Breakfast Meeting on Smart Infrastructure – Smart Corporate Offices and Energy Neutral Buildings


AMCHAM’s Tamil Nadu Chapter organized a breakfast meeting on energy neutral buildings and smart corporate offices on 30th March, 2017 at Hotel Westin Velachery in Chennai. The meeting was chaired by Mr. R. Ramkumar with guest speakers Dr. Prof. Benny Raphael, IIT – Madras and Dr. Chidambaranathan Velan, CEO, Tata Realty Infrastructure Limited and moderated by Mr. Ravi Bhattaram, Director-Engineering, CBRE South Asia Pvt. Ltd. Both guest speakers made presentations on the given topic. The following is a summary of the presentation:


Amid growing concerns about rising energy prices, energy independence, and the impact of climate change, statistics show buildings to be the primary energy consumer. This fact underscores the importance of targeting building energy use as a key to decreasing the nation’s energy consumption. The building sector can significantly reduce energy use by incorporating energy-efficient strategies into the design, construction, and operation of new buildings and undertaking retrofits to improve the efficiency of existing buildings. It can further reduce dependence on fossil fuel derived energy by increasing use of on-site and off-site renewable energy sources.


The concept of a net zero energy building, one which produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year, recently has been evolving from research to reality. Currently, there are only a small number of highly efficient buildings that meet the criteria to be called “net zero.” As a result of advances in construction technologies, renewable energy systems, and academic research, creating net zero energy buildings is becoming more and more feasible. While the exact definitions of metrics for “net zero energy” vary, most agree that net zero energy buildings combine:

Both speakers emphasized that regardless of the definition or metric used for a net zero energy building, minimizing the energy used through efficient building design should be a fundamental design criterion and the highest priority of all net zero energy building projects. Energy efficiency is generally the most cost-effective strategy with the highest return on investment, and maximizing efficiency opportunities before developing renewable energy plans will minimize the cost of the renewable energy projects needed. Using advanced energy analysis tools, design teams can optimize efficient designs and technologies.


Energy efficiency measures include design strategies and features that reduce the demand-side loads such as high-performance envelopesair barrier systemsdaylightingsun control and shading devices, careful selection of windows and glazingpassive solar heatingnatural ventilation, and water conservation. Once building loads are reduced, the loads should be met with efficient equipment and systems. This may include energy efficient lightingelectric lighting controlshigh-performance HVAC, and geothermal heat pumps. Energy conversion devices such as combined heat and power systemsfuel cells, and micro turbines do not generate renewable energy. Instead, they convert fossils fuel energy into heat and electricity and are can be considered energy efficiency strategies.


In summation, it was stated that the largest energy reductions can be achieved through design, including on-site renewable energy systems, building maintenance software systems and energy management systems. A peer review of the design for new projects is advisable.  The payback on CAPEX is about 12 – 15 months if the right installations are done in the project state. For retro fitted buildings, payback would be 2-3 years. A building is considered a ‘smart building’ when all its equipment is on the ‘hi-performance mode.’