Green code could make buildings power producers: Mili Majumdar

On a par with global best practices, says U.S. council chief

The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2017 unveiled by the government in May compares very favourably with international best practices, and if implemented correctly, could make new buildings producers of electricity rather than simply consuming energy, according to the Green Business Certification Institute.

“Interestingly, the ECBC 2017 has three levels of adoption — basic, ECBC Plus, and Super ECBC,” Mili Majumdar, MD of the Green Business Certification Institute and senior VP of the U.S. Green Building Council, said in an interview. “This is itself a very unique thing that I think has been done for the first time. I have not come across an international code that has this three-tier system.”

“And Super ECBC helps you move to a net zero or even a net positive scenario,” Ms. Majumdar added. “So, in the future, you could have buildings that are not consumers but that are actually producing electricity. That way, our Codes right now compare very well internationally.”

‘State jurisdiction’

The 2017 ECBC is an update of the Code first introduced in 2007. Since the applicability of such codes on buildings falls under the states’ jurisdictions, the Centre could not mandate their adoption, meaning that the 2007 Codes were not widely adopted. The 2017 Codes seem to have met with more success, having already been adopted by 12 states.

“The challenge that we have seen is the understanding on how to meet the specifications for the envelope or the skin of the buildings,” Ms. Majumdar said. “There is a strong service industry behind lighting and cooling, so there is understanding there, but the core part, the beginning of making a building energy efficient is the envelope — the outer walls, the roof, etc.”

“The knowledge of that is pretty fragmented,” she added. “There is no single company that offers all the solutions there. And if you make the envelope poorly, then whatever else you may do (towards energy conservation) will not be as effective as it could be. If you have a leaky building, then however efficient the AC would be, it will not be as effective in really saving electricity as it could be.”

Ms. Majumdar also pointed out that the incremental cost addition by implementing the Code for new buildings was minimal, and that builders could also save on capital expenditure and operational costs by correctly implementing the ECBC.

‘7-8% incremental cost’

“If you take the base cost as the cost of construction, then the maximum incremental cost to construction is 7-8%, in my experience,” she said. “It also has an impact in the reduction in other costs. For example, the AC requirements for a conventional building would be about 100-150 square feet to a tonne of cooling. But if you are doing it in a green building, then it could be as high as 400 square feet to a tonne, which means you are saving on the cost of installing cooling. This is not counting the operational savings due to reduced energy consumption.”

While the Code is primarily designed for new commercial buildings, there are measures that existing buildings can adopt to reduce energy consumption.

The potential to save electricity using the Codes can be, on average, up to 50% for new buildings, while retrofit solutions can save 20-25%, she said.

Ms. Majumdar also warned about being over-zealous in trying to reduce energy consumption to the detriment of the well-being of those living inside.

“You may make the building tighter and more efficient by adopting means to save energy, but that can also have a negative impact on the indoor air quality,” she said. “For example, you can shut down the fresh air supply to a building, but the carbon dioxide concentration will go up, and that has a negative impact. So, there is a balance that needs to be maintained.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:16:12 PM |

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