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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

India to rate 'green' quotient of buildings

Under GRIHA, a system that uses various qualitative and quantitative assessment criteria to rate buildings on their degree of ‘greenness’, the government will for the first time rate the energy efficiency of building projects in India.

India has introduced a national rating system for energy-efficient or ‘green’ buildings. On November 1, the New Delhi-based environmental research group The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the development of GRIHA, a system that will use various qualitative and quantitative assessment criteria to “rate” buildings on the degree of their “greenness”.

Under GRIHA, the government will, for the first time, rate the energy efficiency of building projects in India -- for instance, buildings using solar energy instead of conventional coal-powered electricity will be given a higher rating.

The new rating, which will be applied to all new buildings -- commercial, institutional and residential -- confirms the building codes and guidelines developed by TERI, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), and the MNRE. In fact, it has a broader framework than the previous one.

The rating system, based on accepted energy use and environmental principles, aims to strike a balance between established practice and emerging concepts. The guidelines/criteria appraisal may be revised every three years to take into account latest scientific developments during the period.

A National Advisory Council (NAC) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will be constituted to provide advice, direction, modification and constant upgradation of the GRIHA framework. Says Mili Majumdar, associate director of TERI, which, together with BEE and other arms of the government, formulated the rating criteria: “The thrust of this programme is to quantitatively measure how much energy a project proposes, or has saved, using superior technology.”

Though initially on a voluntary basis, the ratings, to be awarded by MNRE, will gain more teeth as they become popular and help new building projects applying for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) get a government-signed credibility boost.

The CDM evolved under the Kyoto Protocol to tackle international climate change, wherein companies from developed countries can buy carbon credits to comply with carbon emission cuts. Making buildings more energy efficient is becoming an increasingly popular method among governments and industry to reduce their carbon emissions.

MNRE also proposes to incentivise the rating system so that more architects are inclined to use it. MNRE secretary V Subramanian suggests that the principles of green architecture be developed into educational material and introduced into the syllabus as a mandatory subject in all engineering courses. He also mooted the idea that all municipal corporations in the country should give tax breaks to properties developed along GRIHA guidelines.

In fact, days after the announcement of the GRIHA ratings, the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), a 63-member organisation of both public and private sector companies jointly held a two-day conference with TERI to exclusively focus on energy-efficient buildings.

A report released recently by the BCSD’s parent arm, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, says that buildings account for over 30% of total electricity consumption in India; employing energy-efficient systems could reduce energy demand by as much as 40%.

“The GRIHA system is proof that near self-sufficiency in energy is not a utopian idea but a reality cast in brick and mortar. India needs to devise such technologies customised for the needs of our people,” says Dr R K Pachauri, director general of TERI.

Energy-efficiency ratings for buildings are not new, even in India, with the Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design’s (LEED’s) Green Building Rating being a popular ratings standard for energy-efficient buildings across the world. The Confederation of Indian Industry actively promotes ratings called LEED-India ratings which measure the energy efficiency of existing buildings in the country.


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