Not just another brick in the wall

Real estate developers can serve as the fulcrum for effective compliance with Energy Conservation Building Code

By Author Arvind Kumar, C Shekar Reddy and Prima Madan   |   Published: 10th Apr 2021   12:04 am

Among all the regions of the world, the fastest growth in buildings energy consumption through 2040 will occur in India. Residential and commercial buildings account for nearly 30% of the total electricity consumption today. This share is expected to increase to 48% – nearly half of the electricity consumption – by 2042. New commercial floor space is estimated to rise at an annual rate of 5-6% over the next one-and-a-half decades, and India will add 1-billion-metre square of built-up area of new commercial buildings by 2030.

Advancing energy efficiency in buildings across India’s cities is critical to saving energy, increasing energy access, combating pollution and strengthening prosperity.

Central Strategy

Constructing more efficient buildings is also a central strategy to achieve India’s climate target and is important for the country to meet its targets on reducing its cooling loads. Buildings lock-in savings for decades, the impacts of building energy efficiency programmes manifest for a long period of time. Real estate developers have an important role to play in making India’s building growth green and sustainable. Energy-efficient buildings present a business opportunity; they can yield higher rental returns than inefficient buildings and offer an attractive investment return.

Early adoption of energy-efficient technologies and standards can help developers become market leaders. Building developers and public officials, working together, can design systems and processes for a smooth adoption and implementation of energy efficiency initiatives. This can be a win-a-win for everyone.

Telangana’s Initiative

Telangana has taken progressive steps to ensure sustainable growth of its commercial buildings. The State has adopted the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) and incorporated it in the online building approval system. Additionally, the State has included mandatory ECBC and green building codes in the new Municipal Act of Telangana released in October 2019. This will go a long way in ensuring that the environmental footprint of the building sector, including energy and cooling demand, is controlled.

Telangana followed a streamlined process of code development and compliance, engaging with the real estate developers at every step. Public and private collaboration has been critical to its successful implementation of the ECBC. The State has been proactive in galvanising support. It sought feedback in each step of the ECBC compliance process to help streamline it. The real estate developers responded by adopting and exceeding the minimum standards.

Of the three key stakeholders in the buildings energy efficiency market – government officials, building developers and the ultimate buyers – the real estate developers can serve as the lynchpin of effective compliance with the ECBC. However, it is extremely crucial for the government to build the comfort of the real estate developers with a new regulation such as the ECBC.

Building Comfort

There are many ways in which this can be done. First, demonstrating the proof of the concept by implementing demonstration projects to showcase actual energy savings.

Second, undertaking extensive capacity in the building code and new compliance process for developers. In Telangana, for example, the first year of ECBC implementation was voluntary. This allowed developers and stakeholders to ramp up activities. The code became mandatory a year later. This helped better prepare the market and build the confidence of the developers. The Administrative Staff College of India and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as knowledge partners to the government of Telangana, carried out several capacity building and consultative workshops with the builders’ community.

Third, creating a well functioning ecosystem with easily accessible energy-efficient materials and a local pool of experts is critical to ensure developer buy-in. The local pool of experts can help guide the developers with the new energy-efficient features of building development. Ensuring easy availability of energy-efficient building material will prevent supply disruptions.
For instance, Telangana empanelled local Third Party Assessors (TPAs), which include architects, mechanical, electrical, plumbing consultants, civil engineers and environmental design professionals. TPAs are licensed experts who work with the government and the real estate developers to support Telangana’s ECBC enforcement. TPAs are empanelled with the Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department through the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. Telangana has empanelled and licensed nearly 40 TPAs to facilitate ECBC compliance since 2017. This went a long way in ensuring code compliance by developers.

Informed developers help ensure that contractors comply with ECBC specifications and effectively incorporate energy-efficient designs in their buildings. Developers also influence how buildings are managed and operated. Operating a building efficiently is critical to ensure energy savings are sustained.

Not just another brick

A Win-Win

The CII-Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has been pioneering the green building movement in the country since 2001. In the last two decades, the council has made remarkable progress in ensuring wider adoption of the green building concepts in India. Thus far, the IGBC has facilitated over 6,055 projects amounting to over 7.61 billion sqft of green building footprint in the country.

IGBC’s green building rating systems focus on energy efficiency and encourage stakeholders to follow and exceed ECBC 2017 compliance requirements. Green buildings have contributed to over 14,000 MWh of energy savings per million sqft of green footprint. Increased demand for IGBC Green Buildings (commercial, residential and industrial) has resulted in more awareness and use of the Energy Conservation Building Code in the country.

Green buildings are a win-win solution – they pay for themselves and yield a reduction in energy usage. On average, green buildings provide a return on investment in less than two years and yield an average rent increase of 3%. They offer a better solution for the environment, are cost-effective, and a good business opportunity.

(Arvind Kumar is Principal Secretary, MA&UD Department, Telangana, C Shekar Reddy is Chairman, CII-Indian Green Building Council, Hyderabad. Prima Madan is lead consultant with Natural Resources Defense Council India Program)

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