Cover Story

Building Smart

June 2014
With a ‘Modi’fi ed India, the country seems set to begin the journey of building 100 smart cities, soon. As their key constituent, smart buildings are the way forward. This is the message emerging from our round table and industry voices at large, write MANAS R BASTIA and SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.

Given our burgeoning populace on one hand and growing focus on saving renewable resources on the other, the importance of smart cities and smart buildings in India cannot be overemphasised. In this context, the round table on 'Smart Buildings: Optimising Efficiency', recently organised by CW, could not have been better timed.

Held in Mumbai, this interactive session brought together eight industry experts from across India representing several key components of the construction value chain such as architects, developers, system integrators, technology and other service providers. (See the group photo for a closer view of each of these industry leaders.) The primary purpose of this initiative was to highlight the latest technology trends, brainstorm on challenges, suggest solutions, and offer opportunities in the smart buildings space.

The eminent panellists in this round table discussed in detail the following aspects relating to smart buildings in India: latest trends and industry scenario, upcoming projects, cost involved and return on investment (RoI), opportunities and challenges, as well as suggestions on key action points to make India a hub. Going by the breadth and depth of the engaging inputs (some key takeaways are presented in the paragraphs below), this landmark event was not only a win-win for all the participating national and international organisations but will go a long way in shaping the contours of smart buildings in India.

According to Rahul Kadri, Director, Kadri Consultants, "Be smart in the beginning - through the right design, orientation of the structure, etc - so that you don't have to pay later for inefficient design." Raimondo Salandra, President and Head, Low Voltage Products, ABB India, claimed that energy-efficiency can be significantly attained in smart buildings wherein up to 25 per cent of power consumption can be saved by using daylight. To this, Arun Dubey, Director, Greywater, added that water treated in their sewage treatment plant (STP) can be 100 per cent reused.

From a technology perspective, Antony Parokaran, CEO, Schindler India, said, "We focus on safety, security and optimum people movement in a modern building or structure." And Shailendra Shukla, Director-Partner Business, Buildings Business, Schneider Electric India, expressed the view that energy-efficiency, access control, healthcare data, utilities, lifestyle, smart grid feeding, traffic management and disaster recovery are some key parameters to apply in smart buildings.

In terms of the biggest challenge faced, Neelesh Kelkar, Sales Leader, Smarter Buildings & Integrated Cities, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India, observed, "Each building has to be looked in a different manner. As there are 36 types of buildings in India, the solutions need to be different." While for JP Rao, Director-Corporate Marketing Strategy (India-Construction), Shapoorji Pallonji & Co, statutory approvals by authorities remain the most crucial element.

Kadri referred to the non-availability of an entrepreneurial model for smart buildings in India. On this, the jury is still out on whether there should be a single regulatory authority for ensuring synchronisation of infrastructure or whether it is time for self-regulation. For his part, Kelkar proposed the formation of a Smart Building Council in line with the Smart City Council. And Abhin Alimchandani, Joint Managing Director, Stup Consultants, reminded us that the country has come a long way since the CMC building at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai became one of the first buildings in India to try to use integrated fatade control systems to measure lighting, and called upon the government to incentivise smart buildings by offering different FSI systems.

At CW, we pledge to contribute our bit towards forming a Smart Building Council, which will be a highly useful platform for multiple stakeholders. In fact, we're already on the job. To spread the insights from this discourse as well as more value-adds from the industry among decision makers in the Indian construction sector, this month's Cover Story focuses on smart buildings. Further, the key findings will be presented to related government ministries, authorities and policymakers apart from propagating the message across our sister platforms such as the website and focussed events. This includes our second high-profile round table on Smart Cities concluded in Mumbai on May 15, 2014, (see report on page 72) after the first one successfully held in Bengaluru in February 2014.

This series of events will culminate with the Smart Cities Summit 2014 on August 22-23, 2014 at Hotel Four Seasons in Mumbai.

In continuation of the key findings of the round table in the previous pages, and as the demand for renewable natural resources amid rapid urbanisation intensifies, a smart building is the only sensible scenario for future generations. Read on to delve deeper into our current preparedness to optimise overall building performance as well as allied aspects such as cost vs RoI, growth drivers, emerging opportunities and challenges.

What's common among these: Aerogel, thermobimetals, light transmitting concrete, wireless sensors, titanium dioxide nano particles, open data communication protocols and remote centralised control? If you think these are elements from sci-fi movies, it's time to brush up your 'smartness' index! The answer, actually, lies in the several smart buildings that are very much a reality today.

