20 a unit. UPS cost over 2 years with battery replacement Rs. 14 a unit. Solar costs Rs. 13 a unit, with the catch that you’ve to invest, not the government. Your BESCOM tariff is 7 to 14 a unit depending on user category.

What would you want to do?

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WHERE’S MY WATER?

WaterBangalore is largely dependent on groundwater. The largest source of water in Bangalore apart from Cauvery water is from borewells.

We are pulling water that has been down there for hundreds of years, that is somebody else’s right as much as it is ours. And the breach of this right can be clearly seen with unequal resource allocation.

How do we get Ground water?

We all live above spaces between soil particles and cracks, fissures and faults in the rocks, which are known as aquifers. Water in these aquifers is rainwater that has trickled down and percolated into the earth. The aquifers are spread independent of property or administrative boundaries. Each time we pull out water from the ground, we are possibly denying someone else of their source of water.

The geology of Bangalore, and most of the Deccan plateau, is hard-rock geology. This type of geological setting is composed of three layers- the top soil where the plants grow, the weathered zone below the top soil and the hard rock. The weathered zone is actually crushed version of the hard rock which holds water in the pores and spaces in between the particles.

When it rains and water percolates down, it passes through the weathered zone and then into the hard rock fissures. A large connected set of fissures, in effect one single body of water under the ground, is called an aquifer. Aquifers in the hard rock are called ‘confined aquifers’ as they are under pressure. Water in the weathered zone is shallow and is referred to as shallow unconfined aquifer and they can travel laterally into the soil. Open wells up to depths of around 80 feet in Bangalore were meant to access water in the shallow unconfined aquifers. Over time these have been dried out, except in certain parts of Bangalore. After open wells started drying, people started digging borewells which were going deeper and picking up water from the fissures in rocks – or from confined aquifers. It is important to note that confined aquifers take more time to recharge the unconfined aquifers.

It’s difficult to predict where you get water in deeper confined aquifers.  At depths of 100 to 650 feet, there are a lot of fissures through which water trickles in. There is no way to predict, other than testing each site.

When you dig a borewell and start pulling water out, you are emptying the water in the aquifers which is a finite amount. The process by which water enters into these fissures is called recharge. This can be natural or artificial. Since there is only a finite amount of water underneath, we cannot endlessly keep pumping out water.

As a city, we need to understand how much water is available. This is not an easy task. All the residents in an area need to share where they have dug the bore well, how deep did it go, at what depth did they get water, etc. The data collected across the city can help get a better picture of the city’s aquifers.

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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)

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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