Making buildings energy efficient

Air conditioner in homes should run at what temperature? Many of us would say this depends upon the outside temperature. If it is very hot, say 46 degrees Celsius, the AC should be at 18 degrees or maybe less, to cool the room. Many others will say the AC temperature will depend upon which floor of the house the room which needs to be cooled is located. A room on the top floor with roof over it will need a greater cooling than that on the ground floor. A room with its walls exposed to the south or the west will need greater cooling that those on the east and the north.

Of course, all these factors matter while deciding at what temperature the room air conditioning should be set. But haven’t we seen people who cool the rooms so much that they need blankets or duvets to cover themselves? In train AC coaches, we often see people covering themselves with blankets because of cooling.

Is that justified? No. That not only leads to more heat in the environment but also leads to more energy consumption, which ultimately is responsible for more burning of coal considering that most of our energy requirement is fulfilled by thermal power plants.

For this, experts are propagating a new concept of energy efficient buildings. Globally, the building sector accounts for more electricity use, almost 40%, than any other sector. With rapid increase in urbanization, higher in developing countries, there has been an evident increase in the number and size of buildings in urban areas. This has led to an increase in demand for electricity and other forms of energy commonly used in buildings.

Energy efficient buildings are those that begin with insulated walls and roof, glazed windows, generation of energy at source through renewable sources and optimum energy consumption after construction. This is a new concept and for promoting this, the Government of India has done a tie-up with the Government of Switzerland to start the Building Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP).

This Indo-Swiss project, implemented by Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the Ministry of Power, started in 2011 but even nine years later, there’s insufficient awareness about it. The project has worked mostly with architects because they are the ones who are responsible for designing energy efficient projects. For all these years, the BEEP has worked on building energy codes, developing integrated design processes and building technologies such as insulation and external movable shading systems, but now the agency is focusing on dissemination of knowledge to the grassroots.

For this, the agency engaged Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a Delhi-based development research and facilitative think tank, which organised the first media engagement programme in Jaipur on November 4, 5 and 6. The programme involved explaining simple things such as always keeping the AC set at temperatures more than 26 degrees for optimum energy use and not using washing machine dryers in sunny days, to complex processes such as reflective roofs and water-cooled chillers for central air conditioning. The workshop included a field visit to two energy efficient buildings of Jaipur—a residential project in C-Scheme and a government building in Jhalana.

The CMS will organize such media programmes in three other states—Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi—in coming months to increase the quantity on media reports on the subject and improve the quality of such writings.

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