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35 billion m2 of new building floor area by 2050 - Call for India to mainstream “Sustainable Habitat Indicators into Building Constructions”



Ever since the economic reforms in 1991, India has been progressively rising on the development trajectory marking an important place for itself on the global map. Development apart from bringing the comfort of modern lifestyles into the lives of the people of India, also came a great cost – the cost of Environment Depletion. All aspects of development has led to an inevitable rise in the emission of the potent GHG – CO2.

Apart from the other sectors, one of the major sector that contributes to the GDP of the country as well as the carbon sink of the atmosphere is the “Constructions Sector”. As an integral part of the Indian economy the Construction Sector stands tall for a solid growth due to rampant urbanization, industrialization and economic development. The construction sector accounts for some 6-8% of GDP of the country. It is reported that the energy consumption by the construction sector has increased rampantly with the building sector accounting for an increased electricity consumption at an average growth rate of 9% from 2001 to 2011. With progressing economic growth, India has also doubled its floor area of buildings from 2001 to 2005 and would potentially be adding 35 billion m2 of new building floor area by 2050. All this coupled with higher incomes and changes in living standards is likely to pose higher pressure on electricity and energy consumption and demands leading to an increased level of GHG emissions.  

What actions do you propose?

Over the years the sustainable buildings agenda has been receiving increasing attention in India. While there are government policies to promote and popularize sustainable habitats/buildings there has also been an increase in the awareness levels of people about the importance and benefits of eco-friendly homes, lifestyles and practices. One of the most popular government policies to promote sustainable habitats is the “National Mission on Sustainable Habitat” under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The objective of this mission is to promote sustainability of habitats though improvements in energy efficiency in buildings, urban planning, improved management of solid and liquid waste including recycling and power generation, modal shift towards public transport and conservation. It is an undeniable fact that the building sector contributes substantially to the total GHG emissions into the atmosphere. The fourth IPCC report reiterates the importance and the need of taking appropriate steps to bring down carbon emissions from the buildings sector. In terms of energy savings potential it is observed that the building sector has the greatest potential amongst all the other sectors, in all countries, and at all cost levels. Given the high growth rate of the construction sector this holds true for India as well.

Sustainable buildings/habitats apart from being resource efficient and environmentally friendly also has to build in the concept of providing a healthy environment for its occupants in terms of indoor air quality. 

To understand the emission scenario and to see the real time benefits of a green building we will take up a case study of a green building in New Delhi. Paharpur Business Centre (PBC) is a 25 year old building built to government design. It is the first building in the country to be USGBC LEED Platinum certified under Existing Buildings Category.  As a retrofit building PBC exemplifies a truly sustainable building.

Energy Conservation Measures: The building replaced 1100 36W fluorescent tube lights with 950 18W LED lights and CFL Down Lighters with LED Down Lighters. This lighting system upgradation has led to 50-55% and 60-62% energy savings as compared to the old system.

In-house Research & Development on Energy Efficiency Practices: Energy efficiency measures are also taken up using light colored tiles on the roof, light reflecting paints and cool wall paints are used to reduce heat gain.

Engage with the supply chain continually; improve the components of service at source: This involves selection of environmentally friendly materials to be used in the building e.g. furniture, paint. There is efficient utilization of natural resources across the system.

Maintain the highest standards of service quality and continually improve: This involves evaluation of energy management practices, energy efficiency and life cycle analysis.

Harnessing solar energy through skylights: The building has installed 36 natural skylights that harness solar energy thus saving 17.76 KW/day.

Water conservation takes place through rain water harvesting, sensor taps, use of soap free water for gardening and installation of cistern based 4/2 Liter Water Closet.

The indoor air quality is equivalent to being up in the mountains. This is achieved by the plantation of Areca Palm, Money Plant and Mother-in-laws tongue.

