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Going Green: Sustainable malls lead the way

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The world is going green. Companies, industries and even individuals are pursuing knowledge that can lead to environment friendly lifestyles. The green movement is no longer a fad, but a reality. Faced with the alarming prospect that the Earth will begin to run out of natural resources that are imperative for mankind to survive, people are switching to eco-friendly practices. Firms are taking ecologically responsible decisions, which can help protect the environment, and sustain natural resources for current and future generations. For many malls, the focus has shifted to green building. We give you an insight into what exactly is green building, why mall developers need to go green, and what will the goals of these sustainable malls be.

Going Green: Sustainable Malls Lead the Way
The need of being sustainable is more important and significant now than ever before. Sustainability is directly linked to resources and resourcefulness

The need of being sustainable is more important and significant now than ever before. Sustainability is directly linked to resources and resourcefulness. In India, a sizeable portion of unorganised players in the retail sector do not prioritise the environment. What developers and retailers don’t, unfortunately, understand is that by focusing on sustainability initiatives, they can reduce costs by 20 to 25 per cent. Successful adoption of green building strategies can maximise both the economic as well as the environmental performance of the buildings.

Sustainability should be a key priority while planning and developing a mall, as malls have become an integral part of our society and are looked up to as community centres. As responsible corporate entities, it is the duty of a mall to give back to the community. The need of the hour is to educate Indian mall developers on the benefits of being sustainable – go green but with social responsibility.

In India, the sustainability drive is regrettably restricted to just a few big players, but what mall developers need to understand is that certain green initiatives translate directly into the bottom line. There is no denying the fact that by implementing sustainable practices, retail businesses can become more efficient and save money in the process.

What is a Green Building?

The ideal green building would be a building project that would allow you to preserve most of the natural environment around the project site, while still being able to produce a building that is going to serve a purpose. The construction and operation will promote a healthy environment for all involved, and it will not disrupt the land, water, resources and energy in and around the building.

The basic principles of sustainable development – building configuration, energy use, water conservation, air quality, maintenance, recycling and material specifications – are the key parameters of turning any project into a green project.

Advantages of Green Sustainable Buildings

Buildings account for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions and over 75 per cent of all electricity produced by power plants. The construction industry needs to play a significant role in combating climate change symptoms.

There are many advantages to green sustainable architecture. The first, and most obvious being that it helps save the environment. Additionally, it proves beneficial to mall developers in reducing day-to-day operating expenditure.

Apart from this, sustainable design projects can create a market advantage for the design professional, as well as improve the productivity and livability of building occupants.

Executive Director of Pacific India Group, says, “It is high time Indian malls start thinking green, but the road ahead is still long and arduous. In India, though developers and retailers can reduce costs by 20–25 per cent by adapting to feasible environment sustainability initiatives, a sizeable portion of the unorganised players in the retail sector do not prioritise the environment sustainability factor. The successful adoption of green building strategies can maximise both the economic and environmental performance of the buildings. Green buildings are gaining ground in the real estate market. Soon, there is every possibility for such buildings to become a norm. The concept of green buildings is not just a simple trend that is gaining momentum in real estate construction but it is also an approach and its importance would only continue to rise.”

Debunking the Myths

> It is a myth among mall developers that creating a mall with the vision of sustainability is an expensive affair. In fact, if a mall is created with a ‘green’ strategy, will not only be environmentally sustainable but financially sustainable as well. If a scientific approach is taken and planning is done to create an environment-friendly mall at a nascent stage, mall development can be cost-effective, long-term costs can be reduced making the mall more profitable in the long run.

> Green buildings have the ability to command higher rents, asset values, improve the health and well-being of occupants, improve employee productivity, attract tenants, reduce tenant turnover, and cost less to operate and maintain. In the long run, adhering to environmental guidelines and incorporating conservation practices helps in bringing down operating costs for both developers and retailers.

> A green building looks just the same as a conventional building. It may cost more upfront, but can save money over the life of the building through lower operating costs. The cost savings are most likely to be fully realised when incorporated at the project’s conceptual design phase with the assistance of cognizant architects. In some cases, when buildings are carefully designed to be energy-efficient, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment can be downsized for significant savings. There are also many green products and materials that cost the same or even less than conventional ones. Well-designed, constructed, operated and maintained green buildings can have many benefits, including durability, reduced costs for energy, water, operations and maintenance; improved occupant health and productivity; and the potential for greater occupant satisfaction than conventional developments.

Bansal, says, “Very often green buildings are considered expensive for they use all kinds of modern building methods. However, they save much more money from the moment of creation during its lifetime than ordinary buildings. This is true for building all kinds of green structures – office buildings, schools, churches, and factories – not just malls. Designing and building green structures cost approximately the same as regular buildings. According to a study even 20 per cent of investment into green building will convert into 10 times more savings. So, there is no significant difference in prices.”

Reasons for Slow Growth of Green Malls

In India, organised retailing is largely an urban phenomenon. The pace of retailing in India is still slow. Diversion of funds to retailing in the initial period was not given prominence. With resources being diverted to other sectors like banking, insurance, communications, and transportation, etc, the growth of real estate has resultantly been slow in India.

Other reasons for relatively slow growth of India’s green real estate sector are
– Policy-level incentives offered by the Government are not consistent across all states.
– While environmental clearance norms have gained traction over the years, mandatory clearances are not timely and neutrally accorded. From the developer’s point of view, there appear to be inadequate incentives for enabling green initiatives, and the available technologies are either too expensive or do not address the requirements of their developments.

One way forward is making green buildings the mandatory. However, in places where technology is not available to build sustainable buildings, this should be recommendatory. Mandatory, because it’s the only way real estate developers will make greenbuildings and adopt environment friendly concepts.

Also, technology needs to be available at affordable costs to reach the goal of going sustainable.

A Leap Forward

The Indian retail realty lacks the pro-activeness that US or Singapore retail real estate bodies, which have taken great leaps towards sustainable, green architecture. To make these Utopian buildings a reality, the Indian retail real estate segment needs a consensus on the issue of sustainability.

In the US, the Offi ce of Sustainability, in partnership with the Department of Code Enforcement, has developed an incentive for property owners and developers to renovate or construct buildings in a sustainable manner. The
incentive, which qualifi es building projects to receive up to 50 per cent reduction on permit fees associated with the project, also rewards building owners and developers for integrating sustainable design techniques into building projects. The Indian retail real estate segment could take a
cue from this and work on similar lines.

“It is time Indian developers assume the responsibility to adopt green building practices, technologies, materials, products and services. By actively engaging in building a green environment, developers can help create a noticeable green footprint across India,” concludes Bansal.