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New green building code launched today to raise costs by 5%: BEE DG

But savings in energy can be as high as 50%; new code could play big role in India's climate goals

Jyoti Mukul  |  New Delhi 

Abhay Bakre
Abhay Bakre, director general, BEE

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency on Wednesday launched a code for new commercial buildings in the country. In an interview with Jyoti Mukul, Abhay Bakre, director-general, BEE, says there could be a 5 per cent increase in building cost, but the savings in energy could be as high as 50 per cent. Edited excerpts:

How was the new building code designed? 

The code development process was a participative exercise led by the Five working groups comprising architects, energy experts and institutions oversaw and advised the process. The working group members were among those instrumental in developing codes for states in the US and Southeast Asia.

Each working group was responsible for a building system under the scope of the ECBC: building envelope; lighting and controls; comfort systems and controls; and electrical and renewable systems. The development process included detailed baseline preparation and analysis, conducting stringency analysis and finalisation of the draft code after a review by technical experts. To ensure an open process, three regional workshops and one national workshop were also held. The ECBC steering committee approved the code in January.

How will the code help in reducing carbon emission?

Buildings consume approximately a third of the country’s electricity and are one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. With 70 per cent of the buildings required in the country by 2030 yet to be built, energy efficient buildings will play a crucial role in cutting energy costs and reducing air pollution. The ECBC provides the direction for achieving such net-zero energy buildings. Applicable for new commercial building construction, the code sets parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources into building design. It is estimated that adoption of the ECBC could lead to 30-50 per cent energy savings in commercial buildings.

What are the major features of the code?

It is a building code for architects, builders, designers and other stakeholders that prescribes the energy performance levels for new commercial buildings. The ECBC aims to synchronise minimum levels of energy efficiency in buildings with advances in technologies and building materials.

It sets parameters to integrate renewable energy sources in building design while focusing on passive design strategies. Daylighting and natural ventilation are highlights of the passive strategies of compliant buildings. The code aims to optimise energy savings and prefers life-cycle cost effectiveness to achieve energy neutrality in commercial buildings. The ECBC also provides for futuristic energy performance standards. In order for a building to be considered ECBC-compliant, it will need to demonstrate minimum energy savings of 25 per cent. Additional improvements will enable new buildings to achieve higher grades like ECBC+ or SuperECBC, leading to further energy savings of 35 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively. Requirements and recommendations for all three levels have been included in the code. 

Will the code increase building costs?

The impact of the ECBC on building costs is subjective to builders’ plans. The code focuses on guiding building designers and architects towards achieving life-cycle cost effectiveness and reducing energy consumption, and hence cost, for building use and maintenance.

That said, as the code is technology-neutral, it allows use of preferred choice of technologies as long as the minimum efficiency requirements are satisfied. Furthermore, builders have the choice of installing any renewable energy system that suits their needs. Builders can also choose to aspire to different levels of energy efficiency, each of which entails a different input mix and has different cost implications. Current estimates show the incremental cost is around 5 per cent for ECBC-compliant buildings, and the payback period is less than five years. This will improve as more states mandate the ECBC, and the bigger market for energy efficient products and services is created.

How will the monitor standards?

The maintains a robust monitoring, verification and enforcement framework to ensure adherence to its standards and labelling programmes. A central aspect of this framework is suo motu testing of samples to ensure product models meet performance claims. 

A third-party NABL-accredited laboratory determines whether the test results conform to the relevant schedule, standard or regulation and information on the label. The permit-holder and relevant state designated agencies are informed if the sample fails in repeat tests, and the permit-holder is asked to correct the label display, withdraw all stocks from the market and change all promotional and advertising material. 

Failure to do so can result in escalation by the bureau to the central government and state designated agencies.

In the case of ECBC compliance, builders shall be required to submit construction drawings and specifications showing all pertinent data and features of the building, equipment and systems in sufficient detail to permit relevant authorities, including development authorities, state designated agencies and local bodies, to verify that the building complies with the code’s requirements.

How can efficiency norms and practices help India meet its COP commitment?

The expansion of capacities for adopting and deploying energy efficient technologies is a central element in India’s efforts to combat climate change. Over 25,000 MW of avoided capacity generation was achieved in the last three years. This has significant implications for enabling India to reduce its carbon intensity by 2030. It also serves a parallel purpose of driving holistic socio-economic growth. Electricity units saved drive cost savings, which can in turn be utilised for enabling wider access to electricity.