First steps first

  • 30/08/2007

Green architecture needs norms and regulations

Almost all the industrialised countries have put in place a system of rating buildings, environmentally. While leed is one of the most popular rating systems and has been adopted by over 20 countries, many governments have formulated their own standards according to local conditions. But India has no comprehensive legislation or code for green buildings. After much dithering, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (bee), set up under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, released the Energy Conservation Building Code, 2006 (ecbc) in June this year. But it is incomplete, and also not mandatory. The mandate of this code is to "prescribe energy conservation building code for efficient use of energy and its conservation in a building or building complex'; and as per ecbc, building is one which has "a connected load of 500 kW or greater and used for commercial purposes'.

ecbc is a set of requirements to be met at the time of design and construction so that operational energy requirements of buildings remains low. Its basically looks at the building envelope, ventilating, heating, cooling and lighting systems of buildings. "ecbc covers only new large commercial buildings such as hotels, hospitals. But not residential, agricultural and industrial units. Residential areas do not use large amounts of power,' says Ajay Mathur, director general, bee. Environmentalists says ecbc should be made mandatory. Mathur claims it might become so in 3-5 years, but before that a market for green buildings needs to be created in India.

But some green building materials are not even recognised legally in India. Says Jagadish Vengala of ipirti, "Bamboo can be used in sophisticated house construction. But due to absence of any standard building code for bamboo so far, apart from method of test, it has not been officially recognised as a building material.'

But efforts are definitely being made in the right direction. For instance, the New Delhi-based Environment Design Solutions is working on a pilot project with the Pune Municipal Corporation in promoting eco-housing. The corporation offers incentives such as reducing the development charges on a green residence for both builders and residents. The New Delhi-based The Energy Resource Institute (teri) claims to have prepared an indigenised green building rating system. Commonly known as griha [Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment], it is applicable to commercial, residential and institutional buildings. But says Suresh, "griha is just another method of rating. These deal with a very small segment of green building issues; they have some strengths but many weaknesses. They do not fully understand issues of the built environment.'

Arvind Krishan of the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi believes that "Environmental crises can become an opportunity for creating a new language of architecture. A new era beckons architects.'

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