“The biggest decision maker in making the green shift in Indian real estate sector is the developer”
Close on the heels of World Environment Day, a research facility was launched at Teri Centre on June 12, in Gurugram to promote an energy-efficient real estate ecosystem in India. The research facility called Centre of Excellence (CoE), has been collaboratively developed by Mahindra Lifespace Developers and TERI, and it showcases different energy efficient building materials and green construction technologies for the industry.
According to Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group- “India has the opportunity to be the world’s largest laboratory for doing things differently — be it future of urbanisation, or mobility, or climate change. The Mahindra- TERI CoE embodies our focus on sustainability beyond just business- towards creating a larger urban stakeholder ecosystem that can power a transformative ‘green shift’ across India’s cities and towns.” The information is in public domain and “this will positively influence the Indian construction industry to develop innovative and sustainable solutions, thereby building a robust green supply chain ecosystem,” said Anita Arjundas, Managing Director, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd
Dr Ajay Mathur- Director General of TERI - The Energy & Resources Institute shares insights on the recent trends in the industry. Edited excerpts:
According to industry estimates, buildings consume 40% energy, and the building sector specifically poses a major challenge to energy conservation. Are these technologies being developed at your research facility, relevant from the time after the building is ready or from the start of construction itself?
It is from the start of construction itself. And making use of waste materials from older buildings is important. At the Griha Summit last year at India Habitat centre, we put up a room displaying materials that had some percentage of waste materials whether it was the tile, wall, roof, windows etc. The short point is there is a way to handle construction and demolition waste. But once the building is built, the options are relatively low. Retrofitting is difficult.
The CoE is about characterizing the various green building and construction materials that are available in the market today- we have put up information on locally available building materials in our research centre, giving all kinds of details such as conductivity, how one should use it etc. Its a light house of information and is very much in the public domain. Teri is planning to open similar centre at Bengaluru and Guwahati too, keeping in mind the specific climatic conditions in South and North East India.
What are the specific technologies that help save energy and are less polluting in manufacturing and implementation?
The first is using building materials which emit less heat. We have displayed these bricks at CoE which are hol- low. The air essentially acts as a great insulator and prevents the heat from coming in. The second thing is to have two layers of walls and insulation in between. Likewise for roof. The third is for windows. The thing with windows is that it allows light to come in, but the problem is that apart from the light, there is heat and air that enters the room. One needs the right glazing fenestration material. For instance with a double glazed window with nitrogen in between, you get the light but 40% of the heat gets cut out. The idea should be to use material that is locally available and that which helps the building become sustainable.
While making the green shift in Indian real estate, who do you think needs to be educated first? Where does the buck stop the architect, contractors or devel oper?
The developer is the one who decides what to use and not to use. Next comes the architect or the engineer who is designing the building and he should know exactly what to use, when to use, how much to use.
Ultimately the beneficiary is everybody. These are locally procured materials and their prices become competitive as the volumes increase.
Going green has its own expense. After all everything has a cost attached to it. But how proactive is industry and policymakers to help India make that transition to green energy.
One of the things that we have learnt is that the price of green buildings has been reducing dramatically. In 2008-9, when we built the first green building in India and that was Centre of science and engineering at IIT Kanpur, it costed 20% more. But with the next project of Aranya bhawan at Rajasthan (Forest Headquarters, Rajasthan) the additional cost was only 2%. All of these are the first costs. The energy saving over a period of time more than compensates the additional cost. Today the Kanpur building registers energy saving of 70%. And today in places where you have a generator, it becomes half the size because of less energy.
Teri is trying to promote renewable sources of energy. You have said that India is on the cusp of energy change and solar power will cost less than thermal in 67 years. How soon will buildings adopt renewable source of energy?
This is already happening. Solar energy is now cheaper than thermal and is costing Rs 2.44 paise a unit while coal electricity is available at average price of Rs 3.50. But obviously the solar energy is available when sun is shining. So what happens when the sun is not shining is a challenge. Solar batteries are expensive right now. But I am sure that by 2025, solar batteries will become cheaper and solar energy will drive the world.
In India, it is estimated that by 2021 the electricity consumption through space cooling and heating appliances will grow by 180% due to affordability of these appliances and changing lifestyles. You brought initiatives such as the star labelling programme for appliances, the Energy Conservation Building Code, as Director General of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency in the Government of India. Which sectors responded well and how do you rate the real estate sector?
All the energy intensive industries responded well and the consumer was very receptive to star ratings. Alas the buildings sector ranked the lowest and I don’t think it was developers’ fault. Perhaps it was a matter of how the message was transmitted, the right message was not sent in the right manner. After all, there are millions of contractors, masons etc in the industry. Do they know where to get it from and how to use it? The fact is that the supply chain and entire real estate and construction ecosystem has taken much longer than I expected.
Finally, any tips for consumer to bring energy efficiency into their homes, offices, and factories?
Customers must take care that whatever they are purchasing for their home such as refrigerator, air con, microwave, they must opt for the most energy efficient product with star ratings. Second please don’t use anything when you don’t need it. One should ask oneself- do I really need the air con for five hours or can I reduce it to two. Besides, if you are building a house, please add insulation to it. Then instead of a 1.5 tonne air con, you will only need a 1 tonne aircon and the long term expenses will come down dramatically. It’s allways a combination of various factors such as your choice of equipment, kind of infrastructure and finally customer behaviour that determines energy efficiency in the long run.