Special Project

Reducing Carbon Footprint

March 2011

Paharpur Business Centre remains the first retrofit building in India to receive the Platinum Green Building rating by USGBC-LEED under existing buildings (Operations and Maintenance).

Paharpur Business Centre & Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC - STIP), a 25-year-old building in Delhi's Nehru Place built to government designs is now rated USGBC-LEED Platinum, the first retrofit Platinum office building in India. PBC is also a Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Ministry of Power, Government of India, five-star rated building, with certified past annual average electricity consumption of 28 Wh/hr/sq m. An independent seven-storied building with an area of 50,000 sq ft, PBC is a leading infrastructure provider to corporate houses. It provides space for serviced offices, conferences, interviews, meetings, training programmes, workshops, etc.

The instant office has been rated highly by Fortune 500 companies for its quality service and pollution-free environment. Kamal Meattle, CEO, Paharpur Business Centre & Software Technology Incubator Park, explains the initiatives taken in retrofitting the building to sustainable norms in a conversation with Shriyal Sethumadhavan...

Initial sketch: The management of PBC was very clear that the building had to be retrofitted and converted into an energy-efficient green building by reducing and conserving energy, and water, managing its waste, resources and, wherever possible, harnessing solar energy, apart from working on a 'green purchase' policy. We have always believed in the adage 'Measure, Manage and Monitor'; keeping this in mind we changed our lighting fittings from GLS to CFL and now to LEDs; upgraded our toilet fittings; installed water sensors to ensure efficient use of water; and set up a water harvesting plant to harvest rainwater and prevent run-offs. We knew we had to manage our waste very intelligently and our objective was to throw as little as possible in the MCD bins of Delhi. Vermicompost was the answer - making one's own manure out of waste food.

Challenges encountered: Since the time of our inception in the early 1990s, it has been a sustained process of retrofits/changes keeping in mind the misuse of our building. The challenge was to achieve the above stated objectives without even a day's closure of business and consequently loss of revenue. We had very well understood that this was the only way forward to become a sustainable building and accordingly we had our road map ready. We registered ourselves with USGBC in July 2005 and got our certification in December 2010. The major challenge we faced - and still face as it's an ongoing project - is to maintain business continuity and cause minimum discomfort to occupants while retrofitting is on.

Growing fresh air: PBC has developed and implemented a natural system of air purification that uses green plants to remove toxins and other harmful gases in indoor air. The process followed is so meticulous that the air circulated in the building after treatment is 100 per cent fresh with near zero toxins and pollutants as measured against ambient air. Hence, we say we 'grow' our own fresh air. PBC-STIP uses unique biotechnology to clean indoor air that involves massive banks of plants rather than hoarding exorbitantly priced HVAC equipment. We have tried and tested this plant-intensive, approved scientific system for 15 years at PBC, with over 1,200 plants for 300 building occupants. We are not only 'growing' our own fresh air but also combating indoor air pollution with the help of three easily available and maintainable house plants: areca palm, mother-in-law's tongue and the money plant. It has been rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India and Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata. Apart from keeping occupants healthy by mimicking nature inside the building, the technology has also helped us cut down our energy consumption, thus reducing operating costs.

Upgrading systems: The idea is to stay abreast with the ever-evolving field of technology, continuously upgrade our systems and, at the same time, ensure we are rooted to our zero-wastage policy. It has been a combination of both and more - in some places we have replaced old systems with new ones, integrated new ones with old ones and tweaked some old systems to make them more efficient. We sell all our waste and throw nearly zero garbage into the city of Delhi. In fact, we have been in talks with the Delhi Government to disconnect ourselves from the municipal corporation sewage. This would contribute to us becoming a zero discharge building as we can recycle all sewage. So that is another possibility in future where we could recycle water and use it for maintaining and watering the public park.

'The colour of green is white': This is a phrase I use quite often because I believe that if all buildings were painted white, energy consumption will reduce as the concrete will get cooler. In our building, the west side is painted white. This is done with a light reflective paint that encompasses micro crystals that reflect the light back into space. Hence, there is less heat absorbed by concrete and the entire structure becomes cooler, minimising the need for air-conditioning.

Sustainable site features: We have water harvesting and vermicomposting pits as part of our solid waste management initiative. We have developed a large area as a green park with more than 2,000 trees, shrubs and plants that have changed the quality of the ambient air. This is now known as Nehru Place Greens. We succeeded in creating a microclimate in a side of Nehru Place that had practically no green cover and was a slum.

USGBC-LEED: As we have been certified in the Existing Building category under Operations and Maintenance, the criteria considered were efficient use of scarce resources like water and energy; optimising energy efficiency; conserving and harnessing natural resources; minimising use of fossil fuels; generating less waste; providing healthier spaces for occupants; sustainable buying practices; and looking at embodied energy, which is very critical and most often ignored. In short, we are continuously reducing our carbon footprint.

Five-star service: With the kind of business we are in, we have to provide complete infrastructure to our clients ranging from central air-conditioning to uninterrupted power supply, 100 per cent power backup to 24 × 7 housekeeping.

House rules: We make sure everybody at PBC follows simple energy and water saving and waste management practices such as switching off lights before leaving the room, avoiding putting computers in standby mode, etc. We also ensure we communicate these simple practices to our clients and sensitise them about the judicial use of resources.

Green purchase policy: We now purchase all air-conditioners that are BEE five-star rated. Proper research is carried out before any electronics are purchased. We are in the process of phasing out CFLs and gradually moving on to LEDs. Laptops are used instead of computers, and much more. We have a system of measuring every unit of energy to be consumed. All these practices and more have helped us stay sustainable and qualify for a BEE five-star rating.

Certification: We are an ISO 9001:2008 for quality, ISO 14001:2004 for environment, OHSAS 18001:2007 for health and safety, SA 8000:2008 for social accountability and ISO 22000:2005 for food certified company with a commitment to the UN Global Compact.

On-going process: Let me put it this way; we did not do this only to achieve USGBC-LEED. The whole idea is to continue on this path till we become a net zero energy building. This involves immense research; to make it economical, you have to spend some quality time, energy, learn the business and then do it. So we are going slow.

Project details:

Project: Paharpur Business Centre
Size: About 50,000 sq ft
Developer: Paharpur Business Centre
Costs: There has been continuous improvement since 1995. While there have been additional expenses amounting to Rs 25 million in the past two years, there has been an energy reduction of over 60 per cent, equivalent to savings of over `6 million per year.

Kamal Meattle's perspective

“Buildings take up 40 per cent of the world's energy and the construction of these buildings uses about 40 per cent of the world's resources. Businesses across the globe are increasingly realising this fact and also that it is possible to reduce this footprint drastically through energy-efficient buildings. Sadly, in India, green buildings have not yet struck a chord with corporates as there is a disconnect between realtors and buyers of buildings who are not willing to pay for energy efficiency. However, this is where the government has to step in. The central and state governments and local bodies should work in sync to bring builders and buyers on the same platform and create public awareness about the benefits of green-certified buildings. Also, they should ensure the enforcement of the Energy Conservation Building Code for buildings.”