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Mid-income housings go green in Kolkata
Source: The Times of India Aug 25, 2014
The green building movement is set to get a fillip in Kolkata with at least two real estate companies in the affordable housing space committing that all its projects will conform to the green norms. What this essentially means is that middle income group (MIG) homes will also be water and electricity-efficient and treat their own waste. The drive is set to gain further momentum with the state government announcing an incentive of 10% additional construction in all green building projects.

Siddharth Pansari, director of Primarc, a company that is currently developing a premium residential gold-rated green building project, said the group was working on ongoing and upcoming projects to make them compliant to green building norms.

"Till now, green buildings have been restricted to premium projects like Astitva (2 lakh sqft) as the additional costs incurred in meeting the norms could be recovered in high-end developments. But now, we have decided to make all our projects - even those targeted at middle-income groups - energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Southwinds (16 lakh sqft) that was not a green building initially is now becoming one. Garbage disposal, sewage treatment, water quality, light and glass fixtures, landscape, paint and other aspects are being tuned to meet green norms and are applying for silver rating for the project," said Pansari.

Upcoming group projects at Chandernagore, Ganganagar and Mankundu are all being tailored to meet green building norms. "It is an opportunity to be environmentally responsible and we are taking it. With improvement in air and water quality, living quality also improves. That will make the projects more aspirational," said Pansari.

While green buildings cost 5-10% higher than conventional ones, developers believe the 10% additional floor area ratio (FAR) announced by the government will be very handy to offset the commercial disadvantage, making them viable even in affordable and mass housing projects. Beyond the cost consideration, the challenge is to spend time and effort to plan a project that has the least impact on the environment.

"Sustainability is a major issue in the urbanization challenge. People are sensitive but have been ignoring the needs because it was not commercially rewarding. Only projects in excess of 20,000 sqm were required to mandatorily conform to energy and environment norms. But with government now offering an incentive, it will encourage more developers to follow green norms in letter and spirit," said Harsh Patodia, chairman of Bengal chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai).

Not all are willing to commit, though, till the government issues a gazette notification and they have been through the fine print. One of the fears is that the government will charge a premium on the additional FSI, thereby neutralizing the advantage.

"At present, green building norms can be implemented in projects that are of 1 lakh sq ft and above because things like waste water recycling, recharging groundwater and use of fly ash bricks for small projects may not be feasible," said Sushil Mohta of Merlin Group whose IT park Merlin Infinity is gold-rated and Acropolis Mall is seeking a green certification.

Siddha Group that has a major presence in the affordable and budget housing segment has embraced the green building concept in a big way, installing sewage treatment plants, rainwater harvesting facilities and solar lights in its projects. The group develops around 20 lakh sqft a year and has 14 housing projects that are either underway or in the pipeline.

"Whether it is a 10,000 sqft project or a 5 lakh sqft one, we are going for Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) certification. We will ensure that all our projects are at least silver rated while some of them should achieve GOLD rating," Siddha Group chief operating officer Arind Ganeriwala said.

"Over the years, we have attempted to be green by retaining natural earth, recycling water, use of local materials and making buildings energy efficient, ensuring the sun orientation is such that rooms get maximum light. Now, we will do so in a more structured way and have tied up with Kamal Cogent Energy Pvt Ltd to be LEED certified," said Ganeriwala.

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