Mili Majumdar, Director, Sustainable Habitat division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi has been involved in several policy initiatives to mainstream sustainable buildings in India. Honours in B.Arch and M.Tech from IIT, Chennai, Mili has contributed significantly to the development of relevant codes and standards (Energy Conservation Building Code, Guidelines for Environmental Clearance of large construction projects, National Building Code 2005) in the country. In conversation with Sapna Srivastava, she speaks about her long association with TERI, facts and myths of the Green building initiatives and the relevance of GRIHA codes and standards.
TERI Green building strategies and journey till now
TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) is a non-government global research organization. It was formally established in 1974 to work towards global sustainable development by creating innovative solutions. I joined TERI in 1992, when it was a small entity operating out of different premises and the activities included work related to policy formulation, bio technology and renewable energy.
Led by Dr. Pachauri, TERI has witnessed phenomenal growth over the years mainly due to the projects implemented on ground and the research activities of the dedicated researchers. During the time when Green building was not a strategical concept in India, the organization leading by example, introduced processes like daylighting, climate responsive design etc. and designed TERI campuses in Gurgaon, Bangalore, Guwahati and Mukteshwar on Green building model. Resource- and energy-efficient, these habitats demonstrated the sustainable implementation of Green practices.
What makes TERI approach unique is its strong academic and research base. For example, TERI University research department is working on integration of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies into building design technologies and energy efficient lighting schemes /retrofit tools for new and existing buildings.
Also, TERI all encompassing process to give holistic perspective to the entire subject of Green building, its grassroot understanding and policy connect has made it easy for the organization to take the Green initiative to mainstream level. We understand the factors impacting the building over its life cycle and based on the same are employing various strategies to build capacity among architects, engineers and clients.
Tie-ups and joint ventures
TERI has multilateral and bilateral tie-ups with various international and Indian agencies, both government and private. The association is in the form of technology exchange, funded research of global or local relevance and technology simulation for understanding application in local context. The collaborations also involve consultancy, implementing of projects, analyzing and customizing technology for Indian application and designing of new innovative technology. As part of GRIHA, different tie-ups include franchising certain services, implementation of projects, awareness programmes and capacity building among various segments of building industry.
Some of the organizations TERI is collaborating with are U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Fraunhoffer Institute, Germany, Clinton Climate Initiative, United Nations Environment Programme, UN Habitat, Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC),Suzlon Energy Ltd, Wipro Technologies, Microsoft Corporation Ltd, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Oil And Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), among many others.
General skepticism towards higher cost of Green building
To determine the cost of a building, standard baseline cost is required which is not available. What the comparisons are made with is the incremental cost of construction. Any building has a life period of approximately 20-30 years. As per my own experience, the maximum pay-off of Green building cost is just 2-3 years and is uniformly applicable to all kinds of buildings.
Some cost benefits examples are material cost saving due to lighter structural system, lower investment in installed capacity due to design efficiency of lighting and HVAC, reduction in AC tonnage & lighting loads and lessor expenses on transformers, electrical system etc. Thus, compared with conventional buildings, Green buildings can actually reduce costs taking in consideration the life cycle mode.
Patterns of energy consumption vary as per building function and usage. In our audit buildings like 5-star hotels have energy consumption as high as 500-600units/sqm annually. In a standard office building operating five days a week, the energy consumed is 200units/sqm in a year. The same building if constructed as Green building can achieve 30-40% energy savings. Likewise, retrofit in an existing building can yield upto 20% energy savings.
Green building maintenance post “Green rating”
For efficient Green features performance and proper operations, consistent maintenance is critical. To ensure the same, GRIHA rating is given first as a provisional rating then after one year of operation, audit report is submitted. The rating is not awarded till the time a building has been monitored for five years. Currently, we are monitoring 50 sample buildings around the country to see how they are performing.
While talking of maintenance, what is equally important is the capacity building among the occupants who are going to take up the building, for instance the tenants of a residential building or of a commercial mall. They should be made aware of the parameters to be followed to maintain the Green operations like STP system to avoid wastage of potable water and rain water harvesting systems that if not maintained properly, can harm the environment through the polluted water.
Role of design professionals in the Green building initiative
The overall scope for electricity reduction is three fold
• Demand minimization
• Architectural design
• Advanced systems and technologies
We do see a lot of scope in architectural designing to provide energy efficiency through daylight orientation, climate responsive features and shading devices. Similarly, lighting and HVAC design and electrical planning are an important component. In the service sector, thermal loads are very high and there is a potential to save power loads in laundry hot water requirement, boilers and kitchens operation and planning. Thus, designer play an important role in promoting Green buildings as once the demand is reduced, it can be replaced by renewable sources of energy.
Lack of incentives from the Government for Green building construction
The building owners are responding to the energy efficient planning and construction mainly because of the high power rates. Also, the Delhi government has given a directive to all hotels to implement strategies for energy saving and zero waste discharge. Talking of incentive, these are mostly misused as has been seen in the case of subsidies offered by the government. Incentives are difficult to withdraw and have proven to be counter productive to the economy. Making people realize the benefits of Green construction and reduced life cycle cost is more fruitful towards the energy and water efficient technology implementation.
Benefits of GRIHA rating
TERI Griha is a green building rating system for sustainable construction, specific to Indian sub-continent, similar to the American process of LEED rating. It was adopted as the national rating system for green buildings by the Government of India in 2007. Developed indigenously, it has a bottom up approach and takes into consideration typical Indian conditions, climate and regional issues. The different of implementation process includes onsite check, evaluation and the online system for project and product registration. The project documentation is evaluated online and rated in a three-tier process.
A building is assessed based on its predicted performance over its entire life cycle – inception through operation. It has different variants and is flexible in application. For instance, Svagriha is a parallel system and is the rating system for small buildings. There is Griha rating for large buildings and schools as they have different approach. Griha realizes given the diversity of India, same criteria cannot be applied in every situation, like if the water table of a particular region is high, providing rain water harvesting is not required.
Challenges facing Indian green building movement
Sadly, no initiatives have been taken in retrofitting government buildings to make them energy efficient. It is seen that government officials are not very receptive to saving energy and are even unaware of the wastage. And this is a uniform trend among all government departments. Simple steps like switching off lights and ACs in an unoccupied room can go a long way. Retrofitting buildings with new systems like CFLs, motion sensor, occupancy sensors can come to rescue but only if the mindset changes first. What is required is the drastic change in the attitude and the awareness towards energy efficiency. That is why GRIHA is now partly a mandate in public sector undertaking buildings and Central and certain state governments have made it compulsory. Lately the Energy Bureau of India too has introduced energy conservation code.
In addition, earnestness in enforcing the policies related to Green buildings is less in India compared to that of in other countries. Internationally, they are more aligned as a community to green building objectives and policies are implemented on the ground. Also, taking pride in one’s nation is lacking here; we generally don’t talk about our own achievements again in contrast to other nations. The lifestyle change is essential right from the top of the pyramid in our country. Leadership, by setting example themselves can inspire the masses and create awareness.