Cities are our most sustainable resource, and hold the key to our social, economic, and culturally equitable future, as well as our planet’s environmental protection and hence Sustainability, Urbanism and Real Estate Development are intertwined. Developing sustainable real estate development projects in this evolving urban marketplace must employ strategies for engaging the interplay of economic, community and environmental concerns, in order to be truly successful.
Energy efficiency, water conservation and healthier living issues seem so common sense now, but looking back a few years, few affordable housing developers and managers had the time or inclination to deal with them. Now, with the growing interest in "greening", the recognition of the financial impact of utility deregulation and the understanding of the toxicity in many building and cleaning materials, building owners have started to ask how they can improve their properties.
All over the globe, an increasing number of state and local governments are seeking to adopt mandatory green building requirements into their land development regulations and procurement processes. Some federal agencies and many state jurisdictions already require LEED certification or other green building requirements for their public and institutional buildings and others are following suit. Most recently, emerging local green building regulations are imposing these same requirements for private commercial and residential projects. Other communities are adopting voluntary incentive-based green building practices for the private sector. Rapidly strengthening regulatory standards for building projects, coupled with increasing occupier demand for sustainable properties in many sectors, are combining to drive much higher standards of environmental performance in new residential and non-domestic buildings.
The reasons for the relatively slow growth of India's green real estate sector can be defined at different levels. At the policy level (Centre and State): The scale of policy-level incentives continues to be a constraint for manufacturers of green technologies, products and equipment as also for developers and consumers of green buildings. To be more precise, the incentives being offered are not consistent across all states and in states where they exist, the implementation mechanism is not aligned to the expected throughput.
From the consumers' perspective, there is a need for creating higher awareness about the long-term benefits of patronizing green developments. In terms of awareness, one of the most commonly lacking aspects is a grasp of the short-term cost versus long-term benefits of mainstreaming green initiatives. Awareness on green real estate needs to be boosted by some compelling case studies.
Among the interventions that would aid the growth of the green real estate sector in India, consistency and effectiveness of both legislation and incentives is probably paramount.
At the level of urban local bodies, efforts need to be made to perform cost-benefit analyses of mainstreaming green initiatives/technologies and designing incentives that will spur demand for green developments. These need to be viewed from the perspective of city-level infrastructure (transport, roads and intelligent technologies) and individual developments (residential, commercial office, retail and industrial).
Additional awareness drives need to be undertaken to enhance consumers' understanding of the Green Prerogative and its holistic benefits. These awareness drives could be promoted at the level of RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations) where interactive platforms can be created with entrepreneurs who are manufacturing green technologies and end users. Such drives could result in innovative solutions both at individual household and neighbourhood/community levels. A proactive outreach to end consumers with a view to making green real estate more attractive at a macro level is, in fact, a key factor.
Property tax breaks/holidays for green property owners to offset initial capital expenditure and lucrative financing options for the purchase of green equipment and green real estate can also help in promoting the construction of ‘regenerative’ buildings. Overall, there is a lot of scope and room for work in this field of real estate development.