Hyderabad Goes Hi-Tech with Building Energy Codes

Co-authored with Dr. Satish Kumar and Dr. Vishal Garg 

India’s Telangana State, along with Andhra Pradesh, was the first in the country to make the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) mandatory in 2014. The energy code sets minimum energy efficiency levels for most commercial buildings, locking in energy savings for years to come, retaining occupant comfort, while combating climate change. ECBC adoption is a central element of India’s building efficiency policy framework that underpins the nation’s climate commitments and its ambitious Smart City Mission initiative. Hyderabad, the state capital of Telangana, is pioneering a system for online energy code compliance that can potentially be a role model as several Indian cities continue to grow at a rapid pace while striving to meet energy demand and fight climate change. 

The pilot phase in Hyderabad focuses on on-the-ground change and implementation of energy efficiency practices, and is developed in partnership with the state and city government, along with the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council. During the recent American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Summer Study, leading experts discussed the innovative Hyderabad model. Experts made recommendations on how to make the code implementation system robust, convenient and scalable to other cities while keeping the cost of compliance reasonable – both for the design, construction and builder community on one hand and the urban and local bodies on the other. Experts from ASCI, Alliance for an Energy Efficiency Economy, CEPT University, International Institute of Information Technology - Hyderabad, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NRDC and several others were involved in the discussion.

Looking ahead, NRDC and ASCI are working with city and state leaders and key stakeholders to strengthen the online ECBC compliance system in three key ways. 

1.      Providing a Simple and Effective Online Compliance Tool

While many jurisdictions in India are moving to online platforms for making government processes efficient and simple, as a part of the Digital India initiative. The government of Telangana is the first in the country to incorporate energy code provisions in its online development permission management system. The online system, a beta version of which is currently live, checks for ECBC eligibility and prompts applicants to enter the details of the Third Party Assessors in the web form. Users can upload the supporting technical documents, which are then reviewed by the Town and Country Planning Office in Hyderabad. NRDC, ASCI and other partners are working with the government and the software developers in getting the system ready for its final launch.

2.      Strengthening the Third Party Assessor (TPA) model

Third Party Assessors are critical to the system since they provide the technical expertise to developers. Third Party Assessors are empaneled by the state and review and certify the building for ECBC compliance both before and after the construction stage. Since the Third Party Assessors have a very important role to play in compliance verification, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, which is currently accepting Third Party Assessor applications, now requires all selected applicants to undertake ECBC compliance-training and on completion pass a qualifying exam to be empaneled. GHMC will maintain a list of all empaneled Third Party Assessors on its website.   

3.      Building Local Capacity

To strengthen the local capacity and expertise, the Telangana government is establishing an ECBC Technical Cell, with experts from ASCI, IIITH, and NRDC, to provide technical support in assessing the first 25 eligible commercial buildings for ECBC compliance. Based on application review and queries from these applications, the Technical Cell plans to develop “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” and provide recommendations for streamlining the provisions of the Telangana State ECBC to be locally applicable and provide practical means of compliance.   

ASCI and NRDC, along with experts from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and IIIT, have already trained more than three hundred officials and real estate developers since the code became mandatory. In anticipation of increased volume of ECBC applications via the online system, we are now planning a second round of technical training workshops to strengthen the state capacity for Third Party Assessors, architects, engineers, and real estate developers with expertise in TS ECBC. This training will incorporate the lessons learned after evaluation of the initial set of commercial buildings that will be checked for ECBC compliance and will also take help of the FAQs that the team will be developing.

Replicating Hyderabad Model in Other Cities

Clean energy development is a priority for the Modi government and energy efficiency is critical element of that strategy. Over a dozen states in India are at an advanced stage of incorporating the ECBC into the state and local bylaws. The Hyderabad model, however, is a leader in actual implementation. An online system provides a simplified and “hi-tech” approach to building modern India. Once the model is established, leaders from Hyderabad can share lessons with the Ministry of Power and others to scale efforts in India’s fast growing and energy-strapped citiesespecially considering that nearly two thirds of the buildings that will be built by 2030 have yet to be built. Hyderabad’s implementation of the code generates significant energy savings and lays a strong foundation for it to be the leading energy efficient city in India and inspire other cities to follow its example.  

About the co-authors

Dr. Satish Kumar is the Executive Chairman of the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy. Dr. Vishal Garg is an Associate Professor and Head - Center for IT in Building Science at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. Both Dr. Kumar and Dr. Garg are recognized energy-efficiency experts in India and abroad and are actively involved in the Hyderabad ECBC implementation project.  

About the Authors

Sameer Kwatra

Policy Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy, India, International Program
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