Greening our Buildings: What is the Government Doing?

There is little doubt that the urbanization in India would continue to grow, as would be the growth of buildings and construction sector.

The growing demand for resources and intensity of its use, therefore requires innovative and forward thinking in terms of regulatory and policies reforms to reduce its impact on the environment. The key policy challenge is how resource savings in key sectors like energy and water can be achieved effectively and sustained in the future.

The regulatory action to reduce water, energy and other resource impacts of the building sector has started in India. A range of policies, legislations and local building bye laws have emerged that should that shape up the regulatory framework. Here is a quick highlight of the key policies and regulatory mechanisms emerging in the country today to promote resource use efficiency and management with focus on energy and water.

Emerging policy and regulatory tools and opportunities realise the resource saving potential

Energy conservation act 2001: Following this the Bureau of Energy Efficiency was established under the Ministry of Power to implement the Act. The Act requires large energy consumers to meet the energy conservation norms, large commercial buildings to meet the energy building code, and appliances to meet energy consumption standards and label.

Integrated Energy Policy 2006: This policy has identified key areas in the building sector for energy efficiency measures. This includes building design, construction, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and household appliances. It has asked for mandatory periodic energy audits for all buildings with loads above 1 MW also for all government buildings. It has also asked for energy benchmarking of buildings to be done by BEE.

Missions under the national climate action plan: The Enhanced Energy Efficiency Mission has provided for market transformation for energy efficiency. This has recommended mandatory labelling of appliances and equipment, mandatory maximum energy efficiency norms per square feet for new buildings as well as existing building (through retrofits) to be ECBC compliant. Replacement of inefficient appliances and fiscal instruments.
Similarly, the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat has also recommended strategies for mitigation that include harmonising energy building code with the national building code, implementation strategies and incentives, building performance and rating systems, demonstration projects, consumer awareness programmes, enhance appliance standards and labelling, etc.

National Solar Mission is relevant from the perspective of the encouragement of the application of the rooftop solar PV and small power plats to replace diesel gen sets etc. There are also indirect benefits of utility based incentive programmes.

National Building Code: Building by-laws are under the state governments. The Bureau of Indian Standards has developed the National Building Code (NBC) in the 1980s that guides municipalities and development authorities on building by-laws. The voluntary code covers most aspects of building design and construction, with a small part dedicated to energy efficiency. NBC was revised in 2005. In the latest version, the code provides guidance on aspects of energy conservation (related to Day lighting and Natural Ventilation). NBC provides general guidance on potential energy-efficiency aspects of such factors as daylight integration, artificial lighting requirements, and HVAC design standards.

Energy conservation building code (ECBC): BEE has framed the ECBC to reduce India’s baseline energy consumption. It takes into account climatic zone variation and occupancy of the buildings and provides minimum standards for reducing energy demand through design and construction practices. ECBC is now voluntary and applies to large commercial building and is applicable to all buildings with a large air-conditioned floor area. ECBC has both prescriptive and performance-based compliance paths. The prescriptive aspect requires minimum requirements for the building envelope and energy systems (lighting, HVAC, service water heating and electrical). The performance-based compliance path requires the application of Whole Building Simulation Approach to prove efficiency over base building as defined by the code. This leaves the code inherently flexible and easy to adopt. There are several references to the NBC in the ECBC, especially for natural ventilation, day lighting, lighting, comfort, and other standards.

Environment Impact Assessment: Environment impact assessment requirement under the Environmental Protection Act (1986) cover large-scale developmental activities. This includes buildings with more than 20,000 sq meters. Builders and developers need environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests before beginning large construction projects. This is a composite requirement for green buildings that includes energy and other resource and waste management.

Appliance standards and labelling:  BEE has started a scheme of labelling many consumer products and supports it with minimum energy efficiency standards. The products covered by the standards and labeling program include refrigerators, air conditioners, fluorescent tube lights, domestic water heaters, TVs, set top boxes, ceiling Fans, distribution transformers, induction motors and others and agricultural pump sets. The program aims to cover most of the end-use appliances under the mandatory standards and labelling program in the next few years. The energy performance of the highest star level can be significantly higher than the non-start and lower star products.

Building certification:  Green Rating for Integrated Housing Assessment (GRIHA): The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and TERI has developed the nationally accredited Green Building rating system for buildings with conditioned and non-conditioned spaces under different climatic conditions. The energy efficiency buildings, based on the traditional vernacular building design with the inclusion of passive cooling techniques, solar integrated photovoltaic design for roof, originally viewed towards energy savings at individual dwelling unit. In addition, the building is designed according to the modern specifications for energy saving, star rated household appliances, possible use of renewable energy, recycled building materials etc. as mentioned in its green rating system.  The actually saving percentage and environmental benefits differ at building scale level, however, 30% saving from baseline building energy consumption is expected from GRIHA rating compliance.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): The LEED rating system is completely a voluntary system and has established very interesting green building projects across in India. The Indian Green Building Council formed under the guideline of US based Green Building Council (USGBC) with support from World Green Building Council, CII and Government of Andhra Pradesh. The LEED certified green building foot print has grown since from first green building project of 20,000 Sq.ft. constructed in 2002 to the total registered project accounting 466.22 million sq.ft as per mentioned in IGBC website. Approximately the 40-50% rise from 2002 to 2010 in green building footprint annually for IGBC shows the awareness amongst corporate and individual consumers for energy saving, green building and their business alike.

State Level action: Many states have active designated state agencies under the Energy Conservation Act that work with BEE to develop and implement state level energy efficiency policies and programs. Some state governments have taken initiatives to legislate select measures (e.g., use of solar water heating in residential/commercial buildings, or the use of cfl etc). But scale of these programmes is still very small.

National Water Policy, 2002- The NWP 2002, clearly states the need for conservation of water through promotion of conservation consciousness, maximizing retention and minimising losses.  .

This implies that the national policy that guides water policies and laws in India has also recognized efficiency improvement and conservation of water as key to water resource management in India.

State Water Policies- The national water policy has been supplemented by the state water policies and both share common principles. So far the State Water Policies have been finalized and adopted by 11 states. Both the NWP and SWP which is a vision document for policies and strategies at centre and state level is useful when drafting specific reforms and measures for water efficiency improvement.

National Water Mission (NWM) - The NWM is under the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) and its main objective is conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring its more equitable distribution both across and within the states through integrated water resources development and management. Of the five main goals of the mission, the fourth goal is on increasing water use efficiency by 20%.

National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH)- The Mission on Sustainable Habitat aims to make cities sustainable by promoting sustainability of habitats through improvements in energy efficiency in buildings, urban planning, improved management of solid and liquid waste, modal shift towards public transport and conservation through appropriate changes in legal and regulatory framework and is the responsibility of the Ministry of Urban Development.