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LEED India vs. GRIHA: What Is the Cost of Green Building Certification in India?

posted 10 Feb 2013, 07:32 by Yusuf Turab
Piyali asks: I am from a management educational institute in Kolkata. We are going to establish a new building in Rajarhat, New town area. Its a new construction and we prefer to construct it as green building. Please inform what would be the initial cost to register it as green building. Except life cycle analysis , what would be our initial benefit as green building? Is there any local benefit, like tax saving etc.? I suppose, there are two rating system , LEED and GRIHA. So, which one is applicable here?

Advice provided by: Yusuf Turab, Y T Enterprises

Hi Piyali, thank you for your question.

Green Schools and Universities: A Good Green Building Choice

Let me first tell you that it is always a good idea to construct any institutional building as green building irrespective of the tangible benefits. Students form long-term opinions from what they learn and see at their educational institutes. Institutional buildings are generally accessible to a large number of people and are talked about more in comparison with large corporate offices.

The Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, which has both its campuses LEED Platinum certified, is a prime example. Students here have known to be proud of their campus and its environmental credentials. From a couple of personal experiences, I can tell you some of them can talk endlessly about the superior environmental performance of their campus.

Cost of Green Building Certification in India

Not too long ago I wrote an article on the cost of green buildings certification, "The Cost of LEED Building in India". I would recommend you read this, since it details 6 ways to control costs on an Indian green building project.

You can also get the latest certification costs for LEED India rating on the IGBC website, and the latest costs for GRIHA rating on the GRIHA India website.

You will find that the costs are similar and will usually range between Rs.350,000 to Rs.550,000 depending on the size of the project.

LEED India vs GRIHA India

I personally like both green building rating systems, LEED India and GRIHA India, and would recommend either.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is well established and internationally renowned. It is also the most favored rating system among the private sector.

On the other hand, critics call it "too American" as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has not allowed it to be indigenized enough for it to work well in the local context.

For example, water is a critical resource in India but LEED offers far fewer points for water conservation in comparison to GRIHA. Also, building commissioning is a mandatory requirement in LEED, but this is not a common practice in India, and is usually considered an unnecessary expense. These are a only some of the issues that one might find frustrating when working with LEED in India.

GRIHA on the other hand is made in India, for India and thus has many criteria that make total sense in the Indian context. Compliance criteria for worker safety and well being is one such example.

But at the same time, since the rating is fairly new it needs further improvement. Specifically, the material and resource sustainability criteria are poorly defined and the energy criteria can be too stringent for some projects to comply.

The bottom line is, both LEED India and GRIHA are applicable to your project. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It is up to the project team to choose which rating system suits your initial design and specifications. Additionally, you may consider which rating system is likely to provide you with a higher rating and which rating system is more likely provide you with the desired press coverage.

Green Building Incentives in India

The West Bengal government does not offer any incentives for green buildings at the moment. However, it is likely that this might change in the coming years.

If your project requires Environmental Impact Assessment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, then GRIHA offers a pre-certification which ensures a fast track environmental clearance. This process can reduce the time line of a project by at least 3 months.

Marketing Your Green Building in India

The initial benefit of a green building will also largely depend on the quality of marketing. If you manage to pre-certify your project and and hire a smart marketing team who can leverage these credentials to create interest, awareness, and curiosity among potential students and members of the public, you might find yourself in an excellent position even before the institution begins functioning.

Marketing green buildings in India has been at best mediocre so far. Very few green building developers have managed to create any interest in the sustainability of their projects. Everyone seems to use one-liners like "gold rated building", "5 star building", "eco-friendly construction" etc. None of these make any sense to a layman.

The tragedy is that no one talks about what a green building can do for its users, how it can improve the quality of time the users spend in the building, and the health benefits or the monetary savings it might create overtime.

I believe a good marketing campaign is one that makes people want something that they don't need. A sustainably built environment is something that people desperately need, they just don't know it yet. Hence, theoretically at least, marketing green buildings should not be difficult.