The building sector in India is set to grow exponentially. It already has a huge environmental footprint, with the domestic and commercial sectors consuming some 30 per cent of India’s electricity. The imperative to go green, therefore, is clear. The question is where, and how.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has issued the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) to improve energy performance of buildings by 40-60 per cent. But the use of the code in design is not linked to the actual performance of a building after it has been commissioned. What the BEE has in addition is a voluntary starrating scheme for operational buildings which sets the energy performance index (EPI) of four categories of buildings: day use office, IT/BPO, hospital and retail malls. EPI is calculated differently for different building typologies and the benchmark varies as per climatic zones. But the rating programme has no direct link to ECBC. As a result, there is no data to show what the design has achieved and no feedback that could lead to improvement in the design based on operational experience.

There are two other green building certifying agencies in the country. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) started out as a US initiative but is now wholly Indian and is promoted by the CIISohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre. It runs a certification programme that rates buildings platinum, gold or silver, based on different criteria. New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has its Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA). Many state governments provide fiscal incentives and even bonus floor area ratio (FAR) to builders who produce green certificates from these agencies.

The actual proof, however, lies in the real use of energy and water in a commissioned building. But there is little data on this. In other words, governments are giving away largesse without any verification. A few months ago, the IGBC put on its website information on the actual energy and water consumption of 50 of the buildings it had rated out of some 450. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) analysed this data to assess the performance of these buildings. (See table: CSE Analysis of LEEDIGBC performance monitoring data accessed on Janurary 2014).

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