India looking at sustainable buildings

Projections indicate that Indian commercial sector footprint could triple to about 1.9 bn sq m by 2030.

Hyderabad: India is poised to become the world’s fifth largest economy, with the buildings sector representing over 30 per cent of the nation’s energy consumption. Energy conservation is an important part of India’s overall energy plan, and can contribute significantly to the nation’s ability to sustain its growth, say experts.

One-third of India’s energy use comes from buildings, the highest of all sectors. Not only is the commercial buildings sector energy usage growing rapidly at eight per cent annually, unsustainably planned and constructed buildings are causing severe environmental impacts.

Building stock is being added at a rate of eight per cent per year, and building energy use is increasing exponentially. India’s power system needs to almost quadruple in size by 2040 to catch up and keep pace with electricity demand that-boosted by rising incomes and new connections to the grid-increases at almost 5 per cent per year. Projections indicate that the Indian commercial sector footprint could triple to about 1.9 billion m2 (sqm) by 2030 over a baseline of 2010.

Reshma Singh, Program Director of the Department of Energy’s tech-to-market IMPEL programme, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), told Telangana Today, “Today, developers, building consultants, facility managers, material providers and policy makers are seeing a shift towards energy efficient practices. Smart Cities being developed in India need smart infrastructure. Smartness has to happen across the design, build and operate stages of a building.”

On green ratings, she said, green ratings are now more becoming performance-centric rather than merely design-centric. Democratisation by bringing all the stakeholders together is needed to create a holistic framework to create sustainable buildings. Monitoring of buildings throughout the lifecycle of the buildings will help the building operators in predicting the operational costs.

Research and innovation

She added, “India and US research teams are working together on innovative building practices. Both large size enterprises and startups are finding ways to work together. Industry is now looking to decarbonise and digitise. Energy building information systems (EBIS) is becoming vital and the data transferred through cloud is being used to get insights that will help make informed decisions. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are today being used extensively. Machine learning is used to study the image and drone data, and viability studies are in progress to see how the energy savings can be achieved with such insights.”

In terms of building material research, she informed, works are in progress in the areas of window and insulation. Integrated testing is being done in a dedicated lab called Flexlab at LBNL, by bringing all the technology majors on to one platform.

In 2010, the US and India have partnered involving multiple institutions including IIIT-Hyderabad. The Hyderabad institute focused on building controls and building information systems, especially around how to monitor and measure inside buildings in terms of air quality, energy use, temperature and humidity. LBNL and IIIT-Hyderabad have a joint patent on a device that helps one to control how much energy should be used at a workstation level. As a part of Asia Edge initiative, the US is working with Asian nations including India. There is also a smart grid US-India consortium, where LBNL is a constituent.

Building Innovation Guide

The country is poised to focus on energy-efficient and high-performance buildings of the future, says Building Innovation Guide (BIG). It is a guidebook authored by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and funded by the US Department of Energy.

Reshma Singh, lead author, Building Innovation Guide, said, “India is at an inflection point. Because of the extraordinary pace of new construction, the buildings sector is recognised as a crucial area to create energy-efficiency and enhance sustainability. The Building Innovation Guide draws on years of US buildings R&D, computer simulations, and on-the-ground research in India to present best practice strategies that combine innovative technologies with traditional wisdom. These best practices can drive triple-bottom-line benefit for people, profit, and planet.”

Insights from the BIG had been shared across the nation through a series of “BIGathon” events in five host cities- Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Trivandrum, and Bengaluru. BIGathon events had been held in collaboration with Facilio, a unified SaaS facilities management firm, JLL, US Trade and Development Agency, American National Standards Institute, Confederation of Indian Industry, US-India Business Council, Mahindra, U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, the Energy Management Centre, Nitte School of Architecture, and the World Resources Institute.

Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO, Facilio says, “The BIGathon brought thought leaders to network, collaborate, and create a movement.”

BIG has included TechMahindra and Infosys Hyderabad campuses in its study.

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