USAID works with the Lucknow Development Authority to construct sustainable and energy-efficient houses.
Buildings are important on both the energy and environmental fronts as they account for 35 percent of India’s overall power consumption. (Photograph by Bhumika Saraswati © AP Images)
India’s economy is growing rapidly. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development expects the Indian economy to grow 5.7 percent in 2022, while researchers at Harvard University’s Growth Lab project predict that India will rank among the world’s fastest growing economies through 2030.
With this growth come challenges and opportunities. India has a unique opportunity to design and develop economical and energy-efficient construction. About 70 percent of India’s new infrastructure will be in urban areas in the next 20 years.
Buildings are critically important on both the energy and environmental fronts. They account for 35 percent of India’s overall power consumption and contribute significantly to its greenhouse gas emissions.
The PMAY project
Pointing the way forward to more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious housing is the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) project. This government-sponsored project is providing 11.2 million affordable and environmentally-sustainable dwellings for the lower-income urban populations in the Lucknow region.
The Lucknow Development Authority (LDA)—the key body behind planned development and urban infrastructure in the city—has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development to create sustainable urban infrastructure. For instance, LDA used the vision and roadmap for energy-efficient buildings drafted in collaboration with USAID while designing and constructing the green homes under the PMAY project.
Additionally, USAID has developed the Green Building Criteria (GBC), which provides minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction to reduce energy and water consumption. This GBC is mandatory for all residential and commercial LDA buildings.
Lucknow’s green homes
PMAY’s green homes use sound-proof building material with a higher thermal rating. This provides well-insulated interiors for reduced energy consumption, LED and natural lighting, water saving fixtures and 100 percent green building material. The PMAY developments devote 15 percent of their sites to natural vegetation, preserve existing trees where possible, harvest rainwater, and provide public parking for all the units. Each block also has a solar panel.
The USAID program is an example of the long-term commitment to energy efficiency by successive USAID programs in India since 2000. In 2002, USAID efforts brought together the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to form the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). This catalyzed an era of energy efficient and green building construction in India. Starting from one building in 2002, today there are over 5,000 registered green buildings in the country, with a total area of more than six billion square feet, and a vibrant green building market.
The USGBC has identified India as the hub for energy efficient programs in a region that includes the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. USAID, in coordination with a number of government, public and private sector partners, has collaborated with the USGBC to develop a strategic approach scalable to other countries intended to establish a bigger regional green building market. USAID’s implementing partner, Environmental Design Solutions (EDS), has worked on more than 350 green building and energy-efficiency projects worldwide since its inception in 2002. John Smith-Sreen from USAID/India stated, “Our collaboration created opportunities for people, institutions, and communities to promote greater energy efficiency within buildings, appliances, and cities.”
The importance of energy efficiency is highlighted in India Energy Outlook, a special report from the International Energy Agency, which notes that India’s energy consumption has almost doubled since 2000 and that further rapid growth lies ahead.
Steve Fox is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Ventura, California.