The annual energy consumption has reduced from 1073292 kWh in 2007 to 601982 kWh in 2013 with a reduction of 1009 tonne of CO2 in 2007 to 566 tonne of CO2 in 2013 respectively.  

Who will take these actions?

The key feature of sustainable buildings or green buildings is that it caters to resource efficiency ensuring that there is efficient use of energy, water and natural resources contrary to a conventional building. Green buildings also creates less waste and provides a healthier living environment for its occupants. The key players for the success of a green building are as follows:

Government Organizations: The role of the government is seen as very crucial for the development and promotion of green buildings in India. Government has the authority to pose regulations with strong compliance mechanisms. They can also provide incentives to popularize green buildings.

Academia R&D: They can provide with new products and design tools. Also provide evaluation and know-how on green buildings.

Architect & Consultants: Architects and Consultants will play an important role in providing innovative designs that maximizes resource efficiency.  

Financial Institutions: They can provide investments in green buildings.

Real Estate Developers: Real Estate Developers will play a role in adaptation to the market needs as per the demands.

Owners and Occupants: Owners and Occupants can take responsibility to make their homes/building as green and sustainable as possible as well as increase the demand for sustainable buildings. 

Where will these actions be taken?

Green buildings have a threefold benefit – financial, environmental and social.

Financial benefits:

  • Savings in energy & water consumption without sacrificing comfort levels
  • Reduced destruction of natural areas, habitats & biodiversity
  • Lower operation & maintenance costs
  • Savings from increased user productivity & health
  • Enhanced image and marketability
  • Increased property values
  •  Increased employee attendance


Environmental benefits:

  • Reduced GHG emission
  • Reduce environmental impact by promoting resource conservation
  • Reduced air and water pollution (with direct health benefits)
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Limited waste generation due to recycling
  • Conservation of natural resources through its efficient use


Social benefits:  

  • Enhanced occupants comfort and health
  • Increased benefits to society as a whole through resource efficiency
  • Improving overall quality of life

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

Indian Green Building Sector is faced with the challenge of disconnect between the major people responsible for the various aspects that work together to build a green building. The people are those who are engaged in design, construction, equipment provision, installation etc. There is also a disconnect between builders and buyers & therefore there needs to be a provision of a common platform to overcome such a situation

The other challenges are:

Lack of experienced workforce: Lack of experienced workforce is a problem 
Lack of awareness and leadership: Many people are still not aware about green buildings and its benefits 

Uncertainty over green building techniques: Real estate developers are quite uncertain over costs, economic benefits & performance 

Promotion of sustainable architecture practices: Urgent need to promote & extend the technological understanding of eco-friendly structures

Economic perspective: Developers & consumers need to be aware of the cost savings of green buildings

What are the proposal’s costs?

It is an uncontested fact that green buildings processes lead to an increased overall cost of construction and this is often the most criticized parameter in constructing such buildings. However, as much as the former is true it is also an undeniable fact that in the long run it costs much lesser to operate a green building vis-à-vis a conventional building.

Most green buildings costs a premium ranging from 2% - to 12% but yield 10 times a much over the entire life of the building. Although there are substantial costs in the beginning of the building project like: solar panels, energy efficient lighting, and star rated appliances but over the course of time the returns in terms of reduced energy, water bills more than cover up for initial costs. Green building will prove to be a profitable venture only for the owner and occupants but also for the environment and society as a whole.  

Time line

Related proposals


  • TERI Energy & Environment Data dairy & Yearbook, 2014/15
  • India’s Progress in Combating Climate Change, Briefing Paper for UNFCCC COP 20 Lima, Peru, December 2014, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change GoI
  • Embedding Sustainability in our Business, Seventh Sustainability Report, December 2013, Paharpur Business Centre
  • Background Paper for Sustainable Buildings & Constructions for India: Policies, Practices &Performance, UNEP, TERI
  • Green Buildings are energy efficient, March 2011, Energy Next
  • Garg, A.K, 2011, Financial Aspects of Green Buildings