Green rated buildings found to be energy guzzlers, says CSE study

Several LEED-rated buildings cannot qualify even for the Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s star label programme

IGBC releases data but decides to hide the name of the buildings after CSE’s exposure that several rated buildings are falling below the minimum benchmark of official star rating

  • This is worrying as several state governments are giving fiscal incentives and allowance of extra built-up area to developers to promote private green rating programmes to establish green credential. 

  • Lack of stringent and transparent monitoring of actual energy and resource use during building operation can seriously compromise resource savings 

  • Why should only a few green rated buildings enjoy official sops for meeting the minimum green measures that all buildings must implement? Government incentive should drive only the top line of performance.

  • These are among the key findings of the new book from CSE “Building Sense: Beyond the green façade of sustainable habitat.” 

New Delhi September 29, 2014: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) expresses deep concern that the data put out by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) on energy consumption of large commercial buildings that were rated and awarded silver, gold and platinum rating, under the LEED green rating programme, are grossly underperforming. Several of them cannot qualify even for the one star label under the star labelling programme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) that ranks buildings based on their energy efficiency when operational. 

Initially IGBC, responding to public demand, had published the data on actual energy and water usage in the rated buildings, but it did not disclose the name of the buildings. Subsequently, it also made the positive move of disclosing the names of the buildings on their website. But it promptly withdrew the names from the website after CSE published its analysis of the data showing under performance in the third week of September. This volte face is regressive. Until recently, the green rating systems have been very opaque with no data available in the public domain on the real world performance of the buildings.

The IGBC must continue to publish data by name of the buildings to strengthen the system and ensure that their rated buildings continue to meet the energy efficiency benchmark, says CSE.  The objective of CSE analysis has been to assess if the rated buildings, once they are operational, can meet the requirement of the star labelling programme of BEE.

This is very worrying given the fact that several state governments including Delhi, Rajasthan, cities of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra among others are giving fiscal sops and also allowing extra built up area to developers to get their buildings rated under the LEED or GRIHA rating systems. If the problem of underperformance after construction is not addressed immediately with effective official monitoring and penalty, this can legitimise massive resource inefficiency in the new built up area. This has emerged from the CSE’s new study – “Building Sense: beyond the green façade of sustainable habitat” 

IGBC had originally put out data for 50 out of about 500 buildings (offices, hospitals, hotels, residences etc) it has rated. Nearly half of the day use office buildings and around half of the IT buildings which work for extended hours cannot qualify for even one star label under the BEE’s star labelling programme that ranks operational buildings according to energy use (see ‘Dubious tally’ at the end of this note). Thus, these buildings designed to be energy efficient could not meet the bar for performance. Similar data for GRIHA-rated buildings are not available with CSE. 

Green rating including LEED and GRIHA are a voluntary scheme that is carried out by the private rating agencies based on wide ranging criteria for green measures adopted by the buildings. The corporate sector sees reputation advantage in this. The state governments are supporting this with incentives as this ties all green measures under one scheme which is difficult achieve under single regulation. 

Global learning: Both Union and state governments need to learn from the global experience. Globally, it has been found that without proper monitoring green-rated buildings can perform sub-optimally and even worse than the standard buildings after becoming operational. For example, the US Green Building Council-New Buildings Institute study has shown wide variations in energy performance of LEED-rated buildings in the US. A good number did not even track their annual energy consumption. The National Research Council of Canada shows that on an average, 28-35 per cent of LEED buildings used more energy than their conventional counterparts. This has led US LEED in 2013 to mandate disclosure of water and energy use every year and for at least five years. Otherwise, the label is withdrawn. India needs to reform its system. 

All rating programmes that are backed by official incentives should be made transparent and accountable. Disclosure of data on annual energy and resource use of buildings should be made obligatory. The incentives should be designed to push only the top line of performance and not to promote minimum green measures that should be obligatory for all buildings to meet. There are several requirements of the green rating programmes that are minimum requirements that all buildings to be implementing. 

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 destroy 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. 

Dubious tally

LEED-rated buildings not qualified for one star label under BEE’s star rating programme

LEED certified day use office buildings not qualifying for BEE star label:

i) Climatic Zone- Composite : BEE cut-off for 1star is 190 EPI

  • ITC Ltd., Saharanpur (EPI - 379)
  • Du Pont Knowledge Centre, Hyderabad (EPI - 293)
  • Wipro Technologies, Gurgaon (EPI - 230)

ii) Climatic Zone- Warm and Humid: BEE cut-off for 1star is 200 EPI

  • Wipro Technologies KDC Tower - 4, Kolkata (EPI - 1020)
  • Enercon India Pvt Ltd, Mumbai (EPI - 205)
  • FL Smidth House, Chennai (EPI - 200) 
  • un-named factory office buildings, Chennai (EPI - 287)

iii) Climatic Zone- Temperate: BEE cut-off for 1star is NA

  • ITC Ltd., Bangalore (EPI - 256)
  • Mahindra REVA, Bangalore (EPI - 263)

LEED certified IT office buildings not qualifying for BEE star label:

i) Climatic Zone- Composite : BEE cut-off for 1star is 45 AAhEPI

  • Wipro Technologies, Gurgaon (AAhEPI - 110)
  • Fast Track Building 1&2, Wipro Technologies, Greater Noida (AAhEPI - 81)

ii) Climatic Zone- Warm and Humid: BEE cut-off for 1star is 50 AAhEPI

  • Wipro Technologies KDC Tower - 4, Kolkata (AAhEPI - 490)
  • Chennai Development Center, S3 & S4 blocks, Wipro Technologies, Chennai (AAhEPI - 170)
  • Wipro S1, Kochi (AAhEPI - 127)
  • Wipro Chennai Development Center- SEZ, Chennai (AAhEPI - 81) 
  • Software Development Block 3,Wipro Ltd, Phase II, Hinjewadi, Pune  (AAhEPI - 67)
  • Wipro Limited, Special Economic Zone PDC-2 S2, Pune (AAhEPI - 67) 

iii) Climatic Zone- Temperate: BEE cut-off for 1star is 40 AAhEPI

  • Wipro Special Economic Zone - S2, Bangalore (AAhEPI - 55)
  • Wipro Special Economic Zone (SR) - Tower S3, Bangalore (AAhEPI - 42)