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Sustainable Building in India: Leading with LEED

A candid conversation with Shabbir Kanchwala, Senior Vice President at the K. Raheja Corp.:

What role does green building certification play in K. Raheja Corp.’s development projects?

K. Raheja Corp. ranks among the leading real estate developers in India. From its humble beginnings in 1956, the company has grown and diversified into commercial and residential real estate, hospitality and retail. As a corporation, it has long been recognized for setting and achieving very high standards.

Today, green is a large part of our identity. We are advancing that identity by constructing our entire commercial, retail and hospitality portfolio as LEED-certified buildings. LEED provides us with a strong green corporate image. LEED demonstrates our commitment to environmental stewardship. LEED fulfills our company objectives of energy and water savings and overall efficiency.

How concerned are you and your project team about environmental and social sustainability in your projects?

Our team deeply believes that environmental stewardship makes good business sense. We adopt a preventive approach, striving to make efficient use of natural resources and to minimize the environmental impact of our activities. All of our PAN India projects, commercial and residential, will be constructed as per green norms. A LEED Platinum rating is the feather in the cap of the K. Raheja Corp. Group. This acknowledgement only further reaffirms our commitment to the green cause.

When was the first time K. Raheja Corp. came to know about LEED certification?

We initiated use of this process in 2007 and have been firmly dedicated to it ever since. It is our endeavor to be a responsible corporation contributing toward the environment. In 2008, our corporate office building, Raheja Tower in BKC, Mumbai, achieved a LEED Gold rating from USGBC.

What do you see as being the greatest customer advantage when it comes to a green building?

Apart from operational savings in areas such as electric and water, a green building enhances the indoor environmental quality, which, in an office setting, contributes to reduced worker absenteeism and improved overall productivity. Also, from a project planning standpoint, using a framework like LEED helps to streamline the compiling of building specifications.

Do clients appreciate the green features once they occupy your LEED-certified project?

Multinational and Fortune 500 companies understand LEED, and always seek to occupy LEED-certified buildings—and for many of the reasons previously mentioned: corporate branding, energy savings, reduced water consumption and improved measures of worker productivity and absenteeism.

What will be the importance of green projects in the upcoming 100 Smart Cities plan?

A smart city is a reimagined urban area that promotes sustainable economic development and a high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas. These include economy, mobility, environment, people, living and government. Green building always plays an important role in creating smart cities. That is because green buildings address key aspects of smart city projects—such as sustainable infrastructure, efficient use of energy and water, improved air quality, the use of sustainable materials and so on. Therefore, green buildings are key to making cities “smart.”

How many LEED projects are there in your portfolio?

We have a total registered green building footprint of 33.8 million square feet. Of that, 27.14 million square feet is commercial and 6.65 million square feet is residential. Speaking from a project standpoint, we have 50 commercial and 12 residential projects that are registered for certification, and 19 commercial projects across PAN India that are LEED-certified. Another four commercial projects are pre-certified.

As an industry leader, what advice would you give to peer builder community members with regard to LEED certification?

“Go green” is the mantra for a sustainable future in India. Green building always makes business sense, as green buildings save money on operating costs and provide a better return on investment than less efficient buildings.

In his capacity as Senior Vice President, Shabbir Kanchwala holds primary responsibility for K. Raheja Corp.’s many forays into sustainable building. This includes projects for new construction and existing buildings. His work with existing buildings has led to his involvement in the Bill Clinton Climate Foundation’s Building Energy Retrofit Program. He also leads a project coordination cell for PAN India projects. Kanchwala holds a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Sardar Patel College of Engineering at the University of Mumbai. At the University of Cincinnati, he was awarded a graduate scholarship, a research assistantship and a Frank Messers & Sons Scholarship. More recently, he has completed post-graduate management studies in real estate development as offered at NICMAR. Kanchwala has been a vital team member of K. Raheja Corp. for the past 10 years.

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of IA&B magazine as “Sustainable Building in India: Leading with LEED.” 

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