Home Spotlight India needs to be aggressive in its green building push

India needs to be aggressive in its green building push

India has committed to reducing emissions by 33-35 per cent, increasing non-fossil based power capacity and reducing carbon by almost three billion tonnes by 2030. Further, India with the second highest population, has a leading role to play in climate change mitigation efforts. Yes, India has one of the lowest per capita energy consumption rates in the world – but that has more to do with lack of affordability than awareness about energy conservation. As the per capita income of the people grows, energy consumption per head to will go up in the coming years.

Projections may scare you  

Buildings sector (residential and commercial) constitutes 33% of total electricity consumption in India. Buildings sector consumes about 372 billion units, as per the 2017-18 figures of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. If current scenario continues, electricity demand will rise from 372 TWh/year to 4,697 TWh/year and buildings will demand 55% of total electricity generated by 2047. Electricity demand in residential and commercial buildings sectors is predicted to rise by 5 folds and 3 folds respectively by 2032.

We need ECBC desperately

Buildings being one of the main energy guzzlers there is increasing need to implement energy conservation measures in buildings. Its often said that more than 70 per cent of the buildings that will exist in India in 2030 have yet to be built. This makes the task that much easier as substantial  energy efficiency can be achieved by focusing on new buildings than retrofitting the existing structures. That’s where the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) gains significance and its implementation holds the key for achieving our goal.

New ECBC launched in 2017

ECBC sets minimum energy standards for new commercial buildings having a connected load of 100 kW or contract demand of 120 kVA or more. The code provides for comfortable living while reducing energy consumption and green house gases by adopting passive design strategies and day light integration. It promotes renewable energy and reduces the life cycle costs of the building. The updated comprehensive code was launched in 2017, which had additional preference for renewable energy integration, ease of compliance, inclusion of passive building design strategies and, flexibility for the designers. ECBC 2017 is one of the first building energy codes to recognize beyond code performance with major updates pertaining to inclusion of incremental, voluntary energy efficiency performance levels. However, till date only three states have made application of ECBC mandatory. In other words, all good intentions of the government have remained only on paper and nothing much has changed on ground since the launch of new ECBC. It should be noted that implementation of ECBC at the ground level is not possible just through gazette notification but involves several other steps.

Separate Code for residential buildings

A separate Code for residential buildings, namely Eco Niwas Samhita, Part-I Building Envelope (Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Sector) was launched in 2018. This Code is voluntary in nature and prescribes standards for minimum building envelope performance to limit heat gains (for hot climates) and to limit heat loss (for cold climates) as well as for ensuring adequate natural ventilation and day lighting potential. Being voluntary in nature, the code will take considerable time to become effective. Even the houses constructed under ‘Housing for All’ do not take these codes seriously, leave alone other private houses. The government is constructing 20 million homes for the homeless and in fact, the new code would have been a good launch pad for creating awareness among the people.

Code implementation poor so far

In few states/UTs (Karnataka, Delhi, AP, Gujarat, Telangana, etc.), ECBC has already been included in unified building byelaws10 (which have to be followed by all their cities) but still there are not many examples of buildings which comply with ECBC in these cities which shows that mere inclusion in byelaws does not ensure implementation of ECBC on ground. Impactful implementation requires policy, institutional setup and implementation capacity. With the existing policy setup, the link between the institutional setup and capacity needs to be strengthened. This process, a difficult and lengthy one though, has not yet started. States have to amend their ECBC law, notify the new code, notifications have to be issued at urban local body levels, new Schedule of rates have to be framed by state PWDs, steps have to be taken for the enforcement, ECBC cell has to be created, staff has to be trained and energy simulation software has to be developed. While some states have made considerable progress and are even developing online tools, to take advantage of technology platforms and capturing advanced knowledge for efficient implementation, there are states where the code implementation hasn’t moved post notification. This has resulted in wide disparity in the implementation of ECBC across the country.

PWD plays significant role

At the state level, the role of the PWD is also very significant, as an amendment of PWD design guidelines can ensure code compliance in all government buildings that are designed and constructed by the state PWD.

Involvement of multiple agencies is a hurdle

One of primary problems faced in effective implementation of ECBC is the involvement of multiple ministries and government agencies. While ECBC was launched at the national level by BEE, under the Ministry of Power (MoP) its implementation lies with state government (Urban Development Department (UDD) and Department of Energy (DoE)) and local government (Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)). The involvement of multiple government departments, with their overlapping and diffuse roles and responsibilities at various levels, is one of the greatest hurdles in streamlining ECBC implementation.

Urban local bodies have to be involved

Involvement of urban local bodies (ULBs) in ECBC implementation is very important as they are the enforcement agencies in most of the cases. Departments within ULBs give permission to developers to commence construction after approving the design and approval is also required after completion of construction and before occupation of the building.  The inclusion of ECBC in building bye-laws will mandate code compliance check during the building approval process leading to code enforcement. The enforcement process shall include devising inspections for code compliance at periodic intervals during construction. However, this is easier said than done because of strong developers’ lobby.

ECBC can be implemented effectively only when the Central government assumes greater role in this regard. The Central government’s role doesn’t end by just issuing codes and making amendments to these codes from time to time. The Central government has to ensure that all states and local bodies move in tandem and implement the code in time bound manner. The responsibility which it had assumed while implementing GST in the country may have to be replicated in this case too. Otherwise we may not only miss the deadline but also end up wasting our natural resources.

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