A CSE Webinar & Round table: Enabling Thermal Comfort in Mass Housing

CSE conducted a webinar & round table panel discussion on ‘Enabling thermal Comfort in Mass housing’ on 29 September 2020. This discussion was organized to bring into focus the threat of deprioritization of thermal comfort goals and their implementation due to a ‘COVID-weakened’ economy and the construction sector. The panel comprised decision makers and sector experts who shared their viewpoints and were engaged to draw a roadmap to enable thermal comfort in mass housing. 

Anumita Roychowdhury commenced the discussions by highlighting how increased focus on building affordable housing quickly is leading to use of alternative walling technologies. But this is happening without a strategy for thermal comfort improvement. This puts the India’s Cooling Action Plan goal of reducing national cooling energy need by 20-40 per cent by 2037-38 at risk. Backed with fiscal support, new walling technologies are increasing their penetration in the housing sector even when they are expensive than conventional structures. This downloads the burden of thermal inefficiency and energy related costs of housing to the beneficiary. In light of these issues, Roychowdhury raised the key question of how to combine design and material choice for better thermal performance and shifted to the panel for answers. 

Amrit Abhijat, Joint Secretary and Mission Director (Housing for All), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, opened his remarks with sharing India’s progress in the world’s largest housing programme – Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U) – wherein about 10.7 million houses have been sanctioned and 6.7 million have been grounded for construction out of a demand of 11.2 million dwelling units. The latest initiative—affordable rental housing complexes (ARHC)—comes with a provision of upto 10 per cent of the total construction cost to offset the additional cost of using alternative construction technology as part of Technology Innovation Grant under the Technology Sub-Mission (TSM). At this moment, India needs people who are trained in the use of these new technologies. Mr Abhijat highlighted there is tremendous opportunity to improve the housing sector.  

Rajneesh Sareen, Programme Director, Sustainable Buildings and Habitat Programme, CSE, presented the ongoing research along with the finding and recommendations to enable thermal comfort in mass housing. Mass housing comes with a multiplier effect wherein one decision on layout, design and choice of materials affects thousands of residents. For instance, one of the mass housing sites simulation for ventilation showed that uninformed layouts can affect 60 per cent of the site area adversely. Dr Shailesh Agrawal, Executive Director, Building Material and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), highlights as well that layouts play an instrumental role in providing thermal comfort in mass housing. 

Mr Sareen points that economics drive walling material market much more than performance. To enable thermal comfort, performance needs to be integrated with existing regulatory frameworks such as building approval and environmental compliance. Hariharan Chandrashekar, Founder, AltTech Foundation, asserted that the cost of ensuring thermal comfort can be minimized by innovating and working on the block to have large impact by replicability and scale. M. Nagaraj, Director, Corporate Planning, Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) shared experiences and highlighted fiscal support extended by HUDCO in the form of incentives for green housing. Mr Sareen highlighted that the incentives now need to be linked with performance.

Dr. Rajan Rawal, Executive Director, Centre for Advanced Research in Building Science and Energy, CEPT University pointed that much research is needed in the country on thermal comfort. Data pertaining to performance of buildings developed with alternative technologies is central to strengthen implementation of thermal comfort. Whether these buildings comply to Eco Niwas Samhita 2018 or if these technologies are being tested for their properties such as thermal transmittance values, etc. are other important questions. There is a need to move from technology-fixed approach to performance-based approach. This needs to be mainstreamed and shared with people through awareness programmes. Operations of buildings is another area that requires capacity building. 

Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE, concluded the discussions by drawing that we cannot govern what we cannot measure. Therefore, many efforts need to go into formulation of measurable performance standards and regulation.  When speed is prioritized over thermal comfort and cost of construction in the current regime, it is crucial to address the multiplier effect of mass housing and inform layouts, design and material choice. 

Around 1600 persons registered and 515 attendees participated in this remote discussion. This included several thinktanks, public functionaries, academia, government research institutions, civil society organizations, media among others.

For any other details:

Mitashi Singh,
99997 05515,

Sukanya Nair,
88168 18864,





Webinar recording
Press Release
September 29, 2020
Thermally uncomfortable mass housing can stop India’s National Cooling Action Plan from achieving its target of reducing cooling energy need by 20-40 per cent by 2037-38
Towards thermal comfort in affordable housing sector: Setting the agenda for new normal
By: Anumita Roychowdhury Rajneesh Sareen Sugeet Grover, Mitashi Singh
Opening address
director general, CSE,
New Delhi
Keynote address
Joint Secretary and Mission Director (Housing for All),
Union Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA),
Government of India
Speakers and panellists
Executive Director
Research and Advocacy,
Programme Director,
Sustainable Buildings & Habitat Programme,
Executive Director,
Building Material and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC)
AltTech Foundation
Executive Director,
Center for Advanced Research in Building Science and Energy,
CEPT University
Corporate Planning,
Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO)