Monthly Archives: July 2012

Green buildings need not be a costly affair

HYDERABAD: A discussion on green buildings usually ends up hovering on cost factors involved in adopting these practices and differing opinions come to fore on the issue.

Some believe that green buildings are a costly affair and not everyone can afford them while others think that green buildings rely on not yet proven technologies. But what are green buildings and are they really that costly? “Any building that demands less energy, causes less damage to environment, can conserve water or was made using recycles or energy efficient material should be considered as a green building,” says construction material expert, L.H. Rao.

A green building doesn’t have to be a fancy concept. Any construction can be converted into a green building just by creating simple structures like rain water harvesting pits, using landscape effectively along with employing recycled materials, Dr. Rao observes. Green buildings are energy efficient, resource saving, eco-friendly, healthy and offer comfort to residents.

Because of the tropical conditions most of our cities receive abundant sunshine and ideally the air conditioning systems should be the biggest power guzzlers in our homes.

“But, because of the faulty positioning of windows and indiscriminate use of curtains, we are forced to keep our lights turned on all the time.

This puts additional pressure on our electricity bill,” he says. If a building is properly planned, even the air conditioning bill doesn’t have to be back breaking, Dr. Rao opines. With enough provision for free movement of air in a house, one can reduce the power bill, he said.

But apart from ensuring enough air and lighting, a building can also be converted into a green building by using materials that have longer gestation periods and are environmentally friendly.

“The cost of a building in terms of its effect on environment can be reduced by using alternatives like blended cements, geo-polymers, recycled material, fly-ash bricks and substitutes for wood,” he explains.

Traditional cement, known as Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), consumes a lot of energy. On one hand we use a lot of precious lime stone in the production process, on the other hand due to its chemical composition, it starts disintegrating sooner due to effects like lime leaching.

“These issues are not there in the blended cements like Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC) and Portland Slag Cement (PSC). Since a portion of raw materials that are used to make PPC and PSC are industrial by-products, the effect on environment is lesser, and due to their chemical composition, these cements become stronger with the passage of time,” he says.

Apart from cements, using material like interlocking blocks, wood substitutes, volcanic tuff, agricultural wastes-bamboos and jute fiber, among others, can reduce the burden on the environment.

Quoting the example of fly-ash, a by-product produced at thermal plants, Dr. Rao explains that using fly-ash bricks and hollow blocks can reduce the bad effects of fly-ash on the environment. “When fly-ash is dumped into lakes and ponds, the carcinogenic material in the ash seeps into ground water and endangers lives. But if the same fly-ash is used in cements or in bricks, the bad effects of the ash are locked into the material and this helps in containing the harmful effects,” he explains.

Another step that can be taken is reuse of the material. “Many a times we see that the discarded building material particularly demolished concrete is dumped in to the land fills or discarded mindlessly. Rather than destroying natural rock for making gravel, the discarded building material can be reused in many places like paving roads and other low grade civic constructions,” he adds.

(This article was published in The Hindu on July 29, 2012)

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Background verification companies on the prowl

HYDERABAD: Are you on a job hunt? If you thought that you can quote a fake project or can create a false resume, chances are that you would be caught red-handed sooner than you thought.

With the number of candidates giving wrong information in their applications rising, recruiters are now employing the services of specialised companies for background verification of the applicants. More than two dozen such companies are operating in Hyderabad.

“We have found that almost four out of 10 applicants give some or other form of inaccuracies in their resumes,” V. Sridhar, associate vice-president, operations, at a background verification company, Crederity, said.

When a professional changes his job, he usually tries to negotiate better terms and salary from his new employer. For this reason most people try to exaggerate their salary, duration of their work, responsibility they held and sometimes even their education. “To check these practices most major companies, including MNCs, are now banking up on our services to verify the authenticity of these claims,” he explained.

Background verification takes 15 to 20 days to finish and can cover a range of issues from employment verification, reference checks to even claims of overseas work experience, he said.

Challenging task

But how can a firm verify the claims of a person with a diverse experience? Mr. Sridhar says that it’s a challenge even for the firm. “While it is easy to check employment details of a person, dealing with government agencies like universities and police is a time consuming process,” he said.

Recruiters too claim that employing specialised firms to get a through verification of a candidate has become a necessity these days.

“To get better positions candidates are now using sophisticated methods to hoodwink the companies. Gone are the days when a candidate would just create a false certificate or a project report. There were few instances where some candidates even created fake bank statements and employment certificates, which can amount to criminal conspiracy,” a senior human resource (HR) manager working in an MNC observed.

With candidates using better tactics employing professional verification companies is a better option, he added.

This article was published in The Hindu on June 20, 2012

Rampant corruption in Hyderabad Traffic Police

HYDERABAD: Despite the claims of senior officers, collection of monthly ‘mamools’ (slang for corruption money) by traffic police from petty vendors is continuing unabated in the capital.
Vendors are being allowed to continue their business only after coughing up anywhere between Rs.400 to Rs.600 per month out of
their meagre earnings. If they fail to pay this amount they are forced to compensate police in kind or are being fined repeatedly. In
some instances, where the vendors try to evade their demands, the police literally chase these vendors away or seize their merchandise.
Police authorities can remove anything that causes obstruction to the vehicular traffic under Section 39(b) of Hyderabad City Police Act.

To guide the police, municipal authorities have specified areas where hawkers and pushcarts can be allowed by delineating Green, Amber and Red zones.
Green is a free zone where hawkers can be allowed to do business without any problem, Amber zone is an area where vendors will be allowed only on specific days and timings and Red is a restricted area where no business should be allowed.
Since not many people know these zones, some police personnel are threatening vendors that their wares will be seized even though they are in green zone while others are allowing vendors to operate even in red zone, a police personnel said.
Saifabad area, under which Necklace Road and adjoining areas fall, is placed under red zone. But even a casual visitor can see that the area has many pushcart vendors and hawkers. Some officials have specialised in formulating the exact amount that one has to pay and the days this amount should be collected,” he explained.
“Vendors would like to do their business on the roads where there is good traffic as they can expect better sales there. They sometimes obstruct traffic, but police personnel are cashing in on this eagerness among vendors to mint some money,” the official said.
But while some policemen are making quick moolah, it is the petty vendors who are in tight spot. “We hardly earn enough to feed our family even after struggling for whole day. With these demands from traffic police our earnings are now under a squeeze,” Mohammed Ishfaq a flower seller in old city said. The pressure for giving bribes has increased recently, he added.
Most vendors pointed out that enforcement authorities seize their pushcarts along with the goods, which are mostly perishable. “Once the cart is confiscated, it’s a Herculean task to get it back from the police station. Even after the pushcart is brought back, most of the goods get damaged resulting in losses,” a vendor argued. Rather than facing these hassles, vendors prefer to heed to the police demands, he said.
“Even bystanders can observe police taking away our goods for failing to pay the bribe. It has indeed become a common practice,” he rued.