Green Rated Buildings in India found to be Energy Guzzlers

Construction SiteNew DelhiCentre for Science and Environment (CSE) expresses deep concern that the data put out by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) on energy consumption of large commercial buildings that were rated and awarded silver, gold and platinum rating, under the LEED green rating programme, are grossly underperforming. Several of them cannot qualify even for the one star label under the star labelling programme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) that ranks buildings based on their energy efficiency when operational.

Initially IGBC, responding to public demand, had published the data on actual energy and water usage in the rated buildings, but it did not disclose the name of the buildings. Subsequently, it also made the positive move of disclosing the names of the buildings on their website. But it promptly withdrew the names from the website after CSE published its analysis of the data showing under performance in the third week of September. This volte face is regressive. Until recently, the green rating systems have been very opaque with no data available in the public domain on the real world performance of the buildings.

The IGBC must continue to publish data by name of the buildings to strengthen the system and ensure that their rated buildings continue to meet the energy efficiency benchmark, says CSE. The objective of CSE analysis has been to assess if the rated buildings, once they are operational, can meet the requirement of the star labelling programme of BEE.

This is very worrying given the fact that several state governments including Delhi, Rajasthan, cities of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra among others are giving fiscal sops and also allowing extra built up area to developers to get their buildings rated under the LEED or GRIHA rating systems. If the problem of underperformance after construction is not addressed immediately with effective official monitoring and penalty, this can legitimise massive resource inefficiency in the new built up area. This has emerged from the CSE’s new study – “Building Sense: Beyond the Green Façade of Sustainable Habitat”.

IGBC had originally put out data for 50, out of about 500 buildings (offices, hospitals, hotels, residences, etc.) it has rated. Nearly half of the day use office buildings and around half of the IT buildings which work for extended hours cannot qualify for even one star label under the BEE’s star labelling programme that ranks operational buildings according to energy use. Thus, these buildings designed to be energy efficient could not meet the bar for performance. Similar data for GRIHA-rated buildings are not available with CSE.

Green rating including LEED and GRIHA are a voluntary scheme that is carried out by the private rating agencies based on wide ranging criteria for green measures adopted by the buildings. The corporate sector sees reputation advantage in this. The state governments are supporting this with incentives as this ties all green measures under one scheme which is difficult to achieve under single regulation.

Global Learning 

Both Union and state governments need to learn from the global experience. Globally, it has been found that without proper monitoring green rated buildings can perform sub-optimally and even worse than the standard buildings after becoming operational. For example, the U.S. Green Building Council-New Buildings Institute study has shown wide variations in energy performance of LEED-rated buildings in the U.S. A good number did not even track their annual energy consumption. The National Research Council of Canada shows that on an average, 28-35 per cent of LEED buildings used more energy than their conventional counterparts. This has led U.S. LEED in 2013 to mandate disclosure of water and energy use every year and for at least five years. Otherwise, the label is withdrawn. India needs to reform its system.

All rating programmes that are backed by official incentives should be made transparent and accountable. Disclosure of data on annual energy and resource use of buildings should be made obligatory. The incentives should be designed to push only the top line of performance and not to promote minimum green measures that should be obligatory for all buildings to meet. There are several requirements of the green rating programmes that are minimum requirements that all buildings to be implementing.