The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Homes to remind you of the 'Old Bangalore'

Bangalore, the garden city of recent yesteryears, has been transformed into a metropolis that attracts a quarter of a million people every year. The growth that was fuelled by the IT boom around Bangalore has become a scourge to living amongst convivial greens. The retirement paradise of remnant sahibs, the Anglos, military officers, and railway baboos has become a cluttered city of undefined character. The steady stream of movers into the city has put immense pressure on the city’s infrastructure and amenities like abundant water supply, clean air and the ‘sound of silence’ in the shade of 500 year old trees, is evanescent.
Colonial and other terracotta clad bungalows have been torn down and replaced by apartment blocks and shopping malls. Land prices have escalated so much that people are happy to forsake their garden paradise for the sheen that bucks could add to their lifestyle. No consideration has been evinced for the resources of the city, or its past promise of languorous afternoons and walks down tree-lined boulevards. On the pretext of globalization, the city’s people have huddled themselves into a myriad of cubbyholes, all the while pining for Bangalore’s past resplendence as a retirement post among serene environs.
In the last few years, of course, the scenario is changing. Reports of receding glaciers, the thinning ozone layer and the human impact on global climatology, not to forget the CII IGBC promoted green building certification, have woken people out of their slumber of indifference and apathy. People are adopting ‘green’ practices, albeit a few only, almost as penitence for the sins committed against Mother Nature over the last few centuries. But penance alone will not bring about Grace; new ways of living have to be contemplated to make the planet a worthwhile commentator of our times to the next generation.
Bangalore developers who built with impunity are now trying to add a soft touch to their footprint. Eco-friendly housing, waste management, rainwater harvesting, recycling, energy conservation and indoor air quality are terms that are being bandied about as the new mantras to exorcising the past and ushering in an effulgent future for the residents. The denizens are becoming wiser and are demanding adherence to norms; are becoming active and questioning the reason behind every trend. One day, soon enough, the citizens will have realized that they don’t need to be cornered into a pigeon holed high-rise, or brook the shoddiness of a tardy developer.
Building or buying a green home, even if the plot sizes are relatively smaller, or a tad further out of town, makes eminent, and imminent, sense. Such a green home could bring home the essence of the old Bangalore (in spirit if not in form) while doing one’s bit to reduce our ecological footprint. While some of the green concepts are easy to comprehend and implement, there are many aspects which require professional expertise. Greening, besides requiring huge doses of common sense, draws its inspiration from science and technology, social systems and practices, local artisan-ship, heritage architectural concepts and designs, and more importantly, its intent is harnessed on a strong edifice of ethics, morality and prudence. There is an increase in the number of professionals and organizations who now offer consulting services on the elements of green construction and this could be well our chance to make a grab for retiring in serenity in the fractured bosom of Bangalore.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Green ‘is’ my valley

At what point in its development does a product become Green? Does adding a rainwater harvesting system to a building make it a Green building? Would using a small amount of recycled materials to a larger mix of inputs required to develop an end-product tantamount to it being labelled Green?
Image: renjith krishnan /
This is a subject that questions the edifice upon which companies and their respective product lines are built. Companies should not be able to merely change a process or an input and enjoy the fruits of being in the Green category. As the world focuses its attention on the environmental impact of every product, and even service, the ‘code of ethic’ practised will assume a magnitude of greater importance. Companies and their concomitant industry associations need to pay great attention to this matter so that it can protect its categories and products and command more than a semblance of credibility from consumers and other upholders of civil society.
A simple background research to this article indicated that there are many groups who are concerned and are articulating what their collective Green ethos is. The charter documents of these associations and groups throw much light on how difficult (or easy) it is supposed to be to sit around a ‘green’ conference table with your head held high. Barring the common ones involving recycling, here are a few:
  • Practice Fair Trade
  • Fair treatment of employees
  • Practice energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption
  • Minimize waste in our production processes and in our end product
  • Give back to our communities
  • Be an example of Capitalism with a Conscience
In the quest for mainstreaming Green many such ethical questions will dog us along the way. Merely having a code of ethics will not help the cause. The answer lies in self regulation and an inclination to innovate at every stage to identify the best practices. Too many companies today are way too glib in professing Green without comprehending the full import of their actions. If they will not self-regulate, they run the risk of denigrating the positive aspects of the Green quotient and levelling the playing field for all the pretenders. When this happens companies and their brands will lose the advantage of the Green tag and will find it painstaking to cut through the Green clutter. Taking off on a classic Hollywood film with a similar name, it is our responsibility to examine ‘’How Green ‘is’ my valley?’’

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A candid peek at the Environment Day Celebrations

Image: digitalart /
Was both elated and appalled to see the Environment Day Celebrations! While it is great to see that many organizations are taking a verdurous leap into matters ‘green’, it is abysmal to see them touting their brands as eco-friendly from the front pages of our ubiquitous green newspaper! The newsprint professes to be recycled but is tinted green to add colour to the proceedings.
Shampoos in plastic bottles, a shoe sole with a huge transportation footprint on their acquired recycled rubber, real estate developers shrouding concrete under green canopies, computers and laptops and data-centers all reducing the heat they generate, have all trucked up the path of the green bandwagon. A television channel was running a protracted fundraiser, and both companies and individuals bared their economic chests for Saving Private Gaia!
At the rate at which the Environment (Day) turned verdant, our quandary will be centred around assigning it another colour by the end of this decade itself! But who’s complaining? We cannot blame the heavy polluters from trying to alleviate some of their guilt by adopting a measure or two of the potion of deliverance, nor can we admonish the newbie fresh-com (read new company) from ‘green-washing’ their dirty linen in public!
So what does the common man do? Wear the green badge proudly on one’s chest and be labelled a Mr. Psycho Pants, or shroud oneself in ignorance and be branded an anachronistic bum-chum! There’s nowhere to run, but many places to hide. Join the CSR department of a corporation and try planting a tree, shake a fig leaf at all the acerbic activists, become a rating agency to monitor both sides of the Kyoto protocol, or simply annihilate your-self on a road made from recycled plastic!