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Energy Efficiency in Buildings

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As the summer months progress and our hydro-electric reservoirs dry down, along comes the dreaded load-shedding. While it is true that the demand for electricity is far greater than the supply, I guess there is surely something we can do to shorten this gap from the supply end. For this post, I would skip the issues with ‘leakage’ or electricity and ‘grid inefficiency’ and would discuss about the technical and policy aspects at the end-user level. I hope you will be able to add your inputs and we can get the required policy changes through collective lobbying. (Image Courtesy jalalspage)

The problems:
Office buildings: Modern urban office buildings are designed very inefficiently from the energy point of view. On one end of the spectrum are the buildings of old economy that have very low open areas. These buildings have ‘boxy’ designs due to the cost advantages offered by providing fewer windows and fewer open spaces. This however translates to a lot of wasted energy for light and fans. On the other end are the swanky glass clad buildings of new-economy companies. These designs, copied blindly from the western world have a very poor thermal behaviour in tropical climates. Since glass allows light to enter and not exit the building (known as greenhouse effect), the building interiors get heated up more than they should. This translates to higher energy demand for air conditioning. Also in most cases, the designs are not done considering the natural forces and fail to utilise effects like natural drafts, and natural ventilation to the best advantage.

Domestic buildings: While an average middle class family in India does not have air-conditioned house, the number is surely on the rise and will increase as families become more affluent. Most houses also need to use fans during summer months owing to higher temperature as well as badly planned ventilation design. Heating water also consumes a significant portion of domestic energy demand.

The problems can be addressed a large extant by meticulous attention to energy-efficiency issues during planning stage in buildings. For example, office buildings could be much more energy efficient by effectively using light and natural ventilation, partly supplemented by artificial means. Similarly, discouraging use of glass at the cost of energy inefficiency can be discouraged. Domestic consumers can greatly benefit from solar water heaters and better planned cross-ventilation. Apartment complexes can use stack effect to their advantage. There are a lot of solutions if we look around but what is missing is…

… Regulations: Without regulations to enforce better building practices, it is very hard to get energy efficiency into buildings. While the solutions for energy efficient buildings do not increase the cost, it might still need a regulative boost from the planning bodies. What I am proposing in this post is that the bodies like BDA/BMRDA etc draft an Environmental Policy for new buildings and include that as part of plan-approval process.

These measures might not be able to totally offset the energy supply-demand gaps, but they will help the environment in a positive way and reduce the load on infrastructure. The situation is not very bad yet, but is never too early to start thinking about future. After all, it is the last-minute measure that we have been historically taking that have put us in the whole fix of badly planned cities.
[Please use the comments section to express your views for/against this proposal and what various aspects these regulations should include]


shas3n's picture

Some links

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UK's national policies for energy efficiency in buildings here.

The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) has a lot of information in energy efficient buildings. They have an office in Domlur which is very well designed. 



blrsri's picture

lighting management

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I see many buildings lit all the time even though there are no people inside..its always such a waste of power..makes me sad when I recollect that the poor farmers wake up at 1 am to switch on the water pumps in our villages..

We enjoy to deprive others? very sad!

One  easy way to manage this is by have movement sensors..HP's E-city office has this feature where lights get turned off if there is no movement..this might have a initial installation cost but the companies can easily get this money back with the power saved within a year..


blrsri's picture

why wear a coat?

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Westerners use coats to protect from cold and wear shoes to prevent frost bites..why do we ape them?

It gets hot here and as traditionally has been the case panche/dhoti is the way to dress and chappals/paduka is for the feet..

But we still prefer ties/coats/shoes...coming to where its affecting the energy a/c environments the lighter we dress lesser the power spent on maintaining temp..same at home..the lighter we dress lower the fan speeds will be!

Wear slippers->sweat less->less a/c -> no use of socks -> no washing of socks->conserve water/pollute less!


Bengloorappa's picture

Let us switch...

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Let's all of us here at Praja make sure that we go home today and check, replace all incandescent bulbs with CFL's, this will set an example.
shas3n's picture


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I work for a consulting company that does a lot of strategic energy studies. (Although that is not my primary area of expertise). I was asking a colleague yesterday as to "What is one renewable/sustainable energy saving system you would recommend to average home user"? I was expecting him to say Solar heating/Photovoltaic etc. What he said was "Just switch the bloody switch off when you are not using something". That alone can be much more cost effective than anything else. In that sense, I guess motion sensing switches are a very good option. Agree with you on that blrsri. With high volumes, I guess they also become pretty affordable. I have seen motion sensing switches in western countries being used in portico/backyard lighting for homes, bathroom ventilation fan etc. About CFL bulbs, they do save a lot compared to incandescent bulbs. But on the absolute scale, lighting amounts to only a fraction of household electricity consumption. Bangloorappa, I am with you on CFL but I guess that is not enough. Moreover, I have heard that the 'quality' of power supply in India makes the CFLs die too soon compared to their standard rated life. I guess a better option will be LED Lighting (some sample here because they are one more order of magnitude lower in power requirement. The technology is still a bit new but looks very promising. Blrsri, having worked once for a 'tie' company, can not agree with you more on a suitable working attire for Indian conditions. -Shastri


shas3n's picture

The energy issue

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To summarise my position in a nutshell: * Bridging the supply-demand gap from supply side is very capital intensive * Renewable energy options are not cost effective and wont be so for another few years * The best way to bridge the gap (partially) is to become more energy efficient on the demand side * Regulations are needed to ensure this is done and planning bodies need to enforce these regulations * We from Praja should initiate the concept of these regulations and get the BDA/BMRDA etc to implement them There are other issues along with energy (water, greenery etc) that have to be tackled with these proposed planning regulations. Rain water harvesting enforcement did work for Chennai so I see no reason why this wont work elsewhere. -Shastri


commtp's picture


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The Tata Power Club Enerji educates school children and encourages them to spread awareness about the Six Golden Rules for saving energy and combating climate change.

The Six Golden rules are:

1) Switch Off

One of the best energy saving devices at your fingertips is the switch. Keep turning off all lights, fans, computers, televisions, ACs and all other electrical appliances when not in use.


2) Use CFLs and BEE 5-Star Rated Appliances

Use appliances that consumer less energy. Use CFLs instead of regular bulbs to save energy. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has introduced a power savings guide for electrical appliances. The guide uses a 5 star rating system with 5 stars being the most energy efficient. Buy electrical appliances which have a minimum 3-star BEE rating label.


3) Save Natural Resources

Save fuel by carpooling and choosing public transport. Save water by using water sensibly. Plant or adopt a tree to save nature. Use cloth bags instead of plastics as they are recycleable. Save paper by recycling old newspapers and notebooks.


4) Keep ACs at 260C or more

Every increase in the setting by 10C will save about 2.5% of power.


5) Switch off from the plug point

TVs, computers, mobile chargers, music systems, AC adaptors, cordless telephones are some of the devices which should be switched off from the plug point. Unplugging devices reduces energy consumption to zero.


6) Lower the use of electric cooling and heating appliances

Heating and cooling like air conditioners, water heaters, refrigerators and irons consume over 50% of our household energy. For e.g., use solar powered water heaters instead of electric geysers. comment guidelines

Posting Guidelines apply for comments as well. No foul language, hate mongering or personal attacks. If criticizing third person or an authority, you must be fact based, as constructive as possible, and use gentle words. Avoid going off-topic no matter how nice your comment is. Moderators reserve the right to either edit or simply delete comments that don't meet these guidelines. If you are nice enough to realize you violated the guidelines, please save Moderators some time by editing and fixing yourself. Thanks!

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