Architect Anubhav Gupta, head of design strategy, Godrej Properties Ltd., Mumbai was recently in Goa for the INK 2016 Conference that ended on September 18. Gupta is a regular speaker/ panelist in global conferences on design, urban planning, city planning, sustainable buildings, etc. In a brief interview given on the sidelines of the INK Conference to Shoma Patnaik, he talks on range of issues including IGBC certification, recession in housing, etc. He says that green buildings is actually a very old concept and need not be expensive to consumers.
Q: Godrej Properties is the founding member of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Do you think in a country where 80 per cent of the population has no access to housing, green buildings with IGBC certification are an elitist concept?
No, not at all! It certainly is not an elitist concept. It is a very simple, fundamental and basic concept that everyone deserves to have. Our traditional houses with vernacular design were green. They were built on concepts of sustainability. A certified green building sounds like a fad currently because there is a ‘green wave.’ Maximizing day light, minimizing usage of water, channeling of wind direction are some of the tenants of green buildings. They are not difficult to construct and involve incremental increase in the cost (if at all) by about three per cent to the developer. But overtime of the building lifecycle it provides many benefits like lowering the electricity cost, water usage so that the incremental cost of production is made up easily.
Q: Are buyers willing to pay higher for green buildings?
The market suggests that consumers are not willing to pay higher for a green building. But actually the cost need not be higher. In ‘Trees’ which is our latest project every single building in the complex is green certified. Godrej Properties has 50 projects across India and 90 per cent of them are green. Our target is to go for 100 per cent green certification. We have not faced difficulty in selling our homes to buyers. Our homes cater to all segments. Constructing green buildings is a matter of policy to my company.
Q: As someone who is a regular speaker on urban planning, why do you think low-cost housing has never taken off properly in India?
That is a slightly unfair question because low cost housing has taken off in India, although not to as much extent as it should. There are construction companies who are successfully doing low-cost housing and we ourselves work across market segments. There are many challenges to it. A developer needs to have some level of scale to undertake low-cost projects. Also some level of standardization is necessary. A developer also needs to have certain level of housing construction technology for such projects to be viable. In the future you’d probably see the industry come up with low-cost projects with states giving incentives through extra FSI for plot reservation for public housing.
Q: What is new in terms of design in the construction of homes?
Apartments in metros are getting smaller because there is a scarcity of land. For developers the challenge is to maximize space usage while remaining cost efficient. Using space effectively but not short changing the consumer, that according to me is new in the construction industry.
Q: When do you expect demand for housing to improve and the recession in construction industry to end?
Real estate is a cyclical business and it is bound to go up and down. From our perspective we have been fortunate to have successful launches of our housing projects. We would like to believe that things are looking up for the construction industry and the recession is ending.
Q: Does Godrej Properties have presence in Goa and do you have plans to set up projects here?
We do not have any projects in Goa. Right now we are busy in metro cities and have no plans of projects. However in future we are always open to projects in Goa.