Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Build smart, build green

Do green buildings make business sense and are the way forward for a tiny State like Goa? Local builders have got into debate mode over the question, with some suggesting it is time for the government to incentivise such buildings

Story: Karan | Sehgal | 05th March 2018, 03:59 Hrs

The concept of green buildings or environment-friendly constructions is gaining currency in India in the last few years. In Goa as well, the awareness about such buildings is increasing and it has reached a stage wherein the State government is soon expected to come out with incentivies for builders to construct green buildings.   

But, first of all, why do builders expect incentives for green buildings? This is because to construct such buildings, builders have to provide a number of amenities like scope for rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment plants, LED lights, solar energy, green open areas and so on.   

Naturally then, green or environment friendly buildings require an investment on part of the builders. Typically, builders expect the State government to give them extra floor-area-ratio (FAR) as an incentive to build green buildings.   

Extra FAR will allow builders to build additional floors on the same plot without having to buy more land. While most experts agree that allowing extra FAR is a way to encourage green buildings, they have suggested other ways as well.   

Tulio D’Souza, prominent architect, said, “The State government could consider incentivising building construction process in the direction of creating green buildings so that builders in the process earn carbon credits as well.”   

D’Souza further mentioned that benefits pertaining to extra FAR and tax rebates can also be offered by the state government to builders to incentivise green buildings.   

Manguesh R Prabhugaonker, chairman, Indian Institute of Architects (Goa chapter), said, “The government could consider introducing the mechanism of granting incentives in the form of additional FAR without any charge to encourage green buildings.”   

Prabhugaonker continued, “Free FAR benefits only builders. To incentivise the individual owner of real estate, rebates on recurring bills like power, water can be provided. Rebates on sewage, waste management and other operational costs can be offered at co-operative societies’ level. Best option is to give incentive in the form of cash incentive/rebate.”   

The State government may offer any sort of incentives to the builders. But, there is no mechanism to assess whether the builders will pass on those benefits to the buyers or not. In this context, Prabhuhgaonker’s suggestions make sense because people will buy flats in green buildings only when they are given some benefits.   

Often while making a sales pitch for a green building, builders say that such buildings consume less power and water and therefore the power and water bills will be lower in the long run. However, individual owners want immediate benefits to buy flats in green buildings.   

Datta Naik, managing director, Commonwealth Developer Pvt Ltd, said, “Rather than giving extra FAR, we would appreciate if concessions in stamp duty, registration fees and infrastructure tax are offered to the builders to build green buildings. Due to this, we will be able to reduce the price of real estate for the end consumer, which will also help us in increasing our sales.”   

Naik continued, “Right now, builders are facing recession and therefore concessions in stamp duty, registration fees and infrastructure tax will really help us in making some sales.”   

“I am not in favour of extra FAR for green buildings. If at all the government is giving extra FAR for green buildings, it has to be sold to builders either at market value or little less than market value,” he concluded.   

While most stakeholders are of the opinion that free extra FAR should be given to builders if they make green buildings, Naik thinks that extra FAR should be given at a price.   

The fear of allowing extra FAR stems from the apprehensions that it may result in even more concretisation of Goa, where builders will keep on adding floors to make taller buildings.   

The other question is: If at all extra FAR is given for green buildings, should it be allowed in city or rural areas or both?   

D’Souza said, “Little bit of verticalisation (by giving extra FAR for green buildings) does not do harm in city areas provided technology backs it up. However, it is advisable to keep FAR at existing levels in the villages. This will help in maintaining character and social fabric of villages in the State.”   

In other words, this means that extra FAR shouldn’t be allowed to encourage green buildings in the villages.   

While the debate is going on about where the government should give extra FAR for green buildings, Prabhugaonker enumerated several other ways to encourage such buildings, as he said, “Rebates in the shape of reducing building application/processing fee charged for approval of green building plans and single window fast-track clearances for obtaining approvals for green buildings are ways to encourage construction of such buildings.”   

Before giving incentives for green buildings, the state government will also have to come out with a mechanism to certify buildings as green. Prabhugaonker said, “It’s a must that all rating agencies are made part of green certification including IGBC (Indian Green Building Council), GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).”  

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