High-end residential projects are being reinvented with smart technology, impressive landscaping as well as sustainable design concepts and elements

Located at BKC, Mumbai, Signia Isles comprises 4BHK and 5BHK apartments.

Centuries ago, luxury housing meant opulent palaces and mansions peppered with exquisite art and intricate craftsmanship. Home to society’s elite, they were enjoyed by an exclusive group of people on merits of their lineage. Economic growth has given rise to a whole new generation of High Networth Individuals (HNIs), a diverse group of people with an equally diverse taste, who form the core of the customers for luxury developers today. Hemil Parikh, founder, Elysium Abodes LLP, agrees, “Luxury housing in today’s time refers to the category of homes that are bought by home buyers who do not essentially belong to the affluent class, but have managed to rise above the middle class by [dint of their] entrepreneurial and commercial success, absolute hard work, savvy investments or, in some cases, financial bonanza. They are on the lookout for housing that offers them a great lifestyle and also mirrors their success.”
If the demographic has evolved, so have the aspirations. Developers now have to redefine luxury with every project by adding novel features and services. Tech-savvy buyers look for intuitive and comfortable spaces. Viral Oza, CMO, Lodha Group, states, “The luxury paradigm has moved beyond mere price tags. The segment is aligning itself with the individualistic and unconventional lifestyle choices of new-age consumers.” Whether it is their need for a bespoke space or a huge house with a golf course and riverside promenade, the luxury portfolio in the country is constantly being rejigged with newer ideas and desires.
Wellness and relaxation zones have become unique selling points, along with a beautifully designed landscape, plenty of green cover, terrace gardens, panoramic views of the city or nature, and hobby areas – essentially, HNIs are being treated to the luxury of experiences. ”The term luxury has evolved not only in its meaning, but also in its physical manifestation. Luxury is a state of mind, not its physical embodiment of expensive and exclusive materials. It’s a place where one retreats to make a home, a nest, and be cut off from the brutality of living in one of India’s intense cities,” explains Rahul Shankhwalker, founding partner, Studio HBA.

Lodha Belmondo is built for resort-style living.

One of the earliest ‘brands’ in the luxury housing sector, the House of Hiranandani has been witness to this amazing transition, and has even contributed to it. There was a time when luxury projects were identified by marble flooring and high-end amenities. That has now become the norm, says Surendra Hiranandani, CMD, House of Hiranandani.“Today, luxury is equated with the quality of materials used, the robustness of the structure, the public-private common spaces for the building, and the surrounding ambience which gives a project its distinctive identity.”
The sense of indulgence, exclusivity, quality and refinement associated with luxury living is more amplified now than ever. Gaurav Sawhney, president – Sales & Marketing, India, Piramal Realty, draws the distinction clearly. “The definition of ‘luxury’ in Indian real estate is witnessing a major shift – from once translating into a brand’s ‘product offering’ to now being the defining cornerstone of a customer’s ‘experiential journey’.” Besides seeking distinctive design features and sophistication that spell unparalleled luxury, Sawhney notes that value for money, accessibility and amenities which enrich one’s life are also influencing purchase decisions. “Over time, luxury and excellence have become synonymous with each other. The trend is now changing from loud and extravagant display of one’s wealth to subtle expressions of understated elegance. Consumers, today, seek projects that offer ‘practical luxury’.”

