India’s construction industry seeks more green building certificates while it makes an effort to improve energy efficiency

An audit shows that India Habitat Centre in Delhi is among 16 buildings that can help save enough energy needed to power 400 urban homes in India. (Image by Ronit Bhattacharjee)

An audit shows that India Habitat Centre in Delhi is among 16 buildings that can help save enough energy needed to power 400 urban homes in India. (Image by Ronit Bhattacharjee)

In 2003, India had 20,000 square feet of built-up area that could be certified as green buildings. By September 2015, this has increased to 3.11 billion square feet, with 3,264 projects seeking certification from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Out of this, 686 projects have been certified and are functional.

Amit Maheshwari, Director Marketing, UTC Building & Industrial Systems – a company which works with the government and regulators in supporting development of standards and regulations – says, “Green buildings, which emphasize the reduction of environmental impact through a holistic approach of combining land and building uses with construction strategies, have been gaining ground.”

According to McKinsey & Co.’s India’s Urban Awakening report, the number of million-person cities will grow from 42 to 68 by 2030. The increasing need for homes and commercial buildings has opened up a niche for sustainable construction. This involves energy conservation, resource use, impact on the surrounding environment and working conditions for those who will live and work in these buildings.

The energy conservation process has been given a boost by the government’s new power sector reform plans. It includes a target of putting in 770 million LED bulbs by August 2016. The power ministry says this will save 105 billion kilowatt hours of energy every year, reduce the peak load by 20,000 MW and consumer bills by Rs 400 billion every year, and mean India will emit 79 million tons a year less of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that is causing global warming.

Now the most pressing need is reliable readily available information about green buildings that justifies value to a customer, feels Maheshwari.

Old buildings are energy guzzlers. Maheshwari says, “Our audits have made many organisations realise that there are energy savings opportunities of 20 to 40% across most buildings, making the pay back to the end-user very attractive.”

One audit of 16 commercial building spaces across various climatic zones in India showed potential energy savings of 8,960 MW hours in a year. That can power up to 400 urban or 2,400 rural homes. The audited spaces included Genpact in New Delhi, Gurgaon and Jaipur; Wipro in Chennai; Tata Chemicals in Noida; Google in Hyderabad; India Habitat Centre and B.L. Kapoor Hospital in New Delhi; PGI Hospital in Chandigarh; Kohinoor Spaces, Nanavati Hospital and the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.

Located across three climate zones – hot and dry, composite, warm and humid – the audit helped to identify the mechanisms which cause heavy energy consumption and the tools needed to minimise it.

Energy saving an asset

Though energy savings are by far the most critical reason to build green, other important factors like water-use reduction, lower greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource conservation are deciding factors as well. “Driving these strategies makes pure business sense,” reasons Maheshwari.

The use of Intelligent Building Management Systems (IBMS) is a steadily growing trend. Today, around 15 to 20% of businesses are opting for IBMS during the building design process. By combining an understanding of customer needs with required technology, these systems can reduce the building’s energy consumption by up to 30%, Maheshwari adds.

Deepak Gahlowt is an architect whose company Xebec has been involved in reconstructing buildings like the Queens Express Towers in Mumbai. He says constructing energy efficient building needs a rethink on urban planning and building by-laws. “The data in use will help measure benefits and aid people benchmark their buildings. The same goes for retrofitting and so, incentives must be evident for people to retrofit.”

Many multi and bilateral agencies have been providing technical assistance as well as funding support for energy efficiency in India. That has helped in developing the market as well as institutional arrangements for promoting these technologies, says G.C. Datta Roy, Advisor, Development, Environergy Services Ltd.

Gaining an EDGE

Recently, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), in conjunction with International Finance Corporation (IFC), launched the EDGE green building certification system in India. This is expected to start the mainstreaming of resource-efficient buildings in a fast, simple and affordable way.

S. Srinivas, Deputy Executive Director, Confederation of India Industry (CII), would like rating systems to address all five elements that go into the making of a green building. “A building can never be green if it is extremely efficient in energy, but has done nothing on water,” he said.

Maheshwari is confident that by helping implement financially attractive measures, EDGE will also help push the green construction market in India. “The market transformation of the global built environment will require widespread participation and cooperation. In such a scenario, certification programs such as EDGE are critical in order build credibility and achieve this success.”

EDGE is an addition to the three currently operating protocols – USGC, IGBC and Griha. Datta Roy says it is more user-friendly because residents can do their own energy and water audits. But he would like all the protocols to be in sync. “That will make it easier for building developers.”

Gahlowt wants a rating system where the actual performance of the building can be checked and the data made available to the public. Without that, he says, “The rating is purely used for branding and marketing purposes.” He has seen top-rated buildings with large spaces kept air-conditioned, but seldom used, where people wear suits in the Indian summer because the temperature has been set to 18-21 degrees Celsius.

Gaining ground

India’s information technology (IT) industry has often led in the adoption of green buildings as in so many other areas. An encouraging trend in this regard has been the readiness of most IT parks to go green. Srinivas of CII thinks this will provide the scale so that the cost of green building materials, products and technologies will become competitive.

He also sees “Tremendous potential for materials and equipment like heat resistive paints, fly ash blocks, insulation materials, high efficiency chillers, variable frequency drives, high-efficiency cooling towers, building management systems, lighting controls, building-integrated photovoltaics and micro wind turbines.”

IGBC is helping retrofit eight IT parks in Cyberabad – Hyderabad’s IT zone – and two have got their ratings already. Another effort to further the cause of green buildings has been the establishment of the United Technologies-TERI Centre of Excellence on Energy Efficient Buildings. It has worked on evaluation of the existing building energy rating systems, derivation of tool and techniques for energy management, identification and cost benefit analysis of energy conservation measures and the formulation of design and retrofit guidelines.

There are many other firms in the arena now. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is working on retrofitting buildings in the national capital, Maharashtra and West Bengal. In Gujarat, 150 buildings have applied for IGBC certification, and 27 have got it already. The new head office of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board is able to meet 90% of its energy needs from onsite renewable sources.

Energy efficient lighting

Even before it announced its power sector reforms, the government had launched the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP), calling for 20 million streetlights to be replaced with LED bulbs. Srinivas of CII says this will provide excellent growth opportunities for local manufacturers and bring down the costs of production.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy did a study called Energy Savings in Homes, and found that about 20% of energy consumed in Indian homes is for lighting. The Electric Lamp and Component Manufactures Association of India says over 758 million incandescent bulbs were sold in India in 2012.

Incandescent bulbs transform only around 10% of the energy to light. LEDs use 85% less electricity to deliver the same illumination. Replacing all the incandescent bulbs sold in 2012 by LED bulbs would mean using 50 billion kWh of less electricity, equivalent to around 19,000 MW of avoided generation capacity.

This can have more implications. With global revenue from LED lighting systems expected to total $216 billion from 2015 to 2024, the benchmark energy consumption rating of buildings may soon need revision with the introduction of more energy efficient products such as LED lighting systems, super-efficient air-conditioners and fans and smart control systems.

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