BANGALORE: With soaring temperatures and increasing power tariffs, eco-friendly homes and buildings may be the answer to cut down on costs.Many city dwellers are opting to construct and reside in green buildings due to the benefits that come with them.Maithili, who stays at BCIL T-ZED apartments in Whitefield, moved in there five years ago. Her monthly electricity bill comes up to Rs 500. At her home, water is heated through solar heating system. She says.”The bill has become nearly half since we shifted here.” The house is spacious and wellventilated, with plenty of lighting during the daytime which ensures minimal usage of artificial light.” The roof garden keeps the temperatures low so that the house remains cool even in summers, with no air conditioner in place.According to Maithili, there has been no water shortage because of water conservation systems such as rainwater harvesting, waste water recycling and open wells that cater to the residents’ water needs.Green buildings are constructed with an emphasis on conserving energy and utilising natural resources.Apoorv Sharma Prasad, a resident of HSR Layout, says that their house, which was constructed in 2004, was built with “a conscious decision to use as much natural material as possible”.Eco-friendly houses are constructed with materials that is available at hand such as clay blocks or recycled cement.Optimum usage of available resources is the first step in ensuring that cost is reduced.However, a common perception about eco-friendly homes is that they are expensive to build .Indrajit Kembhavi, whose firm constructed the Police Bhavan in Gulbarga, one of the first gold LEED rated buildings in India believes that “the initial investment may be higher but in the long run these buildings are definitely cheaper to maintain.” According to Chitra Vishwanath, a well-known architect, eco-friendly houses are much cheaper when it comes to maintenance.In fact, she says there is no reason why they should not be cheaper to build as well.She points out that a study conducted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, showed the true cost difference between green and conventional buildings to be five per cent.Green buildingsThe green building concept in India was introduced with the southern regional centre of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).Built when green buildings were still a relatively unknown concept, it is known for its ecofriendly design which helps conserve energy efficiently.The building is designed in such that sunlight is diffused through the entire room.Kiran, a research associate from TERI, points out that during the day, “even the library does not use any artificial light.” The building has a wall garden that acts as a noise barrier while the roof garden helps in keeping the building cool.He says, “The only air conditioning system is in the convention hall.The cost of power for the organisation is 10 per cent of the cost that air conditioned buildings of this size would incur in this area.” Medappa, an associate of Sanjay Mohe, the architect of the building says that solar panels and rainwater harvesting system were introduced on an experimental basis because, at the time, eco-friendly buildings were still in their early stages.The building is now considered a landmark among green buildings.There are a variety of reasons to go eco-friendly but for those who are looking to construct, or move into a green building, Chitra Vishwanath believes that the location of the site should be kept in mind.Her advice is that “a sensible design looks at the climate” and the house needs to be built accordingly.And what about those of us who are looking to be more environmentally friendly in our current habitats? Well, Chitra believes that utilising common spaces is the answer.She says, “Family members should use common spaces and not individual spaces.” This minimises the electricity usage. She also recommends keeping windows open and minimizing the use of lights and fans.