Conference overview

The National Conference on Green Design, organized by ADaRSH, TERI, and MNRE, witnessed lively discussions on various aspects of the subject among building industry professionals across disciplines, who were part of the conference, held in the capital from 7–8 January.

They discussed the importance of propagating Green Design in the backdrop of the construction boom all over India and deliberated on the roadmap to take it forward.

"There is a building boom in India that is only going to accelerate. Thus, there is a need to build in a way that does not get locked in inefficiency,” said Dr Pachauri, while Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah urged the private sector and major developers of the country to adopt more and more green building practices and technologies.

The discussions focussed on innovative strategies and technologies for green habitats, integrated approach to design, national rating system of GRIHA, affordable housing, creation of institutional campuses through green design, and energy efficient building options in general.

Innovative strategies and technologies

The path for taking forward the concept of green design lies in simplicity. Several speakers insisted that simplicity and common sense should be the crux of any innovative technology in green design.

“Use of simple technology constitutes use of scientific knowledge to make simple products, which enhance environmental and functional performance,” said Prof. Ashok B Lall, a pioneering authority on the subject.

He added that these involved low investment in research and development and production of infrastructure, is widely affordable, helps distribute income, and tap and enhance local knowledge.

Mr Manit Rastogi, the Managing Director of Morphogenesis, a company specializing on green design insisted that green design is nothing, but common sense. “It is just the right way to build. We had it but lost it in the last 60 to 70 years. So, today’s innovation is taking 10 steps backward,” he said.

Mr Rastogi showed several examples of how he had used common sense to cause least environmental damage due to his designs. One of them was a building in Gurgaon, where instead of pumping out the groundwater for basement construction of the building, and wasting the water, it was used for washing and other purposes in the building.

Demolishing the myth that simplicity can be boring; Mr Himanshu Parikh of Consulting Engineers, Ahmedabad proved that innovation lies in simplicity which is reflected in his construction. He showcased an example of a building where he had created a unique façade of a building by using fly-ash bricks peppered with regular bricks.

Mr Parikh also insisted that India can lead from the front by capitalizing on its propensity of being frugal. In construction, this could be done through innovations like reducing the use of poured concrete (in slabs) by replacing it with hollow-block concrete.

Use of steel in space frames can be reduced by reducing the diagonal ties in the frame. Such structures also save money as the pyramids can be obtained from cottage workshops and assembled on site and expensive joints are not used.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy options in green building design
Money can also be saved by ensuring energy efficiency in construction. Speakers emphasised that this fact needs to be highlighted to the consumers, who they said are still sceptical regarding the advantages of green design.

Busting the myth that energy efficiency only leads to incremental benefits, Brent Ross of Core Solutions, Armstrong Ltd gave examples that clearly showed that green design reduced operating budgets, resulted in low payback of less than six months, and had other benefits. As an example, he demonstrated how energy efficient pumping systems lead to energy saving of close to 77%.

Mr Venkatesan, from Larsen and Tubro Ltd suggested that calculations in energy savings must be translated into monetary terms to help convince people, a large number of whom, according to Shabbir Kanchwala of K Raheja Corporation, were still unconvinced about such benefits.

Doubts in people’s minds could also be removed by undertaking iconic projects like the retrofitting of the Empire State Building in New York, which achieved 40% reduction in energy usage due to the changes incorporated in it, Gagan Singh of Jones Lang LaSalle pointed out. Similar projects in India would help spread the message to convince people about the benefits of green buildings.

According to Mr Sudarshan S A of Wipro Eco Energy, it is not the consumers alone who are responsible for lack of implementation of green design. Architects and developers too do not keep in mind the complexity of India and design according to global standards, which is not green in real terms. Mr Pradeep Kumar from TERI stressed on the development of a benchmark for energy consumption to overcome this problems.

Apart from introducing energy efficient technology, green buildings also need to source part of their energy requirements from renewable energy, said some of the speakers. Sameer Maithel (former TERI colleague) of Green Knowledge Solutions pointed out that, 25%–40% of heating requirements can be met by solar energy. He also revealed that many medium-sized hotels have shown the way by using solar heating and suggested that this could be propagated by municipalities making solar heating mandatory in their jurisdiction.

Integrated approach to design

Particular design aspects, reduction of energy use, and switching to renewable resources are not the only requirements of green deign. It has several aspects and they need to be integrated in successful green design projects. Mr C Hariharan, a pioneer in the subject, introduced this unifying perspective, while Mr Peter Stocker provided examples from Africa, Europe, and Tanzania, which accounted for sustainability, enterprise, environment, and local community.

Meanwhile, Ms Usha Rangarajan, showed how she integrated solar passive principles in architectural design and renewable energy systems in the first GRIHA project, Pimpri Chinchwada New Town Development Authority (PCNTDA) in Pune, leading to substantial downsizing of the electrical and mechanical systems and reduction of energy requirements.

Environmental Design Solutions, represented by Mr Gurmeet Singh, have also set several examples of integration like hybrid system design for saving energy and water in large institutional projects. Singh explained them in his presentation, while Mr Vineet Kashyap of United Technologies Corporation showed how his company can offer end-to-end solutions for the electrical and mechanical system requirement of energy efficient and smart buildings.

