Achieving Energy Savings in Buildings by Implementing the ECBC: Challenges and the Way Forward
India is poised for a growth rate of 8 to 10 % in the building sector. The built-up area of commercial buildings is likely to double by 2030. It is estimated that energy conservation interventions in new buildings alone can reduce energy consumption by 20 to 25 % by incorporating a ‘lean’ building envelope and energy efficient lighting and HVAC. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has introduced several initiatives to promote energy efficiency in commercials buildings – the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) is one such flagship measure to introduce minimum energy performance in buildings.
In 2007, the Ministry of Power (MoP) and BEE introduced ECBC, the first building energy code in India. A building energy code is a pathway to energy savings in buildings using energy efficient building design and construction practices. The current code sets the minimum energy efficiency requirements for five building systems: building envelope, HVAC, service hot water, lighting and electrical power. The revised version of ECBC will be released shortly and is supposed to include two incremental levels of energy efficiency in buildings besides minimum performance levels.
Role and Responsibilities (National, State and City Level)
As per the provisions of Energy Conservation Act (2001), the use of ECBC becomes mandatory when it is notified by the state governments under the official gazette. However, ECBC can also be notified by the State Urban Development Departments. Typically, the energy department at the state level adopts ECBC, after suitable modifications, through a government notification.
Presently, ECBC has been notified in 10 states and Union Territories (UTs), namely, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and the UT of Puducherry. Various bilateral programmes like UNDP-GEF and EU-CECI have been active in India assisting various state level departments to develop their capacity on various fronts. Under these programmes, ECBC Cells have already been established in 9 states including Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. Delhi, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh are in the process of formulating ECBC Cells in their regions as well.
Andhra Pradesh adopted ECBC by issuing an amendment to the Andhra Pradesh Building Rules which are applicable to all Urban Development Authorities (UDAs) and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The said Amendment to include ECBC in Andhra Pradesh Building Rules was carried out by exercise of powers conferred by various sections of municipal corporations, UDAs and town planning.
Need for Coordination
While many states have already notified ECBC and others are yet to follow suit, ECBC compliance has still not seen widespread implementation. The successful implementation of the code requires development of compliance procedures by integration of ECBC requirements with building approval forms and processes, capacity building of architects/contractors/consultants/town planning authorities of state and urban local bodies and finally availability of energy efficient material and appliances. ECBC compliance can be a multi-step process in an ideal situation, but the need of the hour is to start with design compliance. It is important to fully understand and address the barriers to the implementation of ECBC which would otherwise lead to definitive energy savings, as illustrated in the examples mentioned earlier. Some of the challenges have been discussed below:
- While ECBC was developed by BEE, the roles and responsibilities concerning its implementation and enforcement lie with a complex institutional hierarchy comprising multiple ministries at the Centre – Ministry of Power (BEE) and Ministry of Urban Development; multiple departments at the State level – the State Designated Agencies (SDA), the State Urban Development Department (UDD), the Public Works Department (PWD) and ULBs at the local level.
- Roles and responsibilities of different state departments need to be clearly articulated with specific emphasis on delineating the technical and administrative responsibilities related to ECBC implementation.
- In many cases, the state and local bodies have not received adequate training to administer the implementation of ECBC. They are understaffed too. Often, the number of people comprising SDAs for ECBC related work is 5 per state, which is not commensurate with India’s real estate growth.
- The implementation of ECBC guidelines requires amending the specifications of the PWDs and the bye-laws of ULBs. Technical support in the form of ECBC cells is available from governments, and bilateral and multilateral programmes.
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telengana have come up with code compliance models that other states can adopt after due modifications. In AP and Telangana, a technical committee was set up to prepare a roadmap for the adoption of ECBC within the states’ existing legal framework. The roadmap focussed on building by-laws modification, ECBC compliance mechanism, capacity building and training, demonstration projects and incorporating lessons learnt from other state of India.
The following set of recommendations might be helpful to pave the way forward to achieving energy savings through the implementation of ECBC.
- There is an urgent need to facilitate greater coordination between the MoP and UDDs. This will happen if ECBC is viewed as a Government of India policy, and not a ministry policy.
- The roles and responsibilities associated with ECBC training, capacity building and implementation should be divided based on its nature – technical and administrative. The technical challenges are few – architects and engineers have designed green buildings which are implicitly ECBC compliant. This can be understood from the examples of energy efficient commercial buildings mentioned below:
- Aranya Bhawan located in the hot and dry type climate of Jaipur complies with the ECBC implicitly using the whole building approach. A combination of passive measures, including roof and wall insulation, reduced glazing area and double glazed windows with high performance glass, cut down the cooling system size (TR) by 28%. The remaining cooling load was met using water-cooled energy efficient chillers. The building was supported by grid-connected rooftop solar PV. Energy monitoring carried out in 2015-16 suggested an actual Energy Performance Index (EPI) of 44 kWh/m2/year.
- Akshaya Urja Bhawan located in the composite climate of Panchkula, Haryana also complies with the ECBC implicitly. Among many other energy conservation measures, the building uses roof and wall insulation, tapered UPVC windows, motion sensors for lighting and an innovative mist cooling system coupled with solar chimney assisted natural stack ventilation. Energy audit carried out in 2016 revealed an EPI of 13 kWh/m2/year.
Administrative responsibilities need to have greater clarity. A building can be ECBC compliant using either the specification-based prescriptive method or the whole building performance approach, which is more popular. The latter is strongly liked with the use of building simulation tools. The administrative procedures can specify the input/output files that should be submitted for verification apart from the building designs.
- Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) is conducting regional workshops to fast-track ECBC implementation in states, with support from NITI Aayog, UNDP-GEF and BEE, for state and local level officials to give the much-needed boost for creating ECBC implantation mechanisms at the state level. Similar workshops and awareness campaigns can be structured to further the discussion on ECBC compliance.
Considering that about 3 lakh sq. ft. of commercial space is built in India every day, there is an urgent need to adopt ECBC and ensure that the new building stock, which will be in use for at least 4 to 5 decades, meet the minimum energy performance standards.