LEED BD+C: New Construction v2009
Suzlon One Earth
LEED Platinum 2010
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
Goals and successes
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
Suzlon visualized a global village for its corporate headquarters that offered a climate-responsive habitat with state-of-the-art technology. The top goals identified for this project were to create a corporate office where people can breathe fresh air; do not feel restricted in thought or movement; have a view beyond their monitor screens; can experience daylight from their workstations; do not miss seasons while achieving their targets; can experience and benefit from world-class technology; and have breakout spaces for interaction and bonding. Although worded simply, it meant out-of-the-box thinking and setting a challenge for the Synefra project team to transform this vision into a structural form reality.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
- Cost/utility savings
- Design innovation
- Integrated Design Process
- Light pollution reduction
- Organizational policy
- Organizational priority
- Refrigerant management
- Behicle Miles Traveled (VMT) reduction
- Waste reduction/avoidance
Pursuing LEED certification made the design and construction process more structured and made results more tangible in terms of operational cost savings. And, it influenced technology and material selection and implementation, such as the water management system, water recycling, HVAC system and most importantly, the integrated building automation system, which is the heart of all operations monitoring and controlling.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
Our client, Suzlon Energy Limited, is the world's fifth-largest wind energy company and is committed to promoting clean power globally. Suzlon One Earth's global headquarters were conceived and are managed by Synefra and they showcase Suzlon's mission of "powering a greener tomorrow, today." Apart from LEED and GRIHA certification, the key successes of this built-to-suit project are that it has emerged as a case study reflecting India's rich heritage of sustainable living, simple practices and respect to nature. It has catapulted India on the global green map as a project that has set various precedents in terms of energy efficiency, water recycling and harvesting, and waste management systems for developing countries.
Another success was controlling the project cost even though the highest green building norms were being attempted and implemented. In India, green usually gets marketed as a premium package and is perceived to be costly. Synefra was convinced to burst this myth and it has achieved the project at a cost lower than a comparable size commercial structure and with lower post-commissioning operating costs. This offered a big lesson in terms of value engineering and the strength of utilizing the drawing board to its fullest capacity before you provide the solution for execution.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
Suzlon One Earth is a 100% renewable energy campus with both on- and off-site renewable energy that includes wind and solar. 100% of outdoor lighting and the communication server are run on renewable energy resources. Energy efficiency is also met through intelligent lighting occupancy sensors, efficient envelope design featuring high-performance glazing, over-deck insulation, reduced interior light density and daylighting optimization made possible through the use of glass cylinders and open interactive bays.
In terms of water usage, 100% of wastewater is recycled by an on-site sewage plant and used for landscaping, air-conditioning and washroom flushing. Site landscaping features native and adapted plant species combined with pebble drains to collect excess water. Together, these strategies drastically reduce stormwater runoff. Inside, low-flow faucets, touchless urinals with bytronic sensors and concealed dual-flush toilets conserve water.
Around 80% of materials used in construction were regional materials from within a radius of 800 kilometers. Additionally, around 10% of the materials are rapidly renewable, such as bamboo. 85% of construction waste was recycled.
To address indoor environmental quality, CO2 sensors were installed in densely-occupied spaces and near workstations. The HVAC system was designed for 30% higher ventilation rates than ASHRAE standards.
A truly unique feature of Suzlon One Earth is that it strives for its occupants to be environmentally aware, socially responsible and compatible with the built space. The Synefra project team, along with the Suzlon Human Resources team, conducted pre-occupancy education programs to orient tenants to the facility and explain the norms that would need to be adopted. Suzlon has identified various processes to recognize and develop human behavioral skills to understand and appreciate the inter-relationship between man and his bio-physical surrounding and has modified its policy at One Earth to match the infrastructure. The project is based upon the principle of promoting awareness about sustainability, to the extent of even declaring the entire campus a non-smoking zone, which led many employees to drop their age-old smoking habits The campus is used as a communication tool to portray the interdependence of the natural and man-made environments. Among the various communication strategies adopted at Suzlon One Earth are green design education, green signage and green tours. The end result is an inter-disciplinary human resource that learns about and from the environment on a continuous basis.
