"Saving millions of tonnes of CO2"

Article, 21.12.2018

India has introduced new nationwide building codes in energy efficiency for homes. The new building code – developed together with Switzerland  – have led to savings in heating and cooling, and have made a mark in the fight against climate change.

The hospital in Pune is a large white building surrounded by trees. In the foreground are wooden barracks.
Architectural projects supported or awarded by the BEEP project are flourishing all over India, such as the latest hospital to open in Pune, a city located 150km east of Mumbai. © BEEP

There is great demand for housing in India. Estimates predict that around 75% of all flats and houses that will be needed by 2030 are yet to be built.

New building codes are resulting in huge savings in energy costs and CO2 emissions. The SDC's assistant director general, Pio Wennubst, explains.

Pio Wennubst
Pio Wennubst © SDC

Mr Wennubst, India just announced that the energy efficiency building code it developed together with Switzerland will apply to all the country's housing in future. How will that help?

The Indo-Swiss Building Energy Efficiency project, known as BEEP, created India's first-ever building code for energy efficient housing. The country's building construction and operation are responsible for almost 40% of global CO2 emissions. So there's an enormous potential for making savings here. If new buildings in India are energy efficient, 100 million tonnes of CO2 can be saved by 2030.

The biggest increase in energy needs in the coming years will be for cooling buildings. Just 8% of people living in the world's hottest regions have air conditioning (compared to 90% of the population in the US and Japan). And this figure is going to increase dramatically over the next few years. A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2100, global energy needs will be 33 times higher than today. And this is mainly because of the growing need for cooling.

People often buy the cheapest and least efficient air-conditioning units. This is compounded by the fact that the energy to run them often comes from coal plants, which greatly increases greenhouse gas emissions. India's new building codes should reduce the number of days per year that air conditioning or heating is needed – this means huge energy savings, which in turn means good news for our climate.

What's the connection between developing building codes and Switzerland's development cooperation work?

Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects us all. Most building today is taking place in emerging countries. So if these houses can be built in line with energy efficiency building codes, that's a significant contribution to limiting climate change – which, ultimately, affects the poorest people the most. In an increasingly warmer world, having homes with comfortable room temperatures and, therefore, lower electricity costs will also benefit poorer sections of the population directly.

The SDC is making every effort to share its experiences with emerging countries. It supports the IEA's Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Programme – which operates in six emerging countries (Mexico, Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Indonesia) – where it has already provided insights from the project in India.

How did the cooperation between Switzerland and India function in this project? What was Switzerland able to contribute?

Switzerland has been active in India for 70 years and has been supporting energy efficiency projects since the 1990s. So a lot of the cooperation was based on that – a long-standing working relationship and mutual trust.

Switzerland also has an excellent reputation in India. It stands for cleanliness, precision and efficiency. And Switzerland has a great deal of experience in energy-efficient construction. Before the first building codes were issued almost 40 years ago, the average building in Switzerland used to get through 20 litres of heating oil per square metre. Today, energy-smart renovated buildings only need six litres and brand new buildings only need four.