Proper Design of 'Green Building' is the precursor of performance and efficiency: EPC World Magazine Q&A with CONSERVE

EPC World Magazine, had a Q&A with Mr. Juzer S Kothari, Managing Director ofConserve Consultants Pvt. Ltd. Founded in 2005, Conserve is a global consulting firm based in India  with expertise in high performance- energy efficient-sustainable buildings ; and is committed to enable organizations conserve energy, water, materials and resources. The firm has worked on 200+ Major Projects including 50+ Gold and 25+ Platinum rated projects  for the past 10 years.

What is a green building? What are the advantages and benefits of having a green building?

Green Building is the new buzzword, but it could be a challenge to define it in concrete terms. This concept of “green building” encompasses not just the building design but also the processes involved in it. So, it could be said that :

Green Building is a holistic concept where the multiple aspects pertaining to design, construction and operations are integrated to achieve sustainable performance. Also, the design and processes vary based on the type and nature of building and climatic conditions.

At Conserve, we say that, “Green buildings are not just good for the environment, they are good for your wallet also”. Wallet does not only mean operating costs but also the initial cost of the project. It is now well-known now that green buildings reduce operating and maintenance costs, but our recent works show that if we start working on the project right from the concept stage, the initial investment of the project is within budget.

Besides tangible benefits like project costs, payback and energy which are visible to all, green building also work on areas like water, waste, indoor air quality, heat island effect, etc. which are not visible and often not given their due importance. For a building project with a life cycle of more than 50 years, these aspects have to be accounted for. Green buildingsbring all this into perspective by setting practical benchmarks to take raise the level of performance.

Green Buildings also ensure that there is improved productivity of the occupants through green health standards without impacting the natural environment habitat. Green Buildings include mechanisms through which both construction and post occupancy wastes are handled effectively, thereby reducing pollution and improving local environment quality. At last, but not the least, Green Buildings reduce greenhouse gases emissions and have less carbon footprints on environment.

Today, many corporates are using the green building rating systems to measure how their project is faring and how they can further improve the performance. A defined green building rating requirement has become a standard part of the project brief.

A large part of contemporary architecture derives its inspiration from the west, considering climatically we are different, how efficient are they when it comes to the green aspect?

Like any creative work, contemporary architecture is influenced by the latest trends, fashion and design; be it from the west or from other parts of world. However, there are multiple aspects - which differ when we actually compare them with their counterparts elsewhere. First of all, the design is to be attuned as per the local climatic conditions, sensibilities and usage factors. Secondly, the building materials would differ in their specifications when we replicate a similar design in a different zone. In  Mumbai International Airport project, the skylights and façade were designed with special lenses and gazing, to take care of hard sun, glare and direct sunlight ingress.

A sustainable design is the core of a green building, which automatically ensures the efficiency of the building during the post occupancy stage. Factually speaking, Green Building movement has internalized the western contemporary architecture in a more vernacular way.
CertificationPLUS is a unique service of Conserve through which data driven analysis in the design phase is given a whole lot of attention. We have collaborated with the top notch architects, designers and built-environment consultants to achieve a better and effective architecture.

How important is the role of the sustainable construction material in building green buildings? Can you point out the sustainable materials which are being currently used across India?

As per the Green Building rating systems, construction materials must be procured locally to boost the regional economy. This would reduce the carbon footprint by minimizing the emissions arising from transport. Besides this, green buildings encourage the use of recycled material, reused and salvaged material to reduce the use of virgin material. In fact, a few of our projects have consciously used salvaged material and saved the project a good amount.  Also, as per the project requirement we give the specifications of the green materials to be used during the construction.

Being a Product and Services neutral consultant, we do not endorse any specific sustainable materials; rather we provide the appropriate features/specifications of the materials to be procured by the Owners/Developers Project Team. However, there are few organizations such as Forest Stewardship Council, Green Products and Services Council etc. who certify building materials.

How important is the aspect of design in a green building? Please cite some of the projects where design had acted as a front-runner in facilitating the green building rating?

Proper Design of a green building is the precursor of the performance and efficiency. We talk it as a constructive opportunity rather than a destructive intervention. During the design of PUMA Green Store in Bangalore, we ran multiple simulations to enable the architect to design the building to ensure nil usage of any artificial light during the daytime. Also the design accommodates an earth air tunnel to cool the air by the lower temperature of the earth during summer, thereby eliminating the need of an air-conditioning system.  The project is the first Net Zero Energy Store for Puma in the world. It has also received the LEED India Platinum Rating.

In another project of REVA University, the Admin and Classroom Building was designed to ensure provision of natural daylight and fresh air. Considering the need of an academic environment we decided to aim an environment which is as close to nature as possible. This has resulted in this project as the First Naturally Ventilated building in India to get the LEED India Platinum Certificate. The building is in operation for the last two years and at times the Solar PV panels generated more energy than it could use; the building is exporting energy to the neighboring building in the campus.

Another interesting project of ours is the Turbo Energy office building which has been certified by the USGBC as a Platinum Rated project and has also scored the highest point to be qualified as Second Greenest building in the world and the Greenest in India. Right from the design orientation to wall insulation, renewable energy to solar air-conditioning system, nil fresh water usage to use of recycled materials; infact almost all aspects of sustainability and green building rating system have been demonstrated in this project.

We, at Conserve, have executed many such unique projects and have numerous pioneering projects to our credit. You may visit our website or read our LinkedIn Case Studies to know more .

The evolution of smart buildings is being widely debated, is green buildings and smart buildings the same, what factors make a building smart?

