POST TIME: 29 November, 2015 12:56:31 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 29 November, 2015 12:29:35 PM
Green architecture
Realty check

Green architecture

The phrase ‘green architecture’ is being used as a fashion statement in the country’s real estate business, experts have observed. The experts explained that green architecture actually means reducing a building’s operating costs, such as energy consumption and maintenance, by incorporating solar power and rainwater harvesting. In Bangladesh, however, the meaning of ‘green architecture’ has been transformed into planting some green trees on rooftops, they added.
The Independent talked with a number of residents of different areas who had bought houses that were advertised as ‘green apartments’ by their builders during construction.
“Yes, my apartment is green. We have lots of little green trees on the rooftop. But I have to pay more than Tk 15,000 per month as electricity bill and apartment service charges,” said Engineer Nurul Islam, a resident of Lavender, a posh apartment complex in Dhanmondi.
“As far as I know as an engineer, a green building is built in such a way that the electricity bills of its residents are lower than those of others because they have the advantage of ample natural light and air. My building was advertised as green, but now I have to run air-conditions in every room and switch on the lights even in daytime,” Nurul Islam rued.
ABM Tazul Islam, former additional chief engineer of the public works department (PWD), has a somewhat similar experience with his apartment complex in Uttara. “When I bought the apartment, the developers charged me more per square feet as they called the building ‘green’. When I saw the building plan, I saw that it had sufficient scope for natural light and air. I was satisfied with the house as it really has large windows with access to lots of air and light,” he said. “However, the problem began three years ago, with new apartment buildings being constructed on the east and west of my building. Now the large windows have no function as the space is blocked on both sides. Besides, I now have to keep my windows shut most of the time because of the mosquito menace,” he complained.
“That’s the problem,” admitted Tanvirul Haq Probal, managing director of Building For Future Ltd (BFFL), one of the pioneer real estate companies of green architecture in Bangladesh. “All our buildings have large windows and lots of space to breathe, but these become virtually useless as buildings on both sides impede the free flow of light and air,” he added.
Haq, also a former president of the Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), however, admitted that the true concept of ‘green architecture’ was barely practiced in Bangladesh. “There have been lots of seminars on this topic. Some draft polices have also been framed. Yet, the practice of making the buildings green still remains confined to planting trees and making the windows a bit larger,” he said.
Haq said that from the perspective of urban areas in Bangladesh, installing solar panels on rooftops was not a feasible decision. “I personally oppose this as it would eat up the roof-space. In today’s urban jungle, roofs offer a space of respite for residents,” he said.
Architect Iqbal Habib, managing director of Vitti Sthopoti Brinda, has a different take. “The same roof-space can be given for installing mobile towers, but it can’t be used for solar panels! That’s rubbish,” he said.
“The real estate companies that mostly construct residential buildings are looking for maximum profits. So they don’t go in for rainwater harvesting and solar panels, as these would cost them extra money and extra space,” he added.
Habib, a staunch green activist, said lot of companies violate the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya (RAJUK)-approved plan and construct buildings without maintaining the floor-area ratio. “The residential areas have so many commercial buildings these days that the practice of constructing green buildings is still a far-fetched thought,” he said.
Habib said the purported ‘green buildings’ in the country were barely certified as such by competent authorities. “But it’s the builders who have themselves advertised these buildings as green,” he added.
“The problem is that there is a great misconception regarding the cost effects of green designs and constructions,” said Bangladesh Green Building Council (BGBC) founder Sanwar A Sunny.
Sanwar Sunny is a US-based engineer who has worked as a consultant for the Green Energy Initiative of the US government’s State Department. “If done correctly and if the architects and engineers are properly trained in their fields, increased productivity and energy savings of a green building far outweigh the initial costs,” he said.
Sunny said another problem is that most developers often think that expensive is not the extra money used in fitting a new building with added technology, but the price they have to pay to get it certified as an internationally recognized ‘green building’.
He said LEED certification, which is designed by the US Green Building Council, is the most popular ratings system for green buildings, but it is very expensive. “In BGBC, we are in the process of developing a green building ratings system in the context of Bangladesh,” he disclosed.
Officials of the housing and public works ministry said the government plans to construct a large-scale eco-friendly condominium with the provision to install solar power panels and a rainwater harvesting system in order to popularize the actual concept of ‘green building’.
A ministry official said a decision to build 33 buildings containing 52 apartments in the capital’s Mirpur area was taken during a Cabinet meeting in March 2012.
The proposed site covers 7.5 acres and each 1,230-sq.-ft apartment will cost Tk 48.89 lakh, the official said, adding that the proposed ‘Anandanagar Residential Apartment Project’ will be financed by the government’s national housing society. The construction of the Anandanagar apartment project, however, has been delayed because land for the Tk 403.34-crore scheme is yet to be recovered from encroachers, he added.