India should refrain from replicating the American regulatory framework for sustainability and green development, says Dr. Norm Miller,
Professor of real estate at the University of San Diego, California. He shared his views during a web seminar hosted by realism.IN, an India based real estate education and research firm. The webinar titled "Indian Real Estate: What does it mean to invest in Green?" was the first in a series organized by realism.IN, which focuses at increasing awareness about quality real estate education in India. Dr. Miller pointed out that state-wise sustainability regulations do not seem to have helped the green certifications of real estate in the United States as expected. Instead of regulations, the policy-makers should focus on incentives. A mistake that India should not replicate is having fragmented programs and codes across states. A centralized policy will avoid duplication of effort and lead to less confusion. He also stressed on the importance of targeting the right kind of tenant such as government affiliated organisations and large public sector organisations as potential tenants for green office spaces, where the decisions makers are the users of the space. Dr. Miller is a renowned global thought leader in the domains of real estate investment and sustainable real estate.
Minu Agarwal, the Head of sustainability at realism.IN added that India is home to around 225 LEED-certified buildings. Some other rating systems such as TERI GRIHA are coming up but they represent a small proportion of green buildings in India. On the other hand, United States has over 4,500 LEED certified buildings in commercial office category alone. India has only 47 commercial offices (compared to 80 in China) awarded a LEED label by the United States Green Buildings Council. "Clearly, we have a long way to go", she added. She also mentioned that majority of the LEED certified buildings in India are owner occupied office buildings, which is similar to the the trend seen in US, making US market a good case study for Indian developers. Minu's team at realism.IN developed a graphical representation of the distribution of green buildings in India. Southern states: Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are at the top of the tally list followed by Maharastra, Delhi and West Bengal.
As Dr. Miller cautioned about the fragmentation of green policies, Dr. Avlokita Agrawal from Route to Routes Architecture told that state-specific policies are now becoming popular in India as well. She, however, showed optimism about the growth of sustainability sector in India: "(In India ) we see a great shift in the market. 10 years ago, it was difficult to find products and materials related to the green building industry. They had to be imported from other countries, which defeated the purpose. Today the market is flooded with green products." It is worth noting that sustainable measures encourage the use of local materials. Dr. Agrawal specializes in sustainable design. She has been involved in forging partnerships between sustainable material and construction sectors in India.
When asked about the importance of education in fostering the sustainability agenda, Dr. Norm Miller suggested the pivotal role Indian universities might play in this area. Dr. Agrawal expressed concerns about the lack of expertise in the Indian universities and colleges. In an interview, Minu said: "Our team diagnosed this issue (of lack of expertise) in the Indian higher education system; particularly in the real estate sector. Our R&D team has been working for several years to help the institutions with high quality educational materials that may fill the gap". She shared that a preparatory eLearning course on IGBC AP examination is the first from realism.IN in this direction which should be launched in early May. It will be followed by a series of real estate educational modules for Indian colleges and universities. "The response we have received from the Indian academia and real estate industry so far has been far more than encouraging, and we are committed to launching some useful educational modules later this year which Indian universities and colleges may use in enriching their curriculum", she said.