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.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why does sustainable building make sense to a developer?

One can't be blamed by reacting like this...."What? Developers going green?? Not a chance!". Unfortunately, the general reputation of  the developer lot is to blame for this.
The proposition of developers going sustainable does seem a bit of a stretch, what with the soaring prices of land, and with a volatile market putting a pressure on sales. One tends to believe that developers would not risk sales to attain even a tinge of green. or, let alone going the sustainable way..
Before I launch any further on this let us look (once again) at Sustainability. Sustainability is about defining the thresholds within which if one acts the ability of future generations to live life as we do, does not get compromised in anyway. Sustainability is about responsible consumption and becomes important as we consume more and more as a population. Buildings consume a lot of resources in their making, while contributing to about 39% of the worlds GHG emissions (Source: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2008 Buildings Energy Data Book.), and therefore it is imperative that they are built responsibly.
Sustainability is also about being resource efficient, and that any developer gets.We have no option but to be responsible for our actions and the environment. Great strides are being made in areas of pollution free technologies and energy consumption in buildings. While there is minimal focus on the building systems, this accounts for the majority of the CO2 emissions during the entire lifecycle of the building. This is bound to be the next focus. Self-sustaining habitats that strive towards occupying a zero ecological footprint are the future.

So, why do developers need to change the way they build? Let us try and populate a list.
  • Sustainable development ensures that business secure their long term success through triple bottom line practices which address the environment, social needs and business growth 
  • The world is rapidly rising to the need for sustainable green practices in all spheres of activity from businesses to transportation to construction. 
  • Sensible and sustainable design and construction are the emerging paradigms and it is desirable for developers to lead the way and be at the head of such a transition. 
  • Sustainable construction enables a developer to broaden their scope of building materials and systems. All this at comparable and sometimes lower costs than the conventional
  • By adopting sustainable building methodologies, a developer insulates himself to a great degree from the vagaries of the marketplace. Since materials and skills are inherently local, global turmoil would not have an adverse impact on development works.
Another way of addressing the choice of going sustainable is to look at the impacts of 'Business as Usual', as captured in the left half of the graphic above. The graphic on the right shows the balance of environment and social aspects along with business interests, which is a more comprehensive model. Unsustainable development burdens resources, the business and makes for stressed lifestyles down the line. A sustainable model on the other had adopts a policy of 'making do with as little as possible', without impacting it's survival into the future. On the bright side, there exists within most professional and seasoned developer groups a keen sense that in satisfying the needs of the customer lies repeat investments, recommendations and so on. I believe in this we already have the foundations for transforming into a sustainable business. 

What impact does Sustainability have on the developer's brand?
  • It will earn the developer the status of a green organisation, a must going into the future. 
  • Communicates to the market the environmental responsibilities of the developer.
  • Assures the market that the product has been designed with them in mind… in terms of environmental health, family health, etc 
  • Carries the message that the development would secure the users more water, would consume lesser power, and would also pollute the environment less
In employing environmentally sensitive and sustainable design/building technologies, one is actually securing the future of the customer. The reality of a sustainable approach is that one is also addressing health and lifestyle aspects of the customer today. By adopting a sustainable mandate one is addressing the client base's running costs, access to essential resources, internal living health and also providing a rich built environment for overall development.Securing the future of the customer (which means you also address their environment) means that you secure your business' longevity.
So developer, what are you waiting for?

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