Why green buildings make sense in times of COVID-19


Homes in green buildings are often perceived as being more expensive than regular homes. We compare the cost of construction and ownership of green homes and regular homes and examine the factors that buyers need to consider, especially during COVID-19

While the demand for green homes is rising, many myths regarding the same persist, in home buyers’ minds. Some people have a misconception that green homes are extremely expensive, compared to normal houses and are only meant for high-end buyers.

 

What is a green home?

“The concept of a green home is not based on a green environment. Rather, it pertains to the effective use of environmental resources, such as power and water and minimising pollution,” explains Sandeep Joshi, director, PPROM Group. A green power resource can either be solar-based or windmill-based. Constructed wells, rivers and dams, are the major water resources in rural areas, which supply the water to metropolitan cities, he adds.

“Rainwater harvesting and recharging, are the commonly used techniques, to keep the water level adequate. Pollution-free garbage means the use of garbage for composting or power generation,” Joshi elaborates.

 

Cost of owning a green home

The price of a home basically depends on its location and the cost of construction. Experts believe that a green building can be constructed at little or no additional cost. The net cost of owning a green home can be equal to or even cheaper than a standard home. Many a time, architects, builders, engineers, plumbers and other industry professionals are not aware or are not experienced in planning homes that are cost-effective.

See also: Green homes: Profitable in the long run

 

How much do you save by living in a green home?

“Green homes might come across as expensive in the beginning, due to investments like solar panels, efficient disposable systems, etc., but in the long run, these investments which require little maintenance, will cut on utility bills, as compared to a standard home. Furthermore, one can always find cheaper, alternative materials to build a green home that fits one’s budget. Most of the time, the cost matches the cost of a standard home,” says Kaizad Hateria, brand custodian and chief customer delight officer, Rustomjee Group.

 

Are green buildings a viable option for home buyers?

 

Advantages offered by green buildings

Healthier homes: Green homes generally use toxin-free building materials, which can combat indoor pollution.

Economical: One can always use resources that are available locally for constructing the house. Moreover, for heat and electricity, renewable energy sources like solar power, hydropower and wind power can be used, which significantly cut on utility bills.

Environmental impact: Conservation of the ecosystem and biodiversity, improved air and water quality, less waste generation and preservation of natural resources, are a few of the environmental benefits that one can achieve, by living in a green home.

 

What to keep in mind when buying a green home

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating is a globally-recognised system for certifying green buildings. In India, the rating systems that authenticate green buildings are Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA), Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). Home buyers who intend to buy a green home, should ensure that the house has been certified under one of these systems.

“Before buying a green home, always enquire whether the materials used can be reused, renewed or recycled and whether they are energy efficient and durable,” advises Hateria. While a house can be constructed as a green home right from the beginning, even a regular house can be modified to eco-friendly later.

Nevertheless, the common factors in each case that determine whether the home will be a green home, include water conservation, energy efficiency, preservation of natural resources, generation of less waste and healthy neighbourhoods.

 

Green homes in times of COVID-19

You may ask, what is the benefit of green homes, during pandemics such as the Coronavirus disease? The China Green Building Council noted the following:

Prevention and control made easier

Some of the ways to fight COVID-19 include staying secluded, efficient community management, elevator disinfection, environmental cleaning, open windows for natural ventilation, etc. The criteria for green buildings, as outlined in the Assessment Standard for Green Building or ASGB certification, are effective to fight COVID-19.

This includes:

  • Systems in place to enable occupants and workers to provide access to medical equipment.
  • Vehicle control.
  • Relevant signs to alert people.
  • Conversion of rooms when they become necessary, such as turning medical rooms into isolation rooms, supply rooms, etc.

 

Prevent cross-infection

In this regards, the ASGB guidelines ask for requirements such as:

  • Control of air/pollutants.
  • Control exhaust backflow of kitchen, bathrooms.
  • Water seals to reduce transmission through drainage pipes.
  • Control indoor particulate matter.
  • Enhance natural ventilation.
  • Control air-conditioning in zones.
  • Easy dissipation of harmful gases and viruses.

Through the adoption of green homes, the stakeholders can be better prepared during emergencies.

 

Market size for green buildings

Green buildings are increasingly becoming popular. With promising smart city projects in the pipeline, India is projected as one of the key areas, where the uptake of green buildings will continue to grow and generate multiple growth avenues, Fortune Research Insights suggests.

 

Future of green buildings in India

While states have introduced various incentives for green buildings such as increasing the floor area ratio, subsidy on fixed capital and concessions on municipal charges, there is still some bit of information asymmetry, especially with respect to assuring buyers of the green component and limited financial products. For example, only a few banks offer loans for green buildings.

As of date, only 5% of buildings in India are green and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka have taken a lead here. In future, experts attach a huge opportunity to green buildings and homes. For example, the World Green Building Council (WGBC) has estimated that green buildings may generate higher returns while additional costs could come down by 0.5% to 12%. On the other hand, sales premiums may go up by 31% while occupancy rates could go up by 21% and rental income by 8%. In a world struck by COVID-19, when home buyers are working from home, it may be a good decision to choose green homes.

(With inputs from Sneha Sharon Mammen)

 

FAQs

Can a green building keep me safe from COVID-19?

While a lot depends on individuals, green buildings and green homes can certainly reduce the risk of infection, by providing a convenient lifestyle that is also healthy. With COVID-19, more attention should be paid to the health performance of buildings, so as to respond better and faster to exigencies.

How are green homes different from regular homes?

Green homes are environmentally sustainable and focus on the efficient use of energy, water and building materials. It uses environmentally friendly materials. Regular homes that people usually pick over green buildings, because of the seemingly lower cost of buying, may not be built using sustainable sources.

 

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