Zero Energy Buildings – Saving the Environment

Why do we need Zero Energy Buildings?

Zero Energy Buildings or ZEB’s are a very new concept applied in the building designing domain. ZEB’s are buildings with zero net energy consumption. The ‘zero concepts’ applies to Water, Waste and Energy – so why choose Energy?

Energy ( electricity and heating fuel like natural gas or heating oil ) is pocket draining. So, reducing energy consumption can help manage the consumer’s budget to some extent, with Water and Waste being inexpensive entities for an individual building owner. Electricity and heating fuel increases the carbon footprint of buildings implying that, reducing energy use is a major way to reduce carbon footprints. There are well-established ways to reduce the use of energy, resulting in the reduction of carbon footprints of the buildings. Some include adding insulation, using heat pumps instead of furnaces, using low emissivity, double or triple glazed windows and adding solar panels to the roof. In some countries, there are government-sponsored subsidies and tax benefits for installing heat pumps, solar panels, triple glazed windows and insulation that greatly reduce the cost of getting a net-zero building for the building owner.

How are ZEB’s different from Green Buildings?

Green Buildings are buildings that have built-in measures to reduce the energy consumption of the building with a normal building of similar size and occupancy. The above can be achieved through optimization of façade and wall materials, passive design features and other measures while ZEB’s are buildings that generate as much energy as they consume over a period. To put it in other words, ZEB’s are buildings that reduce their energy consumption through passive and active measures and then meet their energy needs through a renewable source of energy installed on site.

Normal buildings use approximately 70% of the electricity. The energy used by the building sector continues to increase, primarily because new buildings are constructed faster than old ones are demolished. According to a research paper, written by an Architecture student reports that the power consumption doubled in the building sector between 1980 and 2000 and is expected to increase another 50% by 2025.

India promoting ZEB’s

The Indian Government promotes the Zero Energy Buildings concept, which greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of the energy needs can be supplied by renewable technologies. Design Strategy for Net Zero Energy Buildings involves:
1) Passive Design ( to control comfortable conditions inside the building by maximizing the use of natural sources ).
2) Lightning ( Ex– LED’s ).
3) Efficient appliances ( Solar appliances , Electric Geysers , Tubular Fluorescent Lamps ).
4) Renewable Energy
5 ) HVAC ( heating, ventilation, and cooling )

In a country like India where the average temperature is 32-40 degrees Celcius and sometimes the sun is literally over our heads – something had to be done.

In 2014, India inaugurated its first on-site net-zero building design, Indira Paryavaran Bhawan situated in New Delhi serves as the new office building for the Ministry of Environment, Forest And Climate Change.
It took three years ( 2011-2014 ) to finish this project. Different strategies were used for reducing energy demand by providing adequate natural light, shading, landscape to reduce ambient temperature and energy-efficient active building systems. Energy conservation methods were used and the remaining demand was by producing energy from on-site installed high-frequency solar panels to achieve net-zero criteria.

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan used 70% less energy compared to other normal buildings. It is also India’s highest green-rated building. This building qualifies as a five-star GRIHA and LEED Platinum rating. The Building has it’s own Solar Power Plant, Sewage Treatment Plant, Fully Automatic Robotic Multi Level Car Parking System and a Geothermal Heat Exchange System. According to a construction magazine, energy generated on-site is fed to the NDMC grid from where supply is taken, thereby offsetting total energy demand. The annual electricity bill is zero or negative that is net revenue on account of excess solar power generation. Apart from Indira Pryavaran Bhawan, there are six more ZEB’s in India – CEPT ( Ahemadabad ), Akshay Urja Bhawan ( Haryana ), ECB ( Noida, UP ), Sun Carrier Omega ( Bhopal ), GRIDCO ( Bhubaneswar ) and Malankara Tea Plantation ( Kerela )

I believe everything we need to sustain today and in the future is around us. We just need to combine the right sources with the right minds, in a collaborative effort and hope for the best. There is a lot that nature offers, we just need to blend it with today’s technology and policies and try to positively impact the environment. Implementation and acceptance by the general public play a key role in achieving. Unproductive and uninformed critiquing about the Authorities and Government is not going to take us far.

So, do your bit people! Even our least efforts and contribution together can help take control of the Environmental Adversities.

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