Green Buildings and Smart Buildings, as understood today, are two different concepts. However, there could be many green buildings which have gone for smart building technology leveraging upon the IT applications. In some of the green building rating systems, few IT applications such as BMS are mentioned for better monitoring during operations stage.

Hence, we can say that Green Buildings can opt for smart IT Applications to have ease of monitoring and control of operations. But, the Green Building is more of an inherent design concept than a smart gadget oriented approach. In future, we can see some more collaboration of Smart Building Technologies such as Automation to enable the green building performance monitoring and continuous improvement.

What are the parameters on the basis of which buildings are rated green? Is this a lifetime certification or does it tether on to a timeline?

Green building certification program is focused to measure and reduce the negative impacts on nature due to the construction. For ease of implementation, it has been divided into  following major modules: - Sustainable Sites, Sustainable Design & Innovation, Water Efficiency , Energy Efficiency,  Green Building Materials & Resources, Indoor Environment etc.

In each module, there are certain mandatory requirements and some tradable compliances. Mandatory are must to do requirements and one cannot apply for rating if we do not comply with them. Regarding the tradable compliances, if we comply with them we get one or more points based on the degree of compliance that we achieve. The more points we get, the greener the project becomes.

The above criteria cover the assessment of the project life cycle from concept to commissioning and operations.  Sustainability is an end result of integration of different aspects of a building.

For the new constructions, the certification is lifetime, till the same building form, envelope and services are retained as designed …but for the existing buildings, there are various certifications with validity for minimum 3 years and maximum 5 years.  

What according to you is the role of an architect in green building?

Architects are the most important pivot around which the project is conceived and built. I would take the liberty to state that they are like conductors who take the project beyond the notes.

As a sustainability consultant, we try and understand the vision of architects and clients and work as a bridge between different project stakeholders to make their vision come true.

We, at Conserve, have worked with numerous architect stakeholders in built-environment projects with greater scope of work in terms of building design. We have collaborated with both International and Indian Architects.

If we do a state wise classification, which states fare better when it comes to acceptance and adoption of the green technologies?

If we compare the registration of green buildings across India, we would see that-it is being clustered across different metros and capital zones. Hence, classifying it as a state phenomenon may not be very apt.

As per the data of the green building registration, Mumbai leads the nation followed by NCR (Delhi Region) and Bangalore. Hyderabad and Pune are also speedily catching up with the green building movement…along with Chennai.

Of late, many state governments and municipal corporations are incentivizing this green movement. We need to wait and watch how those incentives translate into actual numbers.

As one of the green movement professional (if I may use the term) what according to you are the major challenges towards attaining a sustainable built environment?

We are Sustainability Consultant for Built-Environment and Green Building is a commoditized aspect of it. At Conserve, we have developed Consulting and Advisory Services such as CertificationPLUS and SustainabilityPLUS through which we deliver sustainable performance at project level and organization level respectively.

Based on our experience, we have identified two major challenges- Concern Regarding Cost & Awareness Regarding the Benefits.

Even though green building terminologies and sustainability buzzwords are being used ubiquitously, we can see a lack of awareness among different stakeholders. Sustainability is seen and understood as a greenwash by many built-environment stakeholders and is also thought as an exta-cost burden with no significant impacts. Breaking this myth of high of cost green building is a major challenge. At Conserve, we ensure that Sustainability equals Profitability through High Performance of Built-Environment at Budgeted Cost

The impact of sustainable green buildings on our health and productivity is not given due importance which results in a lackadaisical approach from the builders and developers. Awareness among the buyers or tenants/occupants needs to be improved to further disseminate the ideas and practices of sustainable building and boost green building movement.

What features can existing buildings which have been built say 20 years back incorporate to cater to the green building norms?

Each Building should be treated as a separate Living Entity, whose health is to be assessed, bench-marked and improved ultimately. For the existing buildings, we can focus on the operational efficiency pertinent to energy, water, waste and overall comfort and performance. Sustainability Survey, Retro-Commissioning, Occupants Comfort and Indoor Environment Study etc. are some activities which could be undertaken to incorporate better performance.

We, at Conserve, have successfully offered services with desirable results in Hamad International AirportsAscendas ITPB TechPark Bangalore etc. Our unique way of dealing any project is - to go for detailed feasibility study where we try to understand the specific need of each project. There are no tailor-made solutions or features enhancement for existing buildings and we must adopt a special case to case basis approach.

We also undertake projects and provide CertificationPLUS consulting to ensure that existing buildings improve their performance and become more efficient in order to qualify for higher green building ratings.


This Article has been published in EPC World Magazine, May 2016 Issue

Mr. Juzer S Kothari is Managing Director of Conserve Consultants. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the prestigious IIT Kharagpur. Mr. Juzer is one of early adopter of green building technologies in India ; a LEED Accredited Professional (from United States Green Building Council-USGBC) since 2007 and a Certified Trainer for GRIHA Rating System. He is a part of ‘Train the Trainers’ faculty programme of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Department of Energy- USA, for their Energy Simulation Software. A Certified Energy Auditor and Manager from Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Energy, Government of India and ECBC Empanelled Expert (Energy Conservation Building Code, a UNDP-GEF-BEE programme). Mr. Juzer has been in the energy industry for the last 30+ years including 11 years of super specialized expertise pertinent to high performance, sustainable green buildings. He is the recipient of LEED Fellow Award 2016 by GBCI-USGBC for his pioneering contribution to green building movement.

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