Change the Practice
The CSE study has pointed out that India is locked in a frenzy of construction to meet the clamour for homes, offices, and shops. A staggering two-third of buildings that will stand in India in 2030 are yet to be built. Unlike the developed world, the challenge is not to retrofit the already built to make it green; but to build new, which is efficient, sustainable, affordable and comfortable for all.
While individually buildings have substantial impact on the surrounding environment, cumulatively and together they make significant impact on the urban environment. Building sector causes 40 per cent of carbon emissions, 30 per cent of solid wastes, and 20 per cent of water effluents. Waste from their demolition and repair destroys our water bodies, open spaces and vegetation. This is a new area of governance and needs technically complex regulations and enforcement to push resource efficiency and sufficiency while meeting growing aspirations for human comfort.
CSE review also shows that if green building norms are not designed right, they can lead to unintended consequences. For example, review of existing energy regulations for buildings like the Energy Conservation Building Code shows that these are designed to improve energy efficiency of air conditioned buildings. While such policies are needed for quick uptake of energy efficient technologies for heating and cooling and household appliances, these cannot provide the full solution.
These are not adequate to promote architectural techniques of shading, day lighting, air flow, climate friendly material to reduce dependence on energy intensive mechanical methods for cooling and heating. India has the opportunity to plan its future building stock differently as the current penetration of air conditioning is only 3 per cent of the built up area. A system approach based on architectural methods as well as energy efficient technologies is needed. This can reduce energy intensive air conditioned spaces in buildings and avoid captive use of air conditioning throughout the year and day in most climates prevent the paradigm of fully air conditioned glass monstrosities in all climates. Indian needs to innovate to find more sustainable solutions to meet the aspired comfort.
The Way Forward
India needs appropriate green norms to benchmark energy and water use, minimize waste, and develop monitoring and compliance strategies. If not done right, even green norms can lead to damaging trade-offs and unintended consequences.
Urgent steps are needed to chart the roadmap to enable the following:
- Incentives for developers should be linked only with stringent benchmark for the top line and not with minimum green measures that all buildings must do.
- Set quantifiable energy performance targets for different building typologies to reduce overall energy intensity and consumption over time.
- Reform Energy Conservation Building Code to make the efficiency requirement more climate sensitive. Create more policy opportunities for use of natural ventilation, shading and day lighting to improve thermal comfort and reduce mechanical cooling of spaces inside buildings and also over use of glass in facades.
- Improve building star rating programme and make star rating mandatory to improve operational performance.
- Make appliance rating more stringent for quicker uptake of super efficient technologies.
- Introduce mandatory energy and water audit and consumption based energy and water billing to improve operational efficiency of all buildings.
- Need legal framework for post-construction performance, accountability and transparency to ensure that the buildings remain high performing.
- Need policies for improvement in thermal comfort of the houses being made for the poor.
- Make it obligatory for all buildings to disclose publicly the data on annual energy and water usage along with the built up area.
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