Buildings & Habitat: Work Overview

June 23, 2011

The current performance of cities is poor across key indicators of quality of life. A sector report by McKinsey (2010) indicates substantial shortfalls in clean water supply and management,solid waste management, public transportation and affordable and liveable housing supply. By 2030, 250 million people will be added to the urban population, who will require 700-900 million square meters of new residential and commercial space (Census 2011; McKinsey Global Institute, 2010. 

On current trends, quality of habitat is going to deteriorate even further and the service gap will increase by three to four times.Further, the economic and environmental costs of such scenario are going to be extremely high. 

CSE’s programme on Sustainable Buildings and Habitat pushes for stringent steps to cut the resource imprint and uplift the environmental performance of the built stock. It advocates mainstreaming sustainability, energy efficiency and resource sufficiency in the built sector and an accessible quality habitat in national and state level policies and practice. 

Buildings are at the core of all our demand. Buildings require materials, energy, water and also generate waste, while need to be maintained as well.India’s built sector is responsible for 23.6 per cent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Parikh et al., 2009). Much of these emissions is constituted by electricity consumption. 

About 30 per cent of the national electricity consumption is marked by buildings, mainly for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). This share is growing at an alarmingannual rate of 8 per cent, given the rapidly rising urban and resource intensive lifestyle.On the other hand, the country has committed to cut overall emissions by 33% by 2030(Government of India, 2017).Therefore, a more robust energy regime in built environment is crucial to reduce GHGemissions. 

CSE advocates sustainable building practices that keep adaptive comfort, climate responsiveness, resilience, low-impact and affordability as fundamental criteria for any development. Sustainable practices have shown toreduce energy dependence, resource use and waste generationsubstantially.In line with the same, CSE persuades the national and state governments to agree to develop certain performance parameters to ensure the national emission reduction target is met. 

The broader aim of theprogrammeis approached at by intervening through following initiatives: 

Sustainability in Built Environment:
CSE has extensive advocacy around environmental conditions as required for the environmental impact assessment (under the EIA Notification 2006) for clearance of buildings. Environmental clearance occurs at state level and central level, while the process of building permission and layout approvals lie with municipal bodies.This results in uncoordinated development, provisions and monitoring processes leading to underperformance of the built stock. CSE addresses the involved institutional structures and support them to curb the adverse effect of such mis-coordination. 

As per the EIA notification 2006 construction falling within built area category of 5,000-20,000 sqm is devoid of any sustainability and environmental compliance. According to a draft EIA Notification 2018, this bracket may extend up to 50,000 sqm, taking even more built stock out of the environment clearance purview.CSE is working with states to influence this provision by including address to materials, energy efficiency and passive design techniques in their bye laws so as to maximize adaptive comfort and environmental performance in built structures. Further CSE builds capacity at the local government level to enable and ensure effective adoption of such provisioning. 

CSE handholds with campuses (neighbourhood scale habitat) to enable their inhabitants on efficient operations and resource management of existing built stock. This is aimed at getting the campuses to commit to resource footprint reduction under a green campus regime. 

CSE intercepts the core of built environment education and capacity by engaging with academic institutions and professional bodies, such as Council of Architecture and Institute of Town Planners India, aiming to mainstream sustainability in academic curricula and professional practice.  

Energy Efficiency
Energy aligns as a key resource considering the rapid shift of the country to energy intensive lifestyle and its national emission reduction commitments. CSE guides adoption of energy conservation and efficiency measures–by fostering adaptive comfort in buildings through design and material interventions – at national and state levels by incorporation in respective energy codes and building bye laws. 

CSE is involved in a detailed investigation on various walling assemblies in mass housing based on parameters such as thermal transmittance, solar heat gain and climate responsiveness, etc. The investigation is focused at embedding adaptive comfort and improved environmental performance in housing construction. 

Other interventions include guidance on effective implementation of Energy Conservation Building Code in different typologies (commercial and residential), improvement in efficiency standards of cooling appliances and systems, and creation of key energy efficiency requisites in built sector for incorporation in building codes/byelaws. 

Circular Economy:
Resource sufficiency in the built sector is targeted through circular economy principles. A closed loop ensures recycle and reduce virgin resource requirement, which can potentially enable monetary savings. CSE aims at closing the loop by responsible management, consumption and production of resources. The programme pushes for improved estimations on construction and demolition (C&D) waste, guidance and capacitation on design of C&D waste handling facilities and requisite provisioning of the processed/derived materials in procurement rules to close the loop.Thisprogrammefurther works with states and local bodies in nuanced adoption of the C&D waste rules and provides handholding to the implementing institutions.

Affordable Housing:
The target set by Housing for All mission has triggered massive development which generates a need to check and bring down its environmental impact. As part of its ongoing campaign, CSE has been pushing for facilitation of quality habitat to urban poor and adoption and application of resource and energy efficiency measures, through design innovation, material selection, alternative construction technique and technologies in housing. The adoption needs to be advocated and technically supported at state level where state policies are being set and implementation takes place. CSE is working with states by focusing on bringing in adaptive comfort, affordability and sustainability in the housing construction.

Capacity Building:
CSE has been successful in creating an extensive network of built professionals including architects, engineers, researchers, policymakers, regulators, academicians and civil society to create a platform for knowledge sharing and cross learning. The network enables propagation and augmentation of the new development practices required to achieve national sustainability targets.CSE sensitizes and builds capacity of the actors of the built environment on the above initiatives and associated practices respectively to enable them to build, operate and demand sustainable buildings and habitat.