The development nightmare that is this suburb makes Chandrashekar Hariharan re-stress the need for energy-efficient buildings

He is an investment banker. He lives in a suburb that is touted to be one of the fastest growing realty urban pockets. His house is centrally air-conditioned. He has fresh water 24/7. He has neighbours who he barely knows. He commutes 100 minutes to get to the heart of the city if he has to. He piles up work in a way that he clusters three workdays in a week (and he can afford to do that because he is on his own).

Behind the thin veneer of comfort and ultra-convenience, there is a nightmare out there that he doesn’t know who is solving. The power outages exceed four hours, so every home has gen-sets, with staggering diesel consumption. Water comes from tankers lugged in from the outlying areas. The exploitation of water from the deep aquifers through borewells has been rapidly depleting groundwater. Waste management consists of dumping outside the swank neighbourhood.

This paradise is called Gurgaon. And it’s extending now to Manesar.

The investment banker above admits candidly, “I have no solutions. I know there is a time bomb ticking away somewhere. I don’t expect water to be available for more than three to four years. I expect the government to bring to the table abiding solutions.” I ask if he will initiate measures on his own. He thinks, then replies: “The question is not one of cost; I can afford it. It is a question of who will do this. I have not yet met anyone who has talked about solutions that can be retrofitted for electricity, water, AC and waste." He is certain, however, that if somebody could come up with a solution, not only him but many of his neighbours would sign up.

This lies at the centre of the challenges that new urban India faces. That’s why we talk of energy-efficient buildings. We are talking of independence from the chaos of energy and water management; of reducing the demand for fresh water by at least 30 per cent; reducing the demand for energy by 70-80 per cent.

The stakeholders are the government (policy-making); builders, manufacturers, architects and engineers (products and technology); and consumers themselves (the ones who live in the homes). The media is a stakeholder that has to make people see the need for such a change.

Builders have to begin offering constructions that already fit these criteria without the nightmare of retrofitting solutions. How can they talk to the 150-180 vendors and service-providers and start greening the supply chain? Over 95 per cent of India's buildings continue to be built by promoters who have the money and know-how but are simply not interested in the legacy of deficit that their buildings leave for the city’s future civic infrastructure.

This writer among many others has outlined many solutions that are simple, doable, and eminently affordable. The challenge is not of technology or solutions. The challenge is of not enough branding for green products because these companies are small, and therefore not known to consumers.

Zero-energy homes and home appliances are key. China has brought a dramatic change in the quality and scale of production. Such change has been visible and obvious in the car industry, too, with per-gallon fuel efficiency going up from 8 km in the 1960s to over 100 km today. From Gurgaon to Guwahati, India will have to bring in such smart changes into the building industry and local planning as well.

The writer is executive chairman and co-founder, BCIL ZED Homes. Mail him at hinduhabitat@gmail.com.