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Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Meticulous Implementation of Building Code is the Crux of the Problem, Shri R V Shahi, Former Secretary, Ministry of Power

After almost three years of extensive preparatory work and consultation process, the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) was launched by the Union Power Minister in May 2007. This marks a major milestone in our march toward efficient energy consumption policy and practice. It has been emphasized time and again that in management of our energy resources we are faced with a paradoxical situation. We are an energy starved nation, like many other countries, but we also indulge in the luxury of highly inefficient consumption practices. Studies conducted on a random basis have established that in India inefficient consumption of energy leads to as much as 23% of excess consumption, which could be saved if we achieved the ideal level of efficient consumption pattern and practices. Another characteristic that energy starved nations have, are excessive shortages, high costs due to high losses and yet they have been, by and large, unable to communicate effectively across all segments of consumers for their effective contribution in energy conservation measures.

Lighting load alone constitutes almost 18 to 20% of the total consumption. The ideal situation should have been that, through use of efficient lighting systems and also efficient habits, the lighting load is brought down to about 10%. Obviously, consumption of energy including electricity is much larger in industrial sector and savings in this sector could mean a significant dent in our drive to reduce electricity consumption across the country. This is a subject by itself. In this discussion we are confining to yet another large contributor to inefficient energy consumption in large buildings - Office Complexes, Departmental Stores, Shopping Malls and huge Residential Complexes. Savings effected in this category of consumption could also mean significant positive effect on overall management of energy and electricity supply aimed at minimizing the gap between demand and supply.

Energy Conservation Act was legislated in late 2001. By way of implementation of this Act, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) was put in place in April 2002. The Ministry of Power and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency formulated a National Action Plan for energy conservation which was launched in September, 2002, by the then Prime Minister. There are a number of directions on which this national action plan has been structured. One of these directions is in relation to identification of energy savings potentials in buildings and to that end the action plan stipulated evolution of Building Codes. While the exercise to prepare Building Codes commenced in 2003-04 itself, since it required to be a comprehensive consultative process and considerable amount of ground work, as a strategy it was decided that some immediate action should be taken to convey, across the country, the need, rationale and message of energy conservation particularly in buildings. Accordingly, it was decided that starting from Rashtrapati Bhawan some of the large buildings of the Govt. Of India should be taken up, in the first instance, to conduct energy audits and to implement energy efficiency projects. Eight such buildings including the Prime Minister's Office in the South Block, All India Institute of Medical Sciences etc. were identified. The initial studies conducted established a saving potential of the order of 25 to 30%. The idea was to cover more Govt. of India buildings in Delhi and outside. Similar actions were suggested to be taken by various state governments for Govt. offices. It is heartening to suggest that, besides other buildings, the energy conservation project in Rashtrapati Bhawan was completed in 2005 and was accordingly declared concluded by Hon'ble President of India on National Energy Conservation Day in December 2005. Now it has been established that saving and electricity consumption in Rashtrapati Bhawan has been of the order of about 30%.

In the recent years, when there is a boom in the construction industry, following the overall accelerated pace of economic growth, the subject of energy consumption and therefore conservation in large buildings has assumed even greater relevance. As mentioned, the exercise on preparation of energy conservation Building Codes started in 2003-04. When task forces for different segments of electricity consumption were created around the important national action agenda items, task force was also created to work on energy conservation in buildings. Apart from other stake holders, Institute of Architects and a few other eminent experts in the field were associated in this exercise. The objective was to evolve and formulate not only the strategy but also implementable Action Plans.

Right in the beginning it was considered necessary that before a line of action or principle is made mandatory it would be essential that its acceptance is established through voluntary compliance in the initial stage. Such an approach is likely to be more effective and successful. Another issue to consider was the distinctive approach to large buildings that are still at the drawing board stage and therefore when they would be constructed there could be scope to incorporate all requirements of efficient energy consumption. However, in cases of old buildings, retrofitting of energy efficiency projects could create different types of problems specific to different types of buildings and their construction. In a way, this problem was also faced in respect of the first eight buildings in Delhi which were chosen to be subjected to energy audit. For example, the saving in the case of Rashtrapati Bhawan could have been significantly higher if the constraints of existing construction and architecture were not there. Many of the suggestions therefore had to be moderated so as to avoid any major modifications in the building itself. Keeping this approach in mind, the national action plan obviously then would have to follow a set of principles and guidelines for the existing buildings, which might be significantly different from those applicable to new creations.

