Chennai, being a port city and home to major automobile companies, has been witnessing tremendous economic growth. In the last few years alone, a slew of IT/ITeS companies have opened in the suburbs and business is booming. These companies are now hiring aggressively and attracting a considerable pool of skilled labour to the area. To meet this growing demand for housing, many real estate developers have developments in place ranging from luxury properties in Shollinganallur to more affordable properties in places like Thalambur.
However, pushing back against this meteoric growth of the city are long waits for water tankers and failed rains. It’s a hard-hitting reality that the immense economic development has taken its toll on the natural resources of the city.
The Water Situation in Chennai
When four water sources that supply water to Chennai ran dry, residents’ struggled to find water. Struggle for an essential commodity like water is sometimes unfathomable for an outsider. However, it is undeniable that the water crisis might deter future homebuyers before buying a house in Chennai.
With the water issues in mind, many Indian real estate forerunners are coming up with ideas to make their properties green. Not only residential properties but also IT parks, hospitals, schools and any commercial building can be designed as a green building. Several Indian Green Building Council certified (IGBC) buildings are springing up in the city paving the way for more. Green homes are the solution for a sustainable planet and especially for a city that suffers from water problems.
What Are Green Homes?
Green homes are homes that are built using eco-friendly substitutes such as bamboo, recycled metal, sustainably sourced materials, reclaimed wood, structural insulated panels and natural clay plaster. The use of non-toxic materials for construction improves the health and well-being of the residents. Apart from these, two distinct features are prominent in green homes will help battle Chennai’s water crisis:
- Rainwater harvesting
- Solar design units
While green homes dramatically increase the quality of life compared to conventional buildings, they could save 20-30% of energy and around 30-50% water.
Rain Water Harvesting Units
Like every city and town in India, Chennai’s potable water comes from two sources: groundwater and freshwater. With depleting groundwater, metro water and the water from borewells hardly fulfils the residents’ day-to-day needs. Rainwater harvesting is a boon in such cases. A simple proof of the effectiveness of this method is when you see the temple tanks filled to the brim with water during monsoon.
Rainwater harvesting, in simple terms, is storing rainwater for future use. The collected rainwater passes through a filter, a sand bed and is stored in underground storage tanks. The water that percolates the sand bed replenishes the groundwater supply. While many people are aware of saving water from terraces, water from catchment areas—which gets direct rainwater—like terraces, courtyards, driveways, and balconies can also be channelled through pipes to the storage tanks. The water can be collected in recharge pits or sumps that can be used for daily needs. A little preparation before the monsoon will replenish ample groundwater that can be used during summer.
Greywater Recycling System
With failing monsoons and rains, conserving water needs a modern solution: recycling the water that has already been used. Greywater includes wastewater from shower, washing machine and kitchen sink. Usually, the used water from these sources will be drained into the same pipe as black water—water from toilet flushes— and is essentially wasted. Instead, a recycling system can be installed in apartments to recycle greywater. The recycled water can be used to clean cars, driveway etc. It can also be used to water the lawns you always wanted to have or the kitchen garden that you dreamed of. A green home also generates less waste by composting household waste such as wet kitchen waste, which can be used as manure for your kitchen garden.
Solar Design Units
Green homes save on electricity bills because they are designed in a way that the house has ample natural lighting and minimizes the use of electricity. Passive solar design takes into account factors like the direction of the house, placement of windows and skylights, construction materials to make use of natural sunlight instead of electricity. Installing solar panels adds to the sustainability factor. When coupled with energy-efficient appliances, solar systems can power an entire house. While many people are hesitant to install these systems fearing the installation cost, these one-time costs are meagre compared to the benefits of rooftop solar panels.
Green homes contribute to smarter use of resources, which is the need of the hour. In an age where people prefer apartments and when there are no completely green homes available in the market, adding a few features like setting up solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems can make your house eco-friendly. In time, Chennai’s residents can overcome the water crisis that they continuously battle. And this small step can go a long way in saving this fragile planet.