The Building Innovation Guide: A glimpse into the future for India

Charu Srivastava
September 21, 2018

The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab recently published the Building Innovation Guide offer best practices and metrics for designing, constructing and operating a high-performance and energy-efficient building portfolio in India.

Intended for industry professionals at all stages of the value chain—developers, architects, engineers, builders and operators—this guide proposes a whole building, integrated life-cycle approach for future projects in India, but the framework can be extended to similar regions of development around the world. Watch a short video about the guide.

Key findings from the guide were presented at the first Greenbuild India in November 2017. Greenbuild India will take place in Mumbai again November 15–18, 2018.

Poised to become the fifth largest economy in the world, India is experiencing rapid urbanization and a tripling of its building footprint. In addition to pursuing ambitious renewable energy goals such as 175 GW by 2022 and more aggressively adopting the strong, but voluntary Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), India needs a market transformation of innovative processes and technologies to sustain its growth and development, while also mitigating climate change.

Reshma Singh, lead author of the Building Innovation Guide and Program Director of the U.S. India Center for Building Energy Research and Development, explains that this guide is distinctive in its consideration of technological, climatic and cultural contexts. “Building innovation can be driven through a smart combination of high and low tech. The best buildings are merging traditional Indian building practices, such as passive design and mixed mode cooling, with state-of-the-art building practices of the U.S., such as energy modeling, building controls with IoT and data-driven actions. These innovative combinations are well suited to scale in India, and similar climatic regions in Asia.”

The Building Innovation Guide recommends a triple-bottom-line framework that can be a critical catalyst for high-performance, smart and healthy buildings. This helps extend decision making beyond the first and operational cost to consider the combined economic, human and environmental benefits. Recommendations also promote synthesis at the whole building level and across the life-cycle of the building (design, construction, operation).

Innovative practices from the guide

The guide details seven innovative practices that can help drive up to 70 percent energy savings:

  • Use a whole building approach.
  • Improve envelope and passive design.
  • Reduce plug and process loads.
  • Optimize lighting.
  • Develop climate-suited, low-energy cooling strategies.
  • Implement climate controls.
  • Take data-driven actions based on energy information systems.

The Building Innovation Guide discusses in detail the importance of designing for specific climate conditions in India. Case studies with analysis present early adopters’ experiences with high-performance building strategies, while simulation studies in four Indian climate zones and measured data from three types of existing buildings (standard, energy code-compliant and exemplary buildings—several of which were LEED-certified) provide achievable target metrics.

Radiant cooling is an example of a climate-appropriate physical building strategy that results in higher overall comfort, as well as life-cycle energy and cost savings. Unlike the more common air-cooled systems, radiant cooling uses water, a better carrier of heat.

Additionally, air cooling typically uses a top-down approach. For standard buildings with 10-foot ceilings, it is useless to cool above a 6-foot height. Radiant cooling cools from the floor up, further increasing efficiency. Although radiant cooling exists in the market and in some traditional buildings, a lack of understanding of the mechanics and controls, the perceived higher first cost, and the trend for carpeting, prohibits its readier adoption by architects and developers. The guide offers case study evidence to help remove such perceptions and accelerate the decarbonization of buildings.

Another section of the guide reinforces digitization of energy data to help building operators make data-driven decisions. It underscores the importance of finding and using relevant data with new technology such as sensors, IoT building devices and energy dashboards, to prioritize capital spending and eventually generate revenue through future smart-grid integrations. This can ensure that buildings continue to maintain their goals of energy efficiency and high performance through the longest operations phase.

Learn more about the guide