The aspects which need to be covered in designing an energy efficient building would include layout, the building material, the type of wall, roof and floorings, design and placements of windows and above all the type of lighting, heating and cooling systems etc. Invariably it is seen that buildings do not take advantage of availability of natural light. It may be possible that in certain situations full or even partial sunlight may not be available. But, whenever such availability can be secured through proper layouts and designs or architecture, it would be necessary that this consideration is kept uppermost in mind. Similar approach is required for ventilation. Quite often when we visit some of the ancient building complexes or monuments, we are pleasantly surprised seeing the design features and architecture of these buildings which have taken into account adequately the availability of natural light and ventilation.

In last five years there have been sea changes in the landscape in the field of real estate and more particularly in the sizes and types of office complexes and shopping malls. This phenomenon is not restricted only to major metros, but in the last couple of years it has extended to several towns and cities in the country. According to a report prepared by Deutsche Bank on India's Commercial Real Estate market, the office space is likely to increase by nearly 20 Million sq.ft. per year in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to keep pace with the growing demand. For the country as a whole, the office space requirement would of the order of 55 Million sq.ft. per year. The demand for office space is being driven by ever increasing share of service sector. The demand pattern is clearly shifting from the old central business districts to secondary centers such as office and I.T. Parks etc. This is so because modern buildings in altogether in new areas are better planned and they provide high quality construction and better office standards. The All India Office Space Market, as mentioned, is predominated by service sectors, but more particularly by I.T. Group. More than 7000 I.T. Centers account for almost 70% of the office space market, 15% is contributed by the financial services group and the balance by others.

According to the report of the Deutsche Bank, as referred to earlier, by the end of 2008 the Shopping Centers and Malls would contribute to almost 80 Million sq.ft. located in about 260 centers in 15 cities of the country. The way the development of Malls is taking place, may be that the actual build up far exceeds these estimates.

In addition to the large scale development of office space and shopping centers/malls, the country is also witnessing and experiencing massive construction programmes of modern residential complexes. In large cities and in satellite townships of these cities. development of National Highways including the golden quantilateral and express ways are further facilitating this process of development of integrated townships. All these developments, however, are also becoming a cause of serious concern on account of indiscrete approach to their planning and design particularly from the point of view of the demands that they would place on energy and electricity consumption. The approach of Town Development Authorities, Municipal Corporations and Municipalities has, in most cases, not captured this urgent need of designing energy efficient buildings while sanctioning these projects and schemes.

Development of Building Code is a reminder to all such authorities, developers, architects and users that while designing and constructing, no doubt, it is important to provide the required amenities and facilities, the required level of safety, adequate fire protection systems, it is equally important to keep in mind that these buildings also require most optimal level of energy and electricity consumption. It is always a trade off between the capital cost and the revenue burden. What is important to underscore is that just with a marginal increase in the capital cost by way of energy efficient design and energy efficient materials, there could be more than commensurate savings in consumption of electricity. It has been seen that the energy efficiency project capital cost are recovered invariably within a period of 2 to 3 years. Thus, such buildings not only make economic sense but they also solve a national purpose of mitigating the hardships caused by mismatch between demand and supply of energy.

The objective of ECBC is to establish minimum efficiency standards for design of buildings in terms of consumption of electricity. Energy Performance Index of buildings in India varies between 200 to 400 KWHR per sq.meter per year, as compared to, for similar buildings in North America, less than 150 KWHR per sq.meter per year. As a matter of fact, energy conscious building designs have demonstrated the energy performance index of 100 to 150 KWHR per sq.meter per year. The general experience has been that the builders have not been very enthusiastic about such buildings because they entail larger capital costs while the benefit of reduced energy consumption goes to the customer. In a way, this is a general road block, proving to be an unassailable barrier for all areas of energy conservation. Energy Efficiency Schemes, to start with, require capital investment, savings come later. The question is a conviction on the part of the developer that apart from other features of the building complex he could also demonstrate the efficient electricity consumption to be more than offsetting the larger capital investments. The issue is one of commitment toward conservation. If architects, designers and builders all work in tandem, with reduced energy consumption as an objective, it should not be an insurmountable task to convince the clients and customers.

