29 March 2020

Table of Contents for Greenitiatives

Interview - Chaithra Rajshekhar (McD BERL)

Started in 2003, McD BERL is 60 people organisation having done projects in India, China, Morocco, Indonesia, United States and South America. The Bengaluru based firm has been majorly contributing to public awareness of the need to live in a natural environment. CHAITHRA RAJSHEKAR, who leads McD BERL’s team on sustainability, responded to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES queries on the role played by her organisation in the built environment. 



Briefly tell us about McD BERL contribution to the smart environs space? 

McD BERL is a Built Environment Research Laboratory continuously focused on creating awareness on the need to live in natural environments. We strive to contribute back to communities with our integrated approach to water, energy and materials. Our consistent endeavour is to engineer our projects to enable Zero Energy, Zero Carbon and Water Self-sufficient development through our proprietary tools. Our vision is to save water, energy and resources and make people live in natural environments. We aspire to be the best environmental company globally dedicated to provide leading innovative solutions to save future generations. Our mission is to discover, develop and provide innovative products and services that make people live in natural environments.


What are the services and solutions provided by your organisation and who are your clients and partners? 

Our work is focused on the following services and solutions in the green building space:

Water: This includes water conservation, water recycling and re-use, rainwater harvesting, watershed management, water treatment, surface and groundwater studies and modeling The goal is to ensure that the development maximizes water conservation by optimising the utilisation of site water resources, minimising site waste water outflows, maximising efficiency of water usage within buildings and on site, reducing potable water requirements, generating water on site using lakes, ponds and ground water development using rain water harvesting technique.


Energy: The goal is to provide energy efficient developments by reducing the energy demand, incorporating passive design measures to maximize the use of natural ventilation, cooling and lighting, and generating energy on site from renewable resources, which not only enables substantial savings to be made on the running costs of heating, cooling and lighting, but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution resulting from the use of fossil fuels.


Passive Energy: We also are focused on service areas like Passive Energy which includes Building Form, Massing, Orientation Studies; Optimum Window to Wall Area Ratio; Roof & Wall Reflectivity; Roof & Wall Insulation; Shading Devices Design; Daylight Analysis; Façade and Building Envelope Analysis and Building Physics. We work alongside architects and building service engineers, to develop passive design strategies to optimise the natural resources available to heat, cool and lit up the interior of buildings. These strategies are  aimed at avoiding procedures that rely on conventional carbon intense technologies to achieve design criteria. We are also into testing design options by means of dynamic thermal simulation and air flow modelling to evaluate the effectiveness of design measures such as shading, building fabric and form, building materials, fenestration, solar orientation against conventional design methods.

Active & Low Energy: This includes Radiant Cooling/Heating, Passive Down Draft Evaporative Cooling, Ground Source Heat Pump, Earth Air Tunnel, Night Sky Cooling, Displacement Ventilation We also make use of nonconventional cooling or heating strategies that are passive in nature and are energy-efficient. Buildings can be cooled or heated by passive systems through the utilisation of several natural heat sinks such as ambient air, the upper atmosphere, water and below ground soil. As a result the capital costs of the conventional air conditioning system is  reduced by 30 per cent and operational costs go down by 50 per cent per annum. The various passive cooling systems are thus classified according to the major or obvious natural source from which the cooling energy is derived.

Green Certification: We work along with architects, developers and clients to achieve desired green building rating for commercial, residential and institutional buildings .We make sure that all over buildings achieve the highest rating of the green building rating system


Give us an understanding of your clients and partners? 

They include the likes of Infosys Limited, IFC, Mindtree, CnT Architects, Flying Elephant Studio, The Purple Ink Studio, Vastu Shilpa Consultants, Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates, BIOME and The Elements.


What are the areas of sustainability in the built environment in which India is most deficient and what are your solutions to address them?

There are several areas of sustainability in the built environment in which the country can be viewed as laggard. Just to mention a few of those. Most of the buildings are energy guzzlers and lot of energy is consumed for lighting and air conditioning; the increase in energy usage has led to global warming; there is growing water scarcity because of higher unnecessary usage of water; increased CO2 emission; improper design of buildings without considering  climatic conditions contributes to increased energy usage. Further buildings are designed in such a way that daylight is completely blocked. This leads to increased usage of artificial lighting.


What are the solutions offered by your firm to address the above issues?

Our solutions include designing climate responsive energy efficient buildings, use of passive cooling methods instead of conventional air conditioning design, rainwater harvesting to reduce the load on municipal water supplies, design of buildings which consume less water compared to conventional design. We also follow an integrated approach to water where we reduce, reuse and recycle the water and subtract on the water consumption by 50 per cent as compared to conventional building design. Further we design buildings in such a way that they are completely day lit and reduce dependence on artificial lighting. We also make use of energy efficient lighting fixtures.


What is the level of awareness and concern among indian corporate, real estate developers when it comes to designing for sustainability/incorporation of green elements in structures? Could you name client organisations which are proactive in terms of applying best practices in the built environment?  

Awareness level of sustainability or incorporation of green elements particularly among Indian corporates and in the real estate sector is low. Most people in this area are of the view that building green is more expensive. It is felt that green buildings are not as efficient as conventional buildings and requires experts to execute the work and is less comfortable as compared to conventional design. Several of our clients are actively pursuing the sustainability agenda and offer ample evidence of application of best practices in the built environment. These include Infosys Limited, Samskruti Builders, The Flying Elephant Studio, Pradeep Sachdev Design Associates, Chaithanya Shantiniketan Builders, Mindtree, CnT.


What are the challenges you face as a green building consultant and services provider when it comes to project implementation?

The first and foremost constraint for the proliferation of green buildings is the lack of information and incorrect perception. It is generally believed that green buildings cost more and have longer gestation periods. Although experts highlight the advantages of green buildings, this information does not reach developers and customers. It is difficult to get positive returns on this extra investment. This issue is mainly due to the still-evolving nature of green buildings; lack of technical information; incomplete and inefficient execution of green projects; a short-term view on returns, instead of focusing on lifetime Return on Investment (ROI) of these buildings.


What is the role a firm like yours can expect to play in India’s urban infrastructure development agenda?

As a firm which is in the environmental field we want to create awareness of the need to live in a natural environment. We want to save water, energy and natural resources and help our future generations to lead a sustainable life. When it comes to buildings a green, sustainable construction is the next-big-thing that will completely overhaul ‘conventional’ design.
As energy becomes dearer and water crisis rampant, an increasing need for green buildings is being felt worldwide. And why wouldn’t moderate room temperature, great health, natural light, fresh air, ample water and adequate electricity supply without soaring bills, appeal to everyone? Add to this there is the philanthropic satisfaction of reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation. Besides, heavier wallets and a space that passes as ‘contemporary’ for the foreseeable future are bonuses. The areas of infrastructure where McD BERL has offered its services and support are: reducing water demand of the building and making the development completely water self sustainable; reducing energy demand using passive and low energy cooling systems without compromising on comfort; design of energy efficient AC and lighting system; design of building which are completely day lit and shaded to reduce heat gain; façade design to reduce heat gain thereby reducing the air conditioning energy; suggestion on sustainable building materials which have lesser embodied energy  thereby reducing the carbon foot print and renewable energy sources design and implementation.


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