Tech Smart
Perhaps the most defining feature of 21st century luxury housing is the inclusion of (maybe even reliance on) home automation and smart technology, especially for security. When asked about the default tech being offered in their luxury projects, Jaimin Desai, head – Design and Sustainability at Mahindra Lifespaces, points out that at Luminare, their luxury project in Gurugram, home buyers enjoy IP video door phones (“capable of being upgraded to home automation systems”), provision for motorised curtains, panic switches, and centralised air conditioning that can be controlled via mobile app. “Luxury housing societies offer top-of-the-line security. Luminare features a three-tier security system: security at the main entry gate, reception and an access card to enter the private lift. Other high-tech devices such as motion detectors are also now trending as an automated feature of luxury homes,” adds Desai. All the common area cameras can be viewed through the indoor panel. The door camera extends surveillance to the security in case of suspicious movements near the apartment.
Sometimes, it’s about offering a more nuanced sense of luxury. For Elysium Abodes, smartphone-controlled lights and fans, along with automated curtains and sheers, are basics that offer comfort to home owners. But Parikh highlights one particular feature they are proud to offer in their projects. “We offer automated water heating systems in our housing projects. These are principally online heaters that provide instant hot water whenever one desires and within 10 seconds of turning on the tap. These heaters have been tested to provide, 24×7 and 365 days, the same temperature of water that one may desire.” It works brilliantly for bathtubs that require a huge volume of water and a stable temperature. Additionally, these heaters do not require pre-heating, as they are set on an auto cutoff – as soon as the tap is turned off, the heater is cut off. “This enables optimum utilisation of electricity,” notes Parikh.

IGBC Gold Pre-Certified, Luminare offers a choice of 120 luxurious 3BHK and 4BHK apartments and penthouses, with added specifications and enhanced automation features.

Developers know that working with the latest trend in technology is the only way to distinguish themselves. A certain level of prudence is also in play, however. Uma Subbaraman, director for communications and marketing strategy, Tattva Mittal Group, shares, “At Tattva Mittal, we believe automation should be kept at a simple and sensible level so as to contain the electricity charges and wear-and-tear of these excessive automated products. Hence, we look at adapting only the required automated solutions.” Video-calling phones, fire/smoke alarms inside every apartment, and automated mechanised parking systems are some of the basic smart technology features offered by them.
Technology is definitely the new luxury today and, as Hiranandani notes, it is the “new language of convenience that has entered our lives, and literally put us on a cloud!” A reliable home automation system requires a robust foundation. Many homes use Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology, to provide facilities such as a broadband internet connection with enough bandwidth for voice and data, IPTV and DTH TV, Video/ IP telephony and 24*7 surveillance through Video IP. In the future, we can expect more, Hiranandani opines. “Digital backsplashes above kitchen countertops in place of the traditional tiling allows smart walls that can pull up security camera feeds, display pictures or the kids’ artwork, or be used to search the internet for recipes, all at our fingertips.”

Relaxed Living
The luxury factor today goes beyond the four walls of the house and extends to the landscapeing and the ancillary services that the gated community offers. Shankhwalker believes in the importance of landscape design in order to introduce a green sanctuary within a living space. “We believe in working with indigenous species of plants and trees, [particularly] the fruit bearing kind – so children have an opportunity to engage with, say, a mango tree [by plucking the mangoes], as we did in our childhood. Those simple pleasures of life and a strong connection to the land. Memory building is part of our design.”
Quality ‘me time’ is the new advantage developers want to offer in their projects, along with spaces, so that one can spend time with family/friends. As the number of social hubs in a luxury development increases, the design language takes on an innovative approach. Desai points out, “Hitherto, amenities covered mostly the ground level. But now, landscaping has evolved to occupy even intermediary sky terraces/double height terraces between floors. This basically takes recreational spaces to the next level.” Working with space constraints, designers have to be innovative for multi-functional usage. For example, a single court could lend itself to volleyball, basketball or tennis as required.
With the growing numbers of millionaires in India, the stress is on providing incomparable sense of spaciousness and exclusivity. “The premium facilities at Signature Island include the Signature Club, spread across 50,000sq-ft of terra firma, comprising a temperature-controlled swimming pool, gymnasium, multi-purpose hall, squash court, jogging track, beautifully landscaped 30,000sq-ft garden, and a luxury spa,” says Kamal Khetan, chairman & managing director, Sunteck Realty. To complement the lifestyle of its residents, these buildings have an exclusive tie-up with five-star hotels in the neighborhood, offering unmatched choices and benefits. These splendid residences also enable clients to design every inch of their homes to suit their style. With a 22ft floor-to-ceiling height and a private garden fringing every home, residents enjoy comforts of indulgent luxury in Signature Island.
At the end of the day, today’s home buyers want to connect with nature and experience a sense of place and belonging. Oza explains, “The idea of ‘living on your own land’ has been idolised across the world. An open space cocooned in nature, away from the hustle-bustle of the city, is a dream that everyone chases. Lodha Belmondo is built taking into consideration the need to disconnect from the city, and freedom and privacy to enjoy those oft-dreamt-about Sunday brunches and a game of golf with your friends.” Located on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the country houses and villas at Lodha Belmondo are set within their own private lawns and feature spacious terraces. The project propagates luxurious resort-style living.