How smart is smart?

To begin with, smart buildings go well beyond such smart materials and protocols. In fact, these only enter into the later stage of the project development cycle. So, what exactly are smart buildings? Also called intelligent buildings, these built-in environments have started emerging overseas since the 1980s. Interestingly, even the traditional Eskimo igloo can be referred to as an intelligent building, in the sense that its shape and structure moderated climatic impact and the internal layout and use took advantage of the temperature gradient - but it would not have responded well in less extreme or more variable conditions.

A smart building, then, is a facility that utilises advanced automation and integration to measure, monitor, control, and optimise building operations and maintenance. Smart building systems provide adaptive, real-time control over an ever-expanding array of building activities in response to a wide range of internal and external data streams. "The facets that need to be considered for the design include HVAC systems, power management, lighting control, access control, visuals equipment, security systems, IT systems and facility management," says Deben Moza, National Director-Project Management Consultancy, Knight Frank Property Services. "Without considering these issues early in the design process, the design is not fully optimised and the result is likely to be a very inefficient building. This same emphasis on integrated and optimised design is inherent in nearly every aspect of the building, from site planning and use of on-site storm water management strategies to envelope design and detailing and provisions for natural ventilation of the building. This integrated design process mandates that all design professionals work cooperatively towards common goals from day one."

Kadri concurs, saying, "If you are smart in the beginning, you need to spend very little later for add-on technology." As far as retrofit of existing buildings to smart buildings is concerned, it varies from project to project and there are limitations owing to structure and design. "Retrofits are essentially very important considering lack of government norms for present buildings," informs Moza. "This can be a huge area for companies to tap. However, a retrofit smart building will not be able to challenge the smartness of a building where all intelligence is seeded in the design phase."

Demand drivers

Along with prompt payback, an important driver for smart buildings in India will be clear government regulations for ensuring energy-efficiency. On other key drivers, Moza elaborates, "These include development of technology, directives, interaction with buildings and electricity demand. With the sector being nascent, key challenges are high initial investment, economic situation, limited awareness and no major players in India with a history of installation of such systems."

Offering ABB's perspective, Salandra says, "The major contributors to energy consumption in any commercial buildings are lighting and HVAC; with the ABB i-bus KNX, buildings can save up to 25-30 per cent of energy based on the solutions chosen, which starts from simple presence-based control to constant lighting controls."

Focussing especially on the HVAC segment, Kamal K Singh, Director, Power Electronics, Danfoss Industries, avers, "In commercial buildings, about 70 per cent of energy usage and 63 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to heating, cooling and ventilation. It is expected that energy consumption in developing countries will be doubled in the next 25 years with an annual growth of 2.8 per cent." He adds that reductions by 30-50 per cent are now commonplace while replacing an exciting HVAC or chilled water plant.

Elevators and escalators play an important role in any building, particularly in high rises. Sharing Schindler's contribution, Parokaran says, "The energy required to operate an elevator can account for up to 80 per cent of its environmental impact over its entire lifecycle. Schindler's hall call destination systems optimise travel within buildings and thus lead to a reduction in energy consumption per passenger. Schindler also offers efficient solutions with intelligent controls which, for example, place elevators on standby mode and turn off lights and ventilators when they are not in use. The energy-efficiency of escalators is also continuously being improved. With Ecoline power management, users can define whether the escalator should run at full speed during peak hours and automatically slow down or even stop when there are no passengers. Additional innovations relating to escalator drives and the switch to LED for all escalator lighting have enabled total energy consumption to be reduced by an impressive 36 per cent."

Let's not forget water saving. "By holistic planning, the entire wastewater produced in a building can be treated locally and used for landscaping, HVAC makeup, flushing, etc," says Dubey. "Our Grewa range of STPs can recycle up to 70-80 per cent of wastewater produced and thus minimise dependency on fresh water."

From a developer's perspective, Rao adds that 2-3 per cent of redundant cost is reduced by effective application of building information modelling (BIM) software, which reduces the overall project cost. Here, Sunil MK, Head-AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction), Autodesk (India & SAARC), says, "Autodesk sustainability solutions for smart buildings are based on BIM, an intelligent model-based process that provides insight for creating and managing projects faster, more economically, and with less environmental impact. There is a growing trend for smart buildings in India, which will be further bolstered with superior BIM technology."

According to Shukla, smart buildings are not just about energy-efficiency - it is about the integration of complete systems to get the desired effect.

