The green building movement is no longer what it was two decades ago -an urban phenomenon that attracted large corporations setting up factories or offices and architects designing commercial complexes, or high-rise residential conclaves. Increasingly, smaller houses in small towns even in the hinterland are seeing the wisdom of going green. You could call this a manifestation of the growing awareness and concern about global warming as well as the long-term benefits from going in for environment-friendly constructions.

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which has been pioneering work on green buildings since 2001, has now broadened its canvas to cover homes in small towns and rural areas of the country. The idea is to spread the ‘IGBC-Nest’ concept which is a framework and rating system developed for residential units and smaller buildings to control and limit their carbon emissions and thus make them environment friendly.

K S Venkatagiri, Executive Director, CII -Sohrabji Green Business Centre, a Hyderabad-based environmental organisation, explains: “The Nest initiative is all about making homes energy and water efficient with better waste management, all enhancing the quality of life taking care of health and well-being.” According to him, the initiative has attracted the participation of banks and institutions like HDFC Limited, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank and construction related companies such as Ultratech Cement and JK Cement among a host of others.

Sustainability and cost efficiency

It was to popularise green construction in the rural housing sector that CII-IGBC introduced a Nest rating and certification last year to promote sustainable buildings across the country. “During the post-Covid phase, there was a surge in construction activity in smaller towns and villages where construction was not well organised with contractors playing a major role in building activity. It was as part of our efforts to reach out to this new and large segment that we came out with the Nest rating initiative for small homes,” adds Venkatagiri.

Current housing construction practices often prioritises cost-saving measures due to limited unit sizes, lack of proper framework, awareness and budget constraints. Consequently, conventional construction materials are used, resulting in higher carbon emissions and diminished living standards for occupants.

Central to Nest-rated homes is the emphasis on green procurement practices. By prioritizing the use of eco-friendly construction materials, these homes minimize their environmental footprint while supporting sustainable supply chains. Additionally, through thoughtful design elements such as natural daylight, cross ventilation and exhaust systems, it ensures optimal comfort and air quality within the living spaces, further enhancing the overall sustainability and liveability.

The CII-IGBC ‘Nest’ framework aims to promote sustainability in self-developed and affordable residential projects. The focus is on building envelope improvements – water and energy efficiency and solar energy utilization – while enhancing resource efficiency and occupant well-being.

Green constructions significantly reduce energy costs. Homes typically experience 20-30 per cent reduction in energy expenditure, due to the integration of energy-efficient technologies and design principles. Additionally, the integration of renewable energy sources like on-site solar energy systems help.

Water conservation is another key focus area of the Nest framework, which estimates an impressive 30-50 per cent reduction in water consumption. These reductions are achieved through measures like rainwater harvesting, minimizing dependence on municipal water sources, installing efficient plumbing fixtures to regulate water flow, and integrating water meters and level control mechanisms for precise monitoring of usage.

Green happiness index

Through green features, such as municipal waste management, the integration of natural vegetation within living spaces, better ventilation, these homes create a nurturing environment that promotes physical and mental wellness.

Currently, IGBC has certified over 10 projects and is actively engaged with 50 more in two and three tier cities, facilitating their transition to sustainable practices. The ‘Nest’ rating aims to raise awareness and motivate homeowners to build affordable eco-friendly homes.

The rising population has led to a surge in demand for housing in rural areas and among low-income groups. Luckily, the concept of green construction is gathering momentum. It will not only enhance the happiness index but will make the world a better place.