Merging Business Strategy and Green Building in India

This Live Mint article on Crisil’s new HQ in Hiranandani Gardens in Mumbai’s northern suburbs highlights how perceptions of green building are changing in rapidly growing developing cities like Mumbai, how a business merges its strategy with its environmental footprint and how green building projects are adapting to – and sometimes rejecting – building rating systems.

The new Crisil House is an illustration of a trend that’s in full swing in the US and Europe – companies using their physical HQ as a means of imprinting their brand and values on employees and the public. From Google’s well-known social areas to Bank of America’s translucent LEED Platinum tower in New York City, major corporations’ physical build-out is being merged with their business strategy.

That this is happening in India’s major cities is a bellwether for other emerging market cities, but this example also illustrates how these massive, rapid growth markets are also going to make their own rules. Crisil House integrates major green building elements – daylighting to reduce electricity demand for lighting, open work spaces to ensure distribution of daylight to interior spaces, green roofs to cool the building, indoor green spaces for improved air quality and circulation, water efficiency mechanisms to conserve and recycle waste water (and also reduce the power load caused by water pumps). It also integrates elements, like large common areas and recreation facilities that improve the social sustainability of these spaces, although these are not factors considered in green building rating systems.

Yet, this building illustrates some of the tensions arising, especially in developing countries, with respect to the cost and applicability of green rating systems. The use of green rating systems, like the US-pioneered LEED and GRIHA, India’s own system, is being challenged by the new projects appearing in these cities. Given the environmental extremes of these cities, the bottom line is a major motivator of green building initiatives, as here with Crisil’s ability to cut its energy bill despite consolidating to a large facility.

Developers and architects in developing economies are rightly questioning elements of these green building rating systems – like the cost of certification and the applicability of certain requirements – while still recognizing the benefit of pursuing the label for marketing purposes. Solar panels are often a sticking point because of their high cost. Companies that have to import most of their inputs because of underdeveloped supply chains in country fall afoul of points on local materials use. Certain operational aspects have environmental impacts that go unrecognized by rating systems, like Crisil’s efforts to conserve paper. Likewise, as here, developing country cities’ green building projects rarely include any element related to reducing the transportation footprint of employees. All those employees get there somehow. Big companies concentrated into business parks ought to be encouraging car pooling and other shared and alternative transport options, as well as advocating to the city for improved public transit.

Regardless, India’s advances in green building illustrate how these cities, which will play host to the vast majority of new construction in coming decades, are going to be active participants in determining the value proposition for green building.

How To Find Us

Smart Cities Advisors, LLC
PO Box 3360
New York, NY 10008
Phone: 1-347-979-7854