Piramal Aranya is flanked by a botanical garden and the Mumbai harbour.

Responsible Luxury
All this talk about luxury would be incomplete if we didn’t quiz the developers about their contribution to a sustainable environment. Luxury living and sustainability might seem like an oxymoron to many, but it is interesting to note the thoughtfulness visible in many projects – some of which we may not even be aware of.
“We were always pioneers in implementation of various technologies much before it became a norm,” points out Hiranandani, “For example, in 1989, we were the first people to [set up] sewage recycling [infrastructure] in all our projects – it is a constant in every project since then. We worked with Indian Copper Development Centre in 1991 to introduce copper plumbing in India. Subsequently, we brought in changes like waterproofing or concrete mixing or high strength concrete. We joined hands with the gypsum industry in 1993 to introduce Gypsum Vermiculite Plaster in India and provide a higher quality solution than the wasteful use of cement plaster.” Since 1986, Hiranandani has followed the International Building Codes in all their constructions, which the Government of India enforced only in 2000 with amendments to IS Code 456. “Our projects are being developed using the best construction techniques, such as lightweight aluminium form work that ensures higher durability and enables speedy completion of the project,” adds the developer.

With 2BHK and 3BHK homes
(up to 965sq-ft), apartments
at Bombay XI start from
Rs.3.8crore (all inclusive).

Today, the government itself has introduced a number of safety and environment regulations that every new project must adhere to. “We lay a lot of importance on aspects like correct waterproofing techniques introduced from the base level, ensuring longevity of the building. The internal wring systems are given a lot of importance, as this impacts the electricity usage and consumptions – hence helping to control the monthly outgoings,” says Subbaraman. Solar energy and LED lights for common areas, grey water recycling, especially the water used for the car wash section, are some of the other factors Tattva Mittla is working on in their projects.
Certain sustainable features have been adopted as default facilities in luxury projects. Rainwater harvesting, waste segregation, and treatment and recycling of waste are some common amenities in Mahindra’s luxury projects, Desai says. “At Mahindra LifeSpaces, green design and healthy living form the foundation of all our residential projects, including those in the luxury segment – namely Luminare in Gurugram and L’Artista in Pune. For example, the design elements of Luminare include energy-efficient walls and roofs; low-flow fixtures and STP-treated water; solar water heating systems; eco-friendly air conditioning; and parking with electric charging facility. All these contribute to substantial reduction in electricity and water consumption [in the long run].” Solar PV cells and LED lights for common areas, and landscape and amenities help further reduce utility expenses. Similarly, Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and abundant cross-ventilation create a healthy environment within the homes.
According to a recent research report, more than 20% of emerging luxury consumers in India, USA, UK, UAE and China are keen on sustainable or eco-friendly homes. Desai shares, “In India, there is a distinct shift towards experiential, sustainable and affordable luxury. Sustainability, in turn, involves three dimensions: environmental, economic and social. Guilt-free luxury homes that tread lightly on the planet, engage local communities and encourage resource conservation are a growing trend.” Guilt-free luxury definitely sounds like a promising change in this segment, and a goal worth pursuing more holistically in the coming years.

Author : By Carol Ferrao

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