Success stories

A smart building needs collaborative application at the concept, construction and operation stages of a project by clients, design consultants, contractors and facility managers. Moza offers an analysis on RoI, saying, "For general buildings, design and construction costs about 25 per cent, operational expenses 50 per cent, and maintenance and alterations around 25 per cent on the lifecycle cost of the building. A smart designed building can save around 10 per cent in construction costs and 30 per cent in operational costs, including ease of alteration. RoI calculation has multiple variables to consider. In a nutshell, one can get the RoI within three to five years of construction." For ABB, New Delhi International Airport Terminal T3 is one of the biggest projects that has been fully equipped with its i-bus KNX system and provides efficient lighting management systems through constant lighting, brightness, presence and time-based functions through the server. This has helped T3 achieve a potential saving of 25 per cent in daily energy consumption. The system is further integrated via open platform communication with other systems like HVAC, electrical and fire systems. However, according to Salandra, "The biggest challenge we face is creating awareness with contractors, builders and consultants. In a commercial building, these systems are basically installed as a measure of energy savings but in case of residential buildings or apartments, it is a matter of lifestyle and safety."

As for Danfoss, its Turbocor compressors have been well received in the hospitality sector, wherein air-conditioning systems account for nearly 30-50 per cent of total energy consumption owing to long operation times. Singh shares a successful example through its trusted customer, Blue Star. He elaborates, "The Blue Star Magnasmart Turbocor LCWT1-0515F chiller used in Sun and Sands Hotel, Shirdi, which attracts Sai Baba devotees from all over the world, has helped the hotel save Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh per month in operational costs."

For his part, Dubey highlights, "We have worked with a few clients who have received LEED certifications. One of our clients, Shairu Gems, is perhaps the first facility of its kind in the world to get a LEED Gold certification. The key challenge in such projects is ensuring adherence to high performance standards. For one of our clients, our Grewa-R based STP ensures that 100,000 litre of wastewater is treated per day and used for various applications across the campus."

On the application of BIM in smart buildings, Nirmalya Chatterjee, COO and Business Director, Tekla India, adds, "Field3D mobile technology solution is the latest addition to our portfolio. This is an easy-to-use 3D collaboration software solution for BIM that works on mobile devices, enabling stakeholders in a construction workflow to access complete 3D model information for an entire building on smartphones and tablets." (For more on the latest BIM solutions, see page 82 for a feature on Construction Software.)

According to JC Sharma, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Sobha Developers, Sobha Habitech was the first provider of smart homes in Bengaluru and, since then, there is an increase in the number of smart homes in the city. "Currently, smart home systems are viewed as lifestyle products," he adds. "It will take some time before they become a necessity, at least in India. To reduce the cost to an extent, home owners may adapt to fully automated homes." Pramoud Rao, Managing Director, Zicom Security Systems, shares the introduction of an innovative concept called 'Make Your City Safe' (MYCS), which has now made the CCTV surveillance system easily accessible to every housing society. The service offers remotely managed services with three levels of security - security hardware, remote monitoring and remote response - all built into a holistic end-to-end security solution.

And, Kelkar informs us that IBM is currently developing a roadmap for Mumbai that will encompass energy, water, waste, transportation, safety, security, emergency, event-based solutions and a citizen's portal.

More smart avenues

Given the need to apply cutting-edge technologies, one may wonder if there is a mismatch between what users expect and what suppliers are currently able to deliver in India. According to Salandra, "The most important feature of smart homes in the current scenario is to integrate all applications on one platform and provide users with hassle-free controls from any location."

On emerging smarter trends, Singh adds, "There has been a tremendous technological improvement in the HVAC space; for example, pressure boosting systems that pump water efficiently as per the requirement. There are existing technology applications such as air-handling units for air-conditioning and the centre chiller that are gaining importance as they reduce energy costs."

Citing the successful example of Cyber City, Navi Mumbai, Parokaran says, "The next generation of intelligent traffic management is Schindler PORT (Personal Occupant Requirement Terminal). The brain behind this is a powerful software system that uses information to guide and transport people quickly to their individual destinations, improving total time to destination by up to 50 per cent."

For Greywater, one of the most significant technological advancements is to move from a centralised STP to remotely monitored decentralised STPs. This will minimise operating cost and associated risks of running and maintaining a single plant.

Further, smart metering is one of the first steps governments and businesses can take to develop solutions to promote energy-efficiency in regions where there are differences in grid technology. Singapore has led the way here - the smart meter installed base (as a percentage of all meters) in the country is expected to reach 75 per cent by 2020. "Other markets, such as China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, are also starting to develop this area with a range of government-led initiatives targeting greater adoption of smart meters, ultimately moving towards advanced smart grid systems," says Snehil Taparia, Product Manager for Smart Energy Solutions, Centre of Excellence in Engineering, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency Asia.

