It will be mandatory for all state governments to implement by 2017 the minimum requirements for energy efficient design and construction set by the central government to meet the challenges of depleting resources, increased urbanisation and rapid construction, according to a top official.
Shifting its focus to building energy-saving structures, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) of the power ministry has made mandatory the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) which acts like a "cross-check for building designs and specifications" to reduce the energy consumption through design and choice of material and equipment.
Under its ambit are components like building envelopes (wall, roofs, windows), lighting, heat ventilation and air conditioning and electrical systems.
Introduced in 2007, on a voluntary basis, the code sets the minimum energy standards for new commercial buildings with a connected load of 100 KW. Besides new buildings, it also covers old buildings which are getting renovated and/or extended.
"While the ECBC has been developed by BEE, its enforcement lies with the state governments and urban local bodies through notification within their states as per their regional requirements. Seven states have notified the code, while 15 are on the way to doing so," Sanjay Seth, senior energy economist at BEE, told IANS on the sidelines of the "Urbanscapes: How Sustainable Are Our Buildings" workshop organised here by the Centre For Science and Environment (CSE).
"The target is that the code will be implemented and become mandatory for all states by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
States like Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh have already notified the code.
"Among the states we have been struggling with is West Bengal for a long time. Since there is a huge boom in new commercial buildings there is no reason why it should not implement the code," he said.
He added that adoption of the code can reduce energy demand by at least 25 percent in new buildings compared to recent buildings. An ECBC-compliant building will get three stars on BEE's building rating scale.
According to Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE's executive director for research and advocacy, it is an important policy instrument that is expected to set the sustainability terms for energy savings in new constructions inIndia. By 2020, almost 500 million people in the country will be living in cities, triggering a huge infrastructure boom.
Moreover, the building sector's share of overall electricity consumption has more than doubled in the last four decades.
"It has grown from 15 percent in 1970-71 to 34 percent in 2010-11 and, therefore, offers cost effective opportunities for savings," Seth said.
However, some gaps need to be bridged.
For example, ECBC standards are designed assuming that 100 percent of India's commercial building stock will be fully air-conditioned, requiring both cooling and heating. But it does not define temperature and humidity standards customised for Indian climatic conditions.
"It does not tell us how to reduce the dependence on technology. It should address the matter of minimising air-conditioned spaces by using different architectural and design methods," Roychowdhury told IANS.
What also needs to be pushed is a performance-oriented approach in setting up such green buildings, she said.
Seth acknowledged initial hiccups would be there when the system is introduced, but gradually all the problem areas would be tackled, including compliance checks.
"Web-based tools will be used for compliance checks and a cadre of independent ECBC certified professionals will be used as verifiers at the design, construction and completion levels," he said.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, Seth said, the initial incremental cost would be recovered in four to five years.
"The buildings would not only be cost-effective but also save on energy expenses. Cities can mitigate climate change by reducing energy consumption in the construction, maintenance and refurbishment of buildings," he said.
(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)