Add lighting timers to this, and lights and utilities will automatically dim or turn off after office hours. Public areas can even use motion-sensor-based lighting systems, which can help to reduce power consumption when coupled with the dimming option available with LED lighting.
2. Go for ‘green’ electronics
Homes can go for Energy Star rated appliances, energy-efficient computers, routers and other ‘green’ electronics. All this is not at all difficult to find now, because the entire electronics industry is painting its brochures green. Energy Star rated monitors, televisions, refrigerators, microwave ovens, etc are easily available. So are energy-efficient computers with processors that automatically shut down when not in use, lower standby power consumption, LED-backlit displays that are cooler and use less power, etc.
Of late, a few solar-powered gadgets—watches, mobile battery chargers, etc—are also starting to appear in the market. These are definitely worth a try.
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A mandatory all-green construction system will take time, and this being a transition phase, it would be not advisable to use the regulatory mandatory card, as it would invite more criticism than participation. The green movement needs to grow, and grow thick and fast to a point where making it mandatory wouldn’t pinch a soul. We need to take concrete steps in this direction, but cautiously.
Although not mandatory, there are a few certifications and guidelines available in India:
1. Builders can voluntarily apply for The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating available in India. There are around 500 registered LEED buildings in India, and around 50 have already been certified. The LEED guidelines are also being tweaked to suit the Indian conditions.
2. Other voluntary rating systems such as those by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Eco-Housing India are also available, although the TERI rating is still in the development stages.
3. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, in collaboration with TERI, has set up the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (Griha)—a rating agency which will approve a building as green under certain parameters.
4. BEE star labels for factories and offices are becoming a norm where energy consumption is above 500 kVA.
There are several steps that the builder and occupants can take to ensure a green building. I would suggest rainwater harvesting, a recycled water plant, and a solar and/or wind hybrid mechanism—in principle, a major focus on water and power. There are many more elements like materials, environmental impact and efficiency of various systems that have a deep impact, but water and power are the ones where the impact and savings are instantaneously visible.
—Nilesh Gandhi, architect and specialist in sustainable buildings, on certifications and regulations
Household appliances are becoming even smarter. Though not commercially available yet, GE has developed appliances that can respond to signals from an electric utility that demand is high. For example, a dryer might shift from using more than 4 kilowatts of energy to just 700 watts, drying clothes at a slower place and decreasing demand from the grid. Plus, a ‘home energy manager’ device will allow consumers to set multiple appliances to automatically respond to signals from the utility. The ability to reduce peak demand could allow utilities to put off building new power plants. According to a GE spokesperson, if 250,000 dryers responded to a signal from the utility, it would be enough to offset all the power generated by a coal power plant!
Companies need to do more than homes: go for cooler, energy-efficient servers, sustainable design of data centres, motion-sensors to switch off HVAC and lighting systems when there is nobody in the room, and so on.
Ananthaswamy suggests that offices can even go in for green-mode power supply controllers for computers. “These make sure that the computer monitors go into sleep mode when not in use and help consume less energy. The decision-making is shared and if one forgets to turn off the monitors when they are not in use, green-mode power controllers, along with system controllers, turn the monitors off,” he explains.