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A building that brings credit to India - 28 Dec 2008

ITC Sonar is the only building project in the world that is currently generating carbon credits for its sustainable practices, writes Raktima Bose

An Indian building has set a trend in energy conservation and found a place in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Clean Development Mechanism and the Building and Construction Sector Report, 2008. As the report mentions, it has earned the distinction of being the only project in the building sector in the world that is currently generating Certified Emission Reduction (CERs) issued under the aegis of the United Nations Framework on Climate Control Convention (UNFCCC).

Spread on 16 acres of lush green land and dotted with ponds, ITC Sonar, owned by the ITC-Welcomgroup, comes across as a soothing building amidst a concrete jungle of high-rise buildings in its neighbourhood.

This building proves that the realty sector can not only contribute to the reduction in the green emission gas but also earn carbon credits that can be traded in the world market enhancing its profitability.

The CER is a unit of green house gas emission (one CER is equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide emission) that can be achieved by a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project and certified under the provisions of Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol.

Built in 2003, ITC Sonar started preparations for enlisting itself with the CDM a year later and finally got registered as a CDM project in 2006.

In the very year of the hotel getting registered, 1886 tonnes of CERs were verified by the Designated Operational Entities (DOEs) of the UNFCCC to be sold in the international market and earned the hotel a revenue of Rs. 14.7 lakh.

“Following the footsteps of the company’s commitment of contributing to the ‘triple bottom line’ of economic, social and environmental capital of the country, we embarked on the project of energy conservation as well as reaping benefits out of it,” said Tarun Chattopadhyay, chief engineer of ITC Sonar, who has supervised the entire project since its inception.

Applying the three concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle, cent percent recycling of the sewer and effluent water through in-house sewerage treatment plant, earning zero discharge status of the hotel and water harvesting are some of the unique features adopted by the hotel to cut down on energy consumption.

Electricity usage

Mr. Chattopadhyay said that special emphasis on usage on low E glass was given during the building’s construction, which allows maximum light to come through it but arrests about 20 per cent of the thermal energy thus keeping the rooms cooler. “In the process, we can cut down on the electricity usage,” he added.

Around 25 dedicated employees of the hotel help keeping the systems working round the clock. They also maintain relevant data to show to the UNFCCC verifiers at the end of the year.

The hotel uses non-chloro fluoro carbon (CFC) refrigerates like R-134 and R-404 in the air conditioners to stop ozone layer depletion by the emission of the CFC.

Imported pre-cooled air unit (PAU) pipes in the air conditioning and ventilation systems, reduce the load on the chillers and in the process save energy.

Apart from the above measures, energy generated from solar panels is used for hot water generation and lighting purposes, light emitting diode (LED) lights are used and developing plantations under the supervision of specialist horticulturists are also done.

Though the hotel authorities had envisaged saving about Rs. 83 lakh per year through the project, savings in the year 2007, as verified by the UNFCCC, has been Rs. 54.42 lakh.

Mr. Chattopadhyay pointed out that CDM projects reap benefits on a long-term basis and therefore should not be made equivalent to short-term investment benefits.

“Electricity bill in the financial year of 2007-08 was Rs. 5.8 crore when the hotel’s overall business was more than Rs. 100 crores against the bill amounting to Rs. 7 crore in the year 2004-05 when the total business was around Rs. 38 crore,” he pointed out.

He said that price of CER is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years as more and more developed countries would queue up to buy carbon credits to fulfil their promised quota of emission-cut.

“Not only have the energy conservation initiatives helped reduce the environmental footprint of the property and earned tremendous goodwill from all stakeholders but also opened the door for the entire services sector to invest in clean development mechanisms and support global effort in mitigating adverse effects of climate change caused by global warming,” said Ranvir Bhandari, general manager. In Kolkata, two more new buildings – one owned by the information technology-based company Technopolis and the other owned by the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC) – have already applied for issuance of CER by the UNFCCC.

S.P. Gon Choudhury, director of WBGEDC, said: “More such buildings should come up in the city to make it cleaner and greener.”