Youth entrepreneurs develop an innovative green building design simulator

On the occasion of International Youth Day, India Carbon Outlook spoke to a young green entrepreneur Rishabh Ladha- one of the founders of the Energy City network- to discuss their innovative online green building design simulator meant for India.

It is estimated that in India alone, the green building industry would be worth $4 billion by 2012. The entire building industry nearly consumes 32% of global resources in construction, 40% global energy; emits 30% of global GHG’s and 60% of global electricity . About 90% of urban growth worldwide occurs in developing countries, which are projected to triple their existing base of urban areas between 2000 and 2030. It is estimated that by 2025, China alone will add 350 million people to its urban population—more than the population of the entire United States today .

With residential energy consumption poised to go up by 80% in the next 20 years (~5kTwhr to 9kTWhr), there is phenomenal potential in the green housing sector. . Green Energy codes such as LEED if followed help reduce energy requirement by about 25-40% in new buildings and about 25% by appropriately retrofitting  existing buildings. India’s 29% population lives in urban areas and is growing at 2.4% . 40% of India’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, increasing by 250 million . In spite of the huge potential, the green building sector remains by and large an untapped market in the Indian building industry as the market circle is small, with the conventional builder-buyer model. The rising middle class and increasing disposable income makes it necessary for people to move towards carbon neutrality.

Among various initiatives that are happening to encourage the green buildings, an innovative concept is the Energy City Network (ECN).

What is the Energy City Network?
The Energy City Network (ECN) is an online, green building design simulator which allows users to easily learn, design & find the right resources to develop or retrofit their buildings. The Advanced Online Design Simulator (AODS) incorporates cost functions, response scenarios with parameters, cost benefit analysis tools and market values of different green building technologies all built in one to offer the consumer all possible scenarios, after effects, ROI and saving on a precise scale. This online portal helps people design their buildings (new and existing), analyze them from environmental and socio-economic perspective, share with friends on the network and find the right service providers for their work. It also provides the members of the industry a perfect place to promote and market their products directly to the consumers.

ECN is the brainchild of a core team of 3 student entrepreneurs – Rishabh Ladha, Priyanka Botny and Naman Sanghvi – and is amongst 30 odd student startups receiving mentorship at Conquest at Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at BITS Pliani. Each of the ECN’s co-founders brings in expertise and experience from various domains such as research and development in green buildings, environmental auditing, strategic planning and development, marketing and branding and forming key partnerships.

Says Rishabh Ladha. “The core objective of this initiative is to first inculcate curiosity and awareness, then create market need and finally commercialize the model for a service system. This will create an ecosystem for the green building industry that fosters growth, improves communication, creates jobs and encourages outreach”.

How is the Energy City Network Model different?
ECN’s Design Simulator is built for people, and also offers levels of expertise for different categories of users. The smart guy can view accurate analysis and the not so smart guy can simply try out something like a game he plays. Everyone gets to learn something from it. The information is not disseminated in form of long texts but easy to understand illustrations. For the industry, ECN is a great marketing and selling window. 

“ECN not only tells you how to make a green building, but goes further by getting you to the right resources. All other simulators in the industry are either built for professionals, or are very primitive,” says Rishabh.
Rishabh adds “This is a great tool for small manufacturers and freelance architects and consultants. Research points out to three major reasons for people not adapting to green/ energy efficient technology: lack of awareness, the perception that green is an added expense and lack of financial incentives. Energy City network addresses these issues by being a portal for relevant and quality information, helping professionals estimate what fits their budget and finding the best sources to procure those systems from”.

There is already a segment that is ready to invest a lot since they can afford it. But, green buildings do not have to be expensive. Indigenous construction methodologies as simple as filling the gap between two layered walls with hay – which is a good insulator, can be explained to people. It’s a good investment, saves money and resources in the long run, and improves the value of one’s property. If others are seen adopting the green building phenomena through community participation and social media, more will be inclined to do the same.

References:
World Green Building Commission Report 2010: www.worldgbc.org/site2/index.php/download_file/85/78/
Harvard Business School: Sustainable Cities: Oxymoron or the Shape of the Future?: hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6609.html   
Energy Outlook 2010: Exxon Mobil: www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/files/news_pub_eo.pdf
World Green Building Commission Report 2010: www.worldgbc.org/site2/index.php/download_file/85/78/
World Green Building Commission Report 2010: www.worldgbc.org/site2/index.php/download_file/85/78/
Beyond Profit Magazine: Issue December 2010, Failed Solutions on Urban Housing: beyondprofit.com/2010/12   

Image(s) Courtesy:
Wonderlane
Energy City Network

ECN