India has been at the forefront of green technology. Historically, the homes were designed in harmony with nature. Starting from a macro level of townships to an individual’s abode, our spaces incorporated concepts of natural ventilation, shading and daylighting, shared community areas for farming, recreation as well as storage of extra produce.
The materials used for construction were locally sourced and it was the community that helped build homes and creates a sustainable living. Over years, globalisation allowed modernisation and sharing of designs across borders that also significantly impacted one’s idea of comfort and living.
Dikshu C. Kukreja, an architect from Delhi says, “In recent times, not only has the government been a vocal supporter of green living but also implementing rigorous efforts such as providing tax benefits, regulating house loans at lower costs for green homes, funds for energy-efficient projects, subsidising costs for energy-conscious products, etc., they have been able to inspire community-driven initiatives as well.”
Selvarasu M, managing director, LEAD Consultancy and Engineering Services (India) Pvt Limited, explains that the object of energy-efficient homes is to facilitate building design to minimise heat ingress with proper selection of building materials, use of energy efficiency equipment, use of renewable energy sources for power generation, metering to monitor and control energy performance without compromising occupant’s health and well-being. By doing so, we will be operating home with less energy cost and this will be a great cost-saving for the entire life of the building. Many homes designed with energy efficiency demonstrated more than 30 per cent energy savings and proved that energy efficiency makes lots of business sense for owners in the long run.
An energy-efficient home is one that is able to utilise natural resources such as heat, light, water, and energy, etc. well and create a healthy and livable environment along with preserving energy consumption. Though an individual house is a small entity, due to their large overall quantum and built-up area, they contribute significantly to the carbon footprint.
Kukreja says, “As technologies evolve to upgrade living standards for humans, with limited availability of natural resources, it is imperative to be mindful of how we design our spaces to achieve maximum benefit.”
The Indian residential sector is responsible for 22 per cent of the current electricity use and is expected to lead the electricity demand representing 39 per cent of the total electricity demand by 2047. A rapid increase in the residential building stock, coupled with an increase in electricity use for space conditioning, is resulting in a rapid increase in electricity use in residential buildings. Projection done by NITI Aayog indicates that the electricity consumption for the residential sector is expected to increase 6-13 times by 2047.
With improved design strategies through innovation in engineering and technology, different aspects of conservation and preservation of energy have improved. This has been helpful in widening accessibility to components and techniques assisting with energy efficiency. Kukreja adds, “A technology which might have been a cumbersome task to locate, manufacture and incorporate into designs ten years back, is now being supported by the majority of the product and technology providers, allowing customers to choose the best at an affordable price.”
It is no surprise that India has been working in this direction for more than a decade now. There are schemes and guidelines by the government that one can follow to meet the requirements of an energy-efficient home. Stuti Gawri, Interior Designer and Director, The Greyy Room, Delhi says, “The idea is to make better use of our natural renewable resources and create awareness of energy conservation and make maximum use of technologies that are energy-efficient and innovative.
Steps are already underway even in villages as people are being made aware of the use and the power of solar energy and water harvesting and recycling. ECO-NIWAS is one such powerhouse that believes in energy conservation and building a new India with sustainable and affordable housing that is accessible to all. Government-led initiatives and incentives have also played a huge role in boosting efforts such as green buildings and net-zero energy homes. Design ratings from prestigious organisations such as GRIHA and IGBC have also helped in keeping brands to incorporate “green” aspects in their products and inspire healthy competition in the market.
While rapid urbanisation, growing cities provide various opportunities, there are fallouts in terms of proliferation of slums, high prices of land, and building materials which render houses unaffordable for the segment at the bottom of the pyramid. Therefore, the need for adequate housing for low-income groups will substantially increase. With this background, the affordable housing concept has come into the picture.
Selvarasu explains that the affordable housing projects are constructed with carpet area up to 60 sq m per dwelling unit in metros and 90 sq m per dwelling unit in non-metro cities as per PMAY (Pradhan Manthri Awas Yojana) by providing a reduction in energy and water consumption, improved health and hygiene, better sanitation, better ventilation and light in the dwellings, fuel savings in transit of people to workplaces and associated pollution. With this background, IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) has launched the affordable housing rating system in the year 2017. Due to the market transformation for use of green materials and energy-efficient equipment, the price has come down drastically in the past 10 years. It is feasible to use energy-efficient technologies in the affordable housing segment also with the current industry norms to make it economically viable.
Easy And Affordable Steps To Make Energy-Efficient Homes:
*Ensuring natural ventilation and daylighting as much as possible.
*Conserving energy by using LEDs, green-rated electrical appliances (air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, generators, etc.).
*Alternatively, one could also use solar panels to meet their energy demands.
*Rainwater harvesting on an individual or community level can go a long way in meeting water demands.
*Grey water management by recycling and reusing wastewater from showers, baths, basins, and washing machines in toilets, irrigation, and non-potable consumption reduces water wastage.
*Segregating waste to reduce, recycle and reuse before it is discarded and sent to waste management centres is critical for sustainable energy management.
(This story is written as part of the Centre for Media Studies-BEEP media fellowships, 2020.)