We live in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But amidst the high-rise buildings and fast-paced construction happening all around, are we taking care of the environment as well? Here is one technology that is helping developers in Indian cities build green.
Hetal, Kaushik and Govind have recently shifted from their rented homes in Ahmedabad to a newly constructed residential society, which was built with one extremely important requirement in the developer’s mind – that residents should spend a minimal amount on operational costs. And that is exactly what’s happening – each house in the society is saving 23% in energy bills, 24% on water bills, and 71% on embodied material energy, which is the sum of all the energy required to produce the materials.
This eco-friendly society has been made possible by EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies), an easy-to-use software application created by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to design green buildings in rapidly growing economies.
“We are trying to fight climate change by showing the world how building green can benefit everyone – from the architectural firm and the construction company to the individual home owner. With EDGE green building certification system and software, we are working towards reaching a stage where building green becomes a norm,” says Rebecca Menes, the Associate Operations Officer of EDGE.
Prashant Kapoor, the inventor of this software, wanted to create something that made it easy, fast, and affordable to build green. There were a few isolated green buildings in India but it did not appear there was any possibility of mainstreaming the concept in the near future.
So he started working on developing a web-based software that would allow users to measure exactly how green their building is.
“There were many developers who wanted to claim their construction is green, but no one had the numbers to ensure that it actually is, in a measurable way. EDGE helps people quantify their designs in terms of how green they are,” says Rebecca.
EDGE is basically a certification system that requires buildings to demonstrate 20% reduction in operational energy use, water use, and embodied energy of materials. Users have to fill in simple details about the measures they plan to take to construct a green building and the software gives suggestions on how a building can be made more sustainable and environment-friendly. As the details are filled in, an interactive graph on the page continues to crunch the numbers showing the percentage of energy that will be saved with the selections being made. The user should achieve a reduction of 20% or more on the graphs for all three parameters – making it a 20-20-20 rule for energy, water and materials.
The details to be filled in include the following:
• Type of building: The user has to specify the type of construction being planned – a hotel, a residential building, a retail store, an office, or a hospital.
• Design details: This section requires inputs like the location, type of construction, number of rooms, floors, area, etc. The software has complex data from hundreds of cities across the world to provide appropriate details for construction in different places according to the weather and environmental conditions there.
• Energy details: Here the user can specify things like the window to wall ratio, insulation of roof, ventilation, the type of ceiling fan and air conditioner planned, etc.
• Water consumption: This section includes points on whether or not the user is planning to use low-flow faucets for kitchen sinks, single flush for toilets, etc.
• Materials: Here one has to provide details about the kind of materials being used for floor slabs, external walls, window frames, etc.
The user is also shown the cost that will be incurred on taking up these measures, and how much time it will take to pay back the extra investment for building green.
“These specifications are based on the practical things that we tend to ignore. People think they do not have the technology available for building green. But Prashant was of the view that we need to change some very simple things in order to construct more sustainable buildings – things as basic as efficient ceiling fans, better glass or less glass, shading, etc.,” says Rebecca.
Once the details of energy saving on the project are ready, users can download a PDF document of the same and share it further if needed. For those who are new to green buildings, the software also has a user guide to explain the different specifications better. Buildings that meet the EDGE standard can also go for EDGE certification for a nominal cost. The certification gives home builders an additional incentive to make their projects green.
EDGE was launched in July last year, and IFC’s goal in India is to achieve 20% new constructions as per the EDGE standards, within the next six years. “Prashant wanted to create a solution that has a sharp focus on the problem. It cannot be time-consuming or complex because these buildings are being constructed right now and if we don’t come up with a solution, we will lose the window of opportunity,” says Rebecca.
Currently, EDGE is being used in 60 cities across India.
Some of the projects with EDGE certification include Quasitum Intelisoft India Pvt. Ltd in Bengaluru, Kolkata West International City, Kesar City in Ahmedabad, NJ Zinnia Premium Homes in Bharuch district, and SAMHI hotel in New Delhi, among others. EDGE is also being used in countries like Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Lebanon, Indonesia, etc.
“A good building is not one that looks strange or different. A good building is one that is conserving energy using passive design, the right set of options for making the base building eco-friendly, and the right choices in terms of the material being used for construction. The way this software would touch common people is that today if a typical family is paying up to 10% of their household’s disposable income towards energy and water consumption – then the money saved with the help of building green could be saved for buying books for children or better healthcare and to increase their standard of living. EDGE has the potential of making India go in the right direction,” says Prashant, who is an expert in bioclimatic design and a passionate advocate for sustainable solutions that align the interests of developers, financial institutions, governments, and homeowners.
He holds a graduate degree in architecture from Manipal Institute of Technology, India, and a Master’s degree in energy-efficient building from Oxford Brooks University.