Part 2 of the PKR-Sinha interview.
Going “Green” is perceived as expensive and exclusive. What are your thoughts on making these technologies more inclusive easily accessible?
‘Going Green’ cost me a ‘premium’ of about 5% extra per square foot in construction cost. Today, if you plan well, that premium can be zero- for instance, avoiding some of the extensive control and automation systems such as for motorised roller blinds. In fact, if you don’t go all the way to a 5-star system, but strive for around 4-star, or even skip the rating altogether, you can save on some of the more expensive systems. Keep in mind that there are savings too because, for instance, you’re forced to source locally, instead of buying expensive Italian marble, and so on.
In the long term, is it difficult maintaining the “Green One”, considering the exclusivity of the technology?
It isn’t difficult, but some of the systems are expensive to maintain, especially if you take a maintenance contract for everything. There were some systems we did away with finally, expensive control or automation systems which were not essential to the green building. Replacing the double-glazed glass windows, for instance, is expensive. Green One was early: today, someone getting a green home designed and built can ask their architects to focus on lower-maintenance systems; less electronics, less complexity.
How is waste managed in the Green One?
A sewage treatment plant was initially used, to treat wastewater and reuse treated water for plants. However, over the years, this system gave us the most trouble, and was finally dismantled after 3 years of use. Other than this, kitchen waste composting and waste segregation helps minimize waste going to landfills.
Could one make use of green technologies to live greener in a condominium lifestyle?
Yes, to a limited extent. I do also stay in a condominium apartment in Gurgaon, where there was no green design or construction. However, we have worked on switching the lights in the entire complex from CFL to LED, reset lobby aircon from 22 to 27 Celsius, and used thermal film on windows and glass doors. We also use 4-5 star rated electrical devices where possible, and keep aircon to a comfortable 27 degrees Celsius at home, which makes a major difference to our energy bills.
Does a Green building have a social impact, in addition to the environmental one?
There is wide-ranging impact of the processes used- for instance, worker safety (helmets and other systems), worker hygiene (toilets etc)- all are specified and audited in the green building systems. Paints are non-toxic, low-VOC chemicals. The materials used are potentially less exploitative [of labour]- no bricks, so no kilns, and so on.
Green One was a pilot. Are houses such as the “Green one” a growing trend?
Not fast enough. In these four years, there would be a few hundred green homes certified or under construction, across the two systems (GRIHA and LEED). There should have been thousands.
Aviral Sinha is a Delhi-based architect with a deep interest in sustainable urban design. He holds a M.Arch from Milan’s DOMUS Academy.