Moza adds, "Other technology advancements to be tapped are wireless meters and sensors, Internet and cloud computing, open data communication protocols, powerful analytics software, remote centralised control and integrated work order management."

Indeed, as technology advances further to enable the use of higher volumes, velocities, and varieties of data from smart buildings and their surrounding urban ecosystem, the promised smart governance by the new government and tax and other incentives will make such projects more economically viable. It is definitely time for a smarter tomorrow.

Cisco's Building 14, Bengaluru

Smart features: A system alerts the network centre of potential requirements. HVAC systems run independently and intelligently. The operations centre assesses the need to have lights, ventilation and network connections switched on in various parts of the building. Conference room bookings are easier as the system enables the user to know its availability. In the case of a security emergency, the system alerts employees of the situation, feeds users and infrastructure managers with a continuous flow of information on the crisis through smart phone integration where the network directs the data directly to end-user cell phones. The system can also activate remote opening of emergency doors and direct people to exit routes.
Business benefits: The solution has resulted in Cisco saving more than $150,000 annually even at partial implementation.

Source: Cisco case study 'Smart+ Connected Communities at Cisco's Bangalore Campus'

Godrej Bhavan, Mumbai (A retrofit project)

Smart features: While the cooling tower has been retained, the fills and motors have been changed. DX-type reciprocating compressors are replaced by efficient screw chillers and high-efficiency pumps and motors are installed. Sub-metering of energy and water helps analyse the energy-efficiency of the operational systems. The Building has been oriented such that the broad side faces north-south, while the small side faces east-west. BMS helps monitor and control the HVAC system.
Business benefits: The investment was about `55 lakh with a payback of four to five years. Now, facilities and maintenance staff are more productive and accountable.

The Makkah Clock Royal Tower Hotel, Saudi Arabia: It has 76 elevators geared towards enabling Muslim guests fast and easy access to the Ka'aba shrine during daily calls to prayer, as well as during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

GIFT City, Gujarat

Smart features: District cooling system will supply chilled water to the buildings from a centralised chilling plant; automated waste collection system; utility tunnel; information and communication technology - the core domain includes a number of areas, which are critical to support the ICT services which include fibre (in-building and city-wide), structured cabling, data centre, telco rooms; the project ensures 99.999 per cent power reliability, which means outage of 5.3 minute per annum; Samruddhi Sarovar - artificial water body of 1.2 km for water storage for the city.
Business investments: Infrastructure-about Rs 10,000 crore (to be invested by GIFT); ICT and data centre-about Rs 5,000 crore; building construction-about Rs 40,000 crore (to be invested by developers); building interiors-about Rs 23,000 crore. Therefore, the total project cost will be about Rs 78,000 crore.

ONE BKC, Mumbai

Smart features: Fully automated car parking for 1,352 vehicles, world's largest; N+1 configuration for power back-up; hi-tech security system; hi-speed elevator with limited destination call button; zero discharge STP; executing sub soil drainage system below raft foundation, saving concrete and steel; facade with double glazed unit glass for heat load reduction in the HVAC system; IBMS to monitor the MEP system of building.
Business benefits: Building under construction. Estimated cost is Rs 4,000 crore; RoI of two years; expected maintenance will be `11- 12 per sq ft on chargeable area.

The Commonality of Smart and Green Buildings

Green Buildings

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation and design process

Smart Buildings

  • Data network
  • VOIP
  • Video distribution
  • A/V systems
  • Video surveillance
  • Access control
  • HVAC control
  • Power management
  • Programmable
  • Lighting control
  • Facilities management
  • Cabling
  • Infrastructure
  • Wireless systems
  • Optimise energy
  • Performance
  • Additional commissioning
  • Measurement and verification
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring
  • Controllability of systems
  • Permanent monitoring systems
  • Innovation in design

Source: Stup Consultants

Smart Additions to Buildings

  • Energy-efficiency and higher environmental sustainability.
  • Increased user comfort and productivity.
  • Improved safety and reliability.
  • Improved operational effectiveness and enhanced cost effectiveness.
  • Building automation and physical environment.
  • Building's internal space and operating costs.
  • Capabilities and flexibility of the building to accommodate changes, mobility and connectivity.

Source: Stup Consultants

To share your suggestions on Smart Buildings and related aspects, write in at

Chat With Us!