The approach of developing the Building Code has generally followed the principles covering (a) extensive consultation with the stake holders, (b) due regard to the local conditions including the climatic features of the area, customs and construction practices, (c) emphasizing on maximizing building envelop so as to capture daylight and natural ventilation, (d) extensive data collection across the sizes and types of buildings in different geographical areas, (e) development of simulated base line case. This approach has helped in evolving realistic norms of consumption. Right from the beginning the approach was not to cover all buildings but follow the principle of A-B-C control. Accordingly, the Building Code has been notified to cover all such commercial buildings where connected load is more than 500 KW, or contract demand is more than 600 KVA. These buildings have been mandatorily included. The Code also prescribes a recommendatory approach for such air-conditioned buildings whose area is more than 1000 sq. meter. The whole country has been, for the purpose of this Code, classified into five climatic zones and the norms that have been developed have given due regard to the climatic conditions.

It has been estimated that if we follow the ECBC norms we could reduce our consumption from about 200 KWHR per. sq. meter per year to about 120-160 KWHR per sq. meter per year, i.e. reduction of the order of 30 to 40%.

On 31st August, 2007, the India Energy Forum had organized a discussion on energy conservation in Designated Industries, Building Codes and Labeling. Apart from other subjects on the agenda, with reference to the issue of Building Codes, Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General of Bureau of Energy Efficiency, made a comprehensive presentation on all the issues involved. The impact that an exercise of energy efficiency in buildings and committed compliance to the initiative of Building Codes can make may be demonstrated the two examples that he gave. The charts given below present the case study of I.I.T., Kanpur and of Fortis Hospital. In the case of the building at I.I.T. Kanpur, it can be seen that the electricity consumption can be reduced through various initiatives from the base case of 240 KWHR per sq.meter per year to as low as 90 KWHR per sq.meter per year. In the case of Fortis Hospital the reduction is from 605 KWHR to 312 KWHR per sq.meter per year.

Case Study - I : CSES, IIT, Kanpur

Case study - II: Fortis Hospital

One of the issues that really poses a serious concern is in relation to enforcement or implementation of the norms that are prescribed in the Building Codes. The challenge is two- fold - firstly, response and action by architects, designers, developers and builders and secondly, the agency which will be made responsible for enforcement. In a way this is a general problem for any such initiative in the country on any issue which has a connection with governance or with regulatory mechanism. In the case of energy conservation, right in the initial years of Bureau of Energy Efficiency it was deliberated that a huge bureaucratic system or an Inspector Raj should be avoided. It was a well considered conclusion that for honest implementation, substantial involvement of stake holders at the stage of evolution and formulation of guidelines and norms could fetch a more responsive and sincere approach from them during implementation. For enforcement again, it was a well considered conclusion that developing suitable expert agencies, granting them recognition and accreditation, with random auditing mechanism, could serve the purpose better than creating a huge governmental agency. This approach could, however, require a lot of activities for capacity building. We need to create such independent agencies and empower them with knowledge and skill.

Way Forward

In conclusion the following outline could be put forward by way of next steps and action for meticulous implementation of the Building Codes. The whole scheme is wonderfully well conceived and structured. Its formulation with participation of all concerned has made it a fully workable initiative. However, all care and caution are needed to ensure its proper implementation. Role of state government agencies and their full commitment would be a must. It is here where Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Power Ministry would have to seek and secure that commitment.

  • For the new buildings, Municipal Authorities must be charged with the responsibility to ensure that the Building Codes are followed. Before allowing construction, energy audit of design and features should be made mandatory.

  • Architects and designers have a very important and specific role to make it a success. Through a suitable administrative order, but more importantly through proper interactions with them, it should be ensured that no new building is proposed without due regard to the requirements of Building Codes.

  • There could be a period of transition, say three years, after which non-compliance at the stage of design and construction should lead to disqualification of the concerned architects/designers and builders.

  • Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency need to take suitable steps for capacity building to create energy audit agencies so that they could be given accreditation and be relied upon for certification by them.

  • Very large developers should be encouraged, subsequently even obligated, to engage Energy Managers in the process of their design and construction activities.

  • A lot of efforts and work have to go in for making in the market energy efficient products namely building materials, fittings and fixtures available so that they are used in construction of buildings.

  • The labeling programme is already in implementation. Energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems must be encouraged to replace inefficient and less efficient systems.

  • For existing buildings, starting with State and Central Government buildings, phased programmes for energy audit and retrofitting should be drawn and implemented.

  • A Green Building Rating System to be administered by Bureau of Energy Efficiency could, with suitable rewards, motivate and inspire all concerned.

  • Last but not the least, awareness programmes will play the most important role in making the whole scheme successful. Bureau of Energy Efficiency, with the help of network of NGO's, Academic Institutions, other agencies as well as through deployment of latest of communication strategy including conferences, press and media, could co-ordinate an integrated approach on this issue.