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The Rediff Interview/R Parasu Raman, Vice Chairman, WGBC
February 16, 2004
India -- or the Indian Green Building Council -- came on to the world map of 'green' buildings with the construction of the CII-Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad. This is a collaborative effort of the Confederation of Indian Industry, the government of Andhra Pradesh and the House of Godrej, with technical support from USAID.
The CII-Godrej GBC became the first building outside the USA and the third building in the world to achieve the prestigious platinum rating of the US Green Building Council.
Parasu Raman, who is the founder chairman of the Indian Green Building Council, was appointed the vice chairman of the World Green Building Council at the US Green Building Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, USA, recently.
As the vice chairman, he will oversee and facilitate the green building movement across the globe, especially in Asia and India.
The World Green Building Council, formed in 2002, is a global federation of Green Building Councils in various parts of the world.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Spain, India and the United States have active green building councils. The number of member countries in the council is expected to go up to 20 this year.
The next World Green Building Council meet will be in August 2004 at Hyderabad.
In an interview with Shobha Warrier, Parasu Raman, who is also managing director, Novar India Ltd, talks about his new role as the vice chairman of the World Green Building Council.
The World Green Building Council has members from Australia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the United States. Why do think were you made the vice chairman? What does the council expect from a person from India?
First, what they wanted from me -- a person from India -- was to bring in aspects into the council which are more relevant to the Asian region, in the developing economic environment.
What the West follows is not applicable to many other countries in the world. The Asian and African economies are totally different. So, I am expected to bring that perspective to the world council.
Second, I think the world recognises now that India will play a key role in the world economic order in the next 10 years. Therefore, for anyone to miss India is not going to be easy.
Third, I am the founding chairman of the Green Building Council in India.
India is one of the founding members of the World Green Building Council. Why did you decide to have such a global body when you have independent councils in many countries?
Different countries and different economies have different approaches to sustainable architecture or environment-friendly architecture. We felt the core values should remain the same for all, across the globe.
We felt it is essential to have a global body where we can share information. For example, the US Green Building Council, that grows 100 per cent annually, is a role model to all the other countries.
There is a phenomenal amount of research on this subject going on in institutes like the Rocky Mountain Institute of the US, which is also one of our members. A World Green Building Council will be a good platform to disseminate research activities, so the council didn't have to reinvent the wheel.
Then, this is not an issue of environment, not greenness from a social or charitable perspective alone. It has got a lot of linked business propositions.
It explores a huge opportunity for certified green building products. For example, today, when you buy a door or a window in wood, you are not aware that you are depleting a forest somewhere. Tomorrow, your wood will have to be certified that it is coming from a sustainable forest.
A study by the CII says that the green building market is expected to touch Rs 750 crore (Rs 7.50 billion) by 2006. It will be a major boost to the Indian building construction industry, in general, and the green product manufacturers, in particular.
The first Green Business Centre in India is in Hyderabad where the Andhra government is also a partner. What initiative should come from governments to make this movement successful?
Not much. The way we are looking at this is different. We are not looking at legislation as a key enabler for green buildings of the country. We have central and state legislations and within states, we have different municipalities with different ideas. It is quite a chaos in terms of building codes in the country.
So, we are trying to lead by example. CII has a membership of 7,000-plus corporates, and all these corporates are putting up factories all the time across the country. We are trying to use our own members to emphasise the need for green buildings.
You have that by 2004-end, you will have 20 corporate green buildings in India which is such a small number compared to the size of our country. By not going deeper into the society, are you not going to remain just an elitist organisation?
We are looking at commercial and non-residential buildings. So, it won't touch individuals and homes.
I didn't mean residential homes when I said going deeper into the society. You have so many buildings like hospitals, schools, offices, and many such buildings all over the country. . . so, is it not necessary to involve these bodies too?
We are considering that too. For example, the government of Andhra Pradesh, when they were building the Secretariat, took our help. We expect other governments also to take such initiatives.
Apart from corporates, a lot of state governments and nodal agencies are members of the Indian Green Building Council.
Instead of bringing about legislation, what is needed is creating awareness about environment. The Andhra government is earmarking 3,000 acres for a Green Business Park where manufacturing of only eco-friendly products will take place.
You have said that you would be trying to indigenise the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) system. How do you plan to do it?
Yes, the first thing that is needed is the indigenisation of the rating system. We are already working on that, and by mid-2004, we will be ready with the Indian certification programme licensed by the US Green Building Council. For example, water is a major concern here unlike in the US.
Then, in order to help construct buildings and understand the LEED certification, we need LEED certified professionals like architects, contractors, etc. There are already nearly 10 LEED certified professionals in the country, but we need many more.
Third, through seminars, workshops, mailers, etc. we want to spread awareness among corporates, builders, and contractors about this.
We also want to enable and facilitate the green building products industry. Today, to put up a platinum-rated building, the cost is only 3-5 per cent more compared to ten years ago when it was 30-35 per cent more. That was because products were not available.
Noted architect Laurie Baker used to construct houses and commercial complexes at a very low cost because he used locally available materials, which were environment friendly too. But you say, your Green Buildings cost 3-5 per cent more..
That is primarily because a lot of these buildings are centrally air-conditioned. Seventy per cent of the cost of running such buildings goes to that, which is not the case with Baker's buildings.
Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj