Why India is Leading the Way in Large-Scale Green Construction Projects

28 May

I resurrect an unpublished article from the archives (2013), to illustrate how India has managed to position itself at the forefront of a revolution in ecologically sustainable, energy efficient – and very large – buildings. This trend is epitomised by ITC Ltd, (headquartered in India), the self-described ‘World’s Greenest Luxury Hospitality Chain’, which proclaims proudly its 10-year record of being ‘carbon positive’, and 13-year record of being ‘water positive’; offsetting its emissions and usage from previous years.

'Energy Efficien

These Buildings get the ‘Energy Efficient’ Tag

David Cameron’s recent press junket jaunt to India, to promote foreign investment in the region, has drawn increasing attention to its construction industry. Although the country does not subscribe to any UN emissions targets, its established green ratings system GRIHA has a growing number of subscribers: 300 registered projects, at last count.

Among those already assessed is the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi, which was awarded a disappointing two stars for its ecological sustainability. Largely, one suspects, this was due to the fact that air conditioning was installed throughout the entire complex. Even though it was a relatively energy efficient system, based on Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV), placed on top of the comprehensive indoor and outdoor lighting it would have created a heavy carbon footprint. Some credit is due for the fact that 61% of energy consumption was reduced from the TERI-GRIHA benchmark, although just 31% of outdoor lighting was powered by solar energy, and 10% of artificial indoor lighting.

Recycling and reusing waste water, and storing and preserving top soil for later use on a nearby site, are conservation activities listed by most of the assessed case studies. Dust screens are often erected around the construction area to prevent air pollution. However, listing actions such as sprinkling road with water for dust control, and washing the dust off the wheels of vehicles entering the complex, seem like wanton attempts to gain credit. Manager of the project was Emaar MGF Land PVT Ltd, while Spectral Services acted as plumbing, electrical and plumbing consultant.

Far more comprehensive are the actions of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, which gained a five-star rating by virtue of avoiding electrically powered thermal and lighting methods. Simply through liberal installation of skylights and a 40% window to wall ratio, it minimised the need for artificial light. Using Portland Pozzolona Cement as the main building material insulated the interior; the roof was shaded by a bamboo trellis and solar panels, which reduced direct solar heat gain. In fact, 30% of its energy requirement was met through solar.

It also had a system to harness rain water for reuse. This, and the installation of hardy native species and trees and shrubs in its gardens, reduced water demand and consumption relative to the GRIHA benchmark: by 50% for the landscape, and 62% for the building, also by constricting supply through use of low-flow fixtures. Its outside paved area was kept to a bare minimum of 17%, to promote water percolation and reduce what it called the ‘heat island’ effect.

In February, Odisha Tourism signed an agreement to be audited by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, on its portfolio of 22 tourist accommodation properties. Odisha (Orissa) is renowned for the fragile beauty of its temples, beaches and wildlife preserves. The assessment of new building plans is just one component of a wider assessment of the properties’ impact on the natural environment, including access routes to individual complexes.

Mili Majumbar, Director of Sustainable Habitats at TERI, described how they go about making the assessments, which aim to ensure energy usage is in line with the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).

“There are three site visits: the first, to investigate top soil preservation, tree preservation, prevention of air pollution, project management of site and provision of infrastructure facilities to the labour workforce.

The second, to ensure compliance with criteria evaluated during the first site visit along with additional construction related criteria such as waste and water management during construction of the project. The site visit helps to keep the site hygienic and clean. It aims at reduce, reuse and refuge factors of green buildings.

The third, conducted to check the quality of interiors and products utilized in the building. Compliance with other criteria evaluated during previous site visits is also confirmed. A check is also conducted to ensure installation of renewable energy systems and implementation of the requirements needed to meet the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).

Once awarded, the rating must then be approved by an auditor accredited by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. The licence is valid for up to five years, after which recipients must apply to renew it.”

Majumbar elaborates further on both the environmental and social criteria that comprise a construction project’s end rating:

“It assesses buildings’ greenness – energy issues, like helping integrate solar with other forms of energy within the building; water issues, solid waste management, quality of air and light, disabled access; and social issues like taking care of construction workers. For example, good quality accommodation while housing is being built. There are 34 parameters in total.

Our focus is implementation of a system that is not purely paper-based, an interactive process. In the future, they plan to implement a new ratings system for buildings that have already been constructed, as well as the template they are currently working on for developments in the planning stage.”

She describes how the business model works in practice, collaborating with other stakeholders and trying to set a sustainable example to other countries in the region:

“We have built partnerships in different regions – partnering to help carry out assessments, with private companies, NGOs and consultants. So far we have 10million square metres of uptake on the assessment system, a number which is growing every day.

“I think there is a large potential to adopt it, because our system guidelines are in line with climate and regional resources, and neighbouring countries have similar conditions.”

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