Green design for affordable housing

People may be convinced about green designs through awareness programmes and iconic projects, but adoption of such designs would gain ground only if the costs are affordable across all sections of society. United nation Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Sustainable Social Housing Project is a move in that direction. Elaborating on this, Ms Tatiana de Feraudy, UNEP-SBCI membership co-ordinator, said that such housing is designed on the basis of the climate of the area, cultural habits, stakeholders’ needs, availability of market solutions, policies, incentives, technical capacity, and awareness of benefits.

Environmental sustainability of buildings is not only about the building itself, but also about environmental effects of preparing the construction material. To ensure sustainability of buildings, one has to be careful that the preparation method of the construction materials is least environmentally damaging and carbon emitting.

Prof. B V Venkatarama Reddy of the Indian Institute of Science said that methods should be found to bring about minimum changes to natural materials during the production process and to return the discarded manufactured materials to their native state with minimum environmental costs. He added that to put this into effect, it is important to maximize the use of local materials, minimize transportation, develop low-embodied carbon materials and technologies, decentralize production systems, and develop technologies from solid waste and renewable materials.

Mr Issac Emmanuel, head of TPU Marketing, Bayer Materials Science Pvt. Ltd added that since buildings are responsible for the destruction of natural resources, it is pertinent to use sustainable materials like polyurethane, which offer huge scope of saving natural resources and energy.

Green design for institutional building

Green designs are important today, not only for private houses, but also for institutional buildings like schools, colleges, research institutes, and government buildings. Ms Anupama Kundoo, Assistant Professor at Parsons Design School in New York insisted that such green institutional structures can also be made low cost and that ensuring this could help break down social segregation that constructions may cause.

“High technology is important, but it is affordable only for the elite. For the basic requirements of a majority of India’s population, it is important to look for examples that decrease high embodied energy,” she said, while pointing out that use of traditional materials and technology could bring down the costs of the buildings.

She used the example of reinforced cement to demonstrate the rampant exclusion of a tradition of using local materials, knowledge, and technologies.

Speakers demonstrated unique examples of institutional buildings built on principles of green designes. Mr Surinder Sawhney, Principal Architect for SSAA Architects and Design Consultants in Chandigarh provided several such examples discussing concepts like nature heating and resource optimization, plan efficiency, managing large foot falls, and so on, while Mr N P Singh, Executive Director of Consulting Engineering Services elaborated on the design and planning process for the Institute of Science & Technology project located just outside of Thiruananthapuram.

He showed how the building design prioritized reduced ecological damage and increased optimization of land-use. He highlighted that the project was based on a set of environmental factors that addressed several challenges. It took wind direction into consideration, had to create a reservoir because of lack of access, and was constructed at an altitude of 75 m on a slope.

Mr Sanjay Sinha, head of infrastructure and development at Mahindra World City, talked about his company’s efforts at developing a 3000 acre township, where they were using the green design approach of minimizing demand for non-renewables, use renewable resources, and maximize reuse/recycling.

As far as materials for construction such buildings are concerned, Mr Manish Srivastava, Structural Glass Solutions, Saint Gobain noted that if intelligently used, it can be a good idea—in terms of generating energy, insulating, and for aesthetics of buildings.

National rating system

It is not enough to construct green buildings, but to ensure that they comply with certain standards. This calls for proper rating systems.

Dr Pachauri highlighted the importance of rating systems in his speech saying, “To bring about a major change, ratings based on solid scientific principles, architectural techniques, and methods that stand the test of times are essential. TERI has been at the forefront of this and is fortunate to get MNRE's support and encouragement in this process".

He elaborated on the system saying, “GRIHA rating is tailor-made to local conditions, as against any other overseas ratings, which makes it suitable and practical to be used in India. The uniqueness of this rating, gives an opportunity to be replicated in the building sector across the globe."

Mr Deepak Gupta, Secretary, MNRE, Government of India deliberated on methods to make GRIHA work effectively. “GRIHA cannot work in isolation. It should be integrated in the planning process, incorporated in the bylaws, and in order to mainstream, can be part of BoQ (Bill of Quantity),” he said.

Mr Himangshu Aggarwal described various materials manufactured by BASF Ltd, with relevant GRIHA criteria that each one satisfies, while Mr S Balinga of Central Public Works Department (CPWD) affirmed the decision of all governments and PSU buildings to comply with GRIHA ratings and stressed the need to educate clients, so that they do not start construction, which interfere with the design, and Mr Pranav Anasal stressed that to achieve this, green development aspects has to be introduced in the syllabus for school children.

For better implementation of the rating system, Mr Deepak Gupta strongly advocated setting up a system by putting the principles of green design in the building codes urgently. Citing an example from Kolkata, he pointed out that green rating can even fetch the premium price of buildings for developers.

The two day conference also hosted an exhibition on the sidelines to showcase green building products, energy efficient solutions, and new technologies and services available today to build a sustainable habitat. Prominent and responsible corporate entities committed towards building a sustainable environment, exhibited a range of energy efficient products, which will help lower energy costs, provide comfort as well as enable building a greener future.

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