Thursday, May 15, 2014

TERI's RETREAT - an achievement in energy efficiency


The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) it was called Tata Energy Research Institute earlier has this remarkable energy efficient building called Retreat. Today, there are plenty of LEED certified buildings which manage this, but TERI’s RETREAT was one of the pionners. So what makes the RETREAT so special. Well read on....

Most of the buildings / homes we live in are virtual energy guzzlers. An energy efficient home contributes to a cleaner, healthier surrounding, adds positively to the environment, conserves resources and above all it is LIGHTER ON THE PURSE - it helps save quite a packet ; with no compromise on the degree of comfort.

Hard to believe, it has been so proved at TERI’s RETREAT (Resource Efficient TERI Retreat for Environmental Awareness and Training), situated at Gual Pahari, Gurgaon. This eco-friendly training complex a mere 35 minutes drive from Delhi is equipped with all modern amenities & its comforts- from fax, phones, airconditioners to computers & internet but at the same time conserves resources and is not detrimental to the environment. It reduces the use of fossil fuels,  there is little emission of pollutants, optimum use of water together with its recycle and recharge and reduced waste generation. The place can be called truly self sufficient in all its needs.  It is completely free from municipal services, is not connected to the city’s grid system (generates its own electricity),  provides for its own water requirements and all such infrastructure facilities.  As crunch points try this, building design and engineering has resulted in an overall load saving of 184 kW (peak), i.e. reduction in load to 96kW (peak) from a conventional high of 280 kW (peak). In rupee terms it is almost a saving of Rs. 26,86,400 p.a., assuming peak usage for 8 hours daily for 365 days at Rs. 5 per unit of electricity. The place uses sun’s rays, wind current, rain water and harnesses effectively natural conditions & seasonal phenomenon, to create a marvellous example of modern day sustainable living.

Electricity Connection - The building is run on a photovoltaic gasifier hybrid system. The 50 kilowatt gasifier runs on biomass fuel (dried leaves, twigs, firewood and crop residues converted into briquettes) with one kg biomass producing 1 unit. About 10 kW of solar energy is generated by the roof photovoltaic system. The building management system manages the power available from both the sources.  The daytime needs are met by the gasifier while the solar PV plant the night time requirements. Stand alone systems power the external lights and water pumps. This system runs all electricity based appliances including computers, airconditioners and photocopiers.

Passive design concepts resulting in reduced energy consumption - “Passive design concepts” in lay man’s language can be defined as design nuances which make optimum use of available knowledge of natural resources to reduce energy utilisation. The latticework for shading at both ends cuts off the summer sun and lets in the winter sun. As also the North South orientation of the building with shading devices which cuts off the summer sun and lets in the winter sun. The roof is insulated by using vermiculite concrete and china mosaic white finish.  This reflects the sun’s rays and reduces the roof load. The walls are insulated with Styrofoam which balances the temperature and prevents the walls from becoming heated in summers and becoming very cold in winters. The building is partially sunken into the ground.  This helps stabilize internal temperature. Skylights are designed in such a manner as to provide glarefree daylight in the conference halls, library and recreation hall.  I had to constantly pinch myself to believe that it was not the usual electric light but sunlight pouring into the place. After working under artificial lighting, it does take a while getting used to natural light. Landscaping alters the flow of wind while the deciduous trees planted on the southern side provide shade during summers while in winters they conveniently shed their leaves to allow for the warm bright winter sun. A smart approach indeed !  All this reduces the load by atleast 10 - 15%.   

There is more to this place, it will be telling if I put everything down here, go there take a look, come back convinced and use it in your home.

Location – It is around 10 – 12 kms from Mehrauli if one takes the short road via Chattarpur, Jaunapur to Gwal Pahari. The route via the Pahari from Gurgaon is circuitous though it is wonderful to see such empty roads so near Delhi.
How to get there -  It is better to go in one’s own vehicle.  
Highlight – The design concept of the building. The harnessing of natural resources to provide for light, air inside the building. The planting of trees to facilitate this.
Insider Tip – Study the use of energy efficient techniques and see what can be implemented in one’s own home. The range of technology available to reduce the use of electricity, water and treatment of sewage is mind boggling. If you are planning to construct your own house, this is the ideal place to check out before starting work. It is remarkable how this green landscape has been achieved in a pahari or mountainous area.


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