Kolkata’s mid-housing segment on way to go green

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With at least two real estate companies in the affordable housing segment promising to stick to the green norms, Green Building movement is set to gain momentum in the West Bengal capital. The houses in the Middle Income Group (MIG) will now be electricity- and water-efficient and would be treating their own waste. The drive is set to gain further momentum with the state government announcing a 10 percent incentive of additional construction in all green building projects.

The cost of green buildings is usually 5-10 percent higher than the conventional ones, but developers believe that the incentive of 10 percent additional floor area ratio (FAR) given by the government will make it easier to handle the commercial disadvantage, making the buildings affordable and viable for mass housing projects.

Siddharth Pansari, director of Primarc, a company developing premium residential green building project, said the group was working on projects to make them yield to green building norms.

“Till now, green buildings have been restricted to premium projects 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.

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

“Whether it is a 10,000 square feet project or a 5 lakh square feet 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.

Chairman, Bengal chapter, Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai) Harsh Patodia said, “Sustainability is a major issue in the urbanisation challenge. People are sensitive but have been ignoring the needs because it was not commercially rewarding. Only projects in excess of 20,000 square meter 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”.

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 neutralising the advantage.

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

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