What cutting-edge strategies or processes were implemented?
Renewable energy power was used during construction, using the off-site wind turbines, which were installed and commissioned before start of construction.
Suzlon One Earth - Photo by Sunil Rikhaye
A zero waste policy has been formulated that is slated to become a very ambitious, committed and synchronous part of Suzlon's already-established list of green corporate social measures. The zero waste policy will help tenants understand that resources such as paper, cardboard and food should be used responsibly to achieve a green office environment and will guide them to adjust their resource use. In line with the implementation of the zero waste policy, there is on-site separation, collection and storage of materials for recycling, including paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics and metals. Consideration has been given to employing cardboard balers, aluminum can crushers, recycling chutes and collection bins at individual workstations to further enhance the recycling program. Taking this one step further, biodegradable waste is vermicomposted on site, generating organic manure for on-site landscaping.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
Creating and maintaining synergy among the various project stakeholders was one of the biggest challenges. The team took a strategic approach of selecting the right stakeholders and inducting them into the process at the right time. For example, the communication experience consultant joined the process as soon as the architectural design and landscape was ready to get a feel of the facility as it emerged, even though he didn't have to deliver his solution until a much later stage.
The greatest benefit from this approach was that while each of the stakeholders had a definitive responsibility, they never felt restricted by any other stakeholder. The collaboration brought transparency, uniformity, adherence to schedule, and ownership to the team. Every stakeholder shared common goals and worked in tandem with others to achieve them. There was a strong synergy amongst the team members and regular communication ensured that each of them was on the same page at every stage of the project. Proper documentation by all stakeholders helped the team to remain focused and established greater clarity on contentious issues. This proved more effective than relying on verbal discussions or assumptions.
"Synergy meets" were regularly held on site and off site, giving each stakeholder an opportunity to voice his concerns, opinions and observations. These were discussed as a team across disciplines to find the right solutions. Synefra held various milestone celebrations that motivated every team member to perform beyond potential.
The intangible returns of this collaboration were multi-fold wherein every person involved directly or indirectly thought he was not just a brick in the wall but part of the larger cause. Experts with even 30 or more years of experience came up with solutions that they had never thought of during their entire careers. Junior engineers and designers got to express their new thoughts and directly collaborate with senior designers to improve and improvise. Even minor nuances like getting the right product for the door handle or getting the toilet designs correctly were argued upon and debated until everyone involved thought it to be the right decision.
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
An energy savings of approximately 47% and water savings of 60% were accomplished through design and engineering innovation. Annual energy audit data reveals that the system is performing as designed. Selection of a water-cooled system has resulted in energy savings of up to 26%, translating to 18% savings in operating costs. Replacing the air conditioning system with a multi-stage evaporative cooling system for common areas enabled us to install an 1100 TR, instead of a 1490 TR, air conditioning system, resulting in 21% savings in operating costs. The capital expense for an evaporative cooling system is also much less than for an air conditioning system, so the project has been realizing both capital and operating expense benefits from day one. Suzlon One Earth has recorded an Energy Performance Index (EPI) of 59.1 kilowatt hours per square meter per year, reflecting an energy savings of more than 47% over conventional office buildings in India.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
One project challenge was related to installing windmills in an urban zone. The fact that the site was located in an urban area where windmills had never been installed led to speculation that legal requirements would have to be met before they could be installed. However, after a lot of follow-up with the relevant government agencies, the team discovered that legal permission was not essential as per existing laws. But still, all the related stakeholders had to be convinced to incorporate on-site wind turbines in their individual design schemas, such as in the architectural site plan and the landscape plan. This was achieved through grueling sessions of integrated design exercises in project meetings. It turned out that the integration of this ambitious concept was possible without compromising on the aesthetics, image or functionality of the project. The end result was that the electricity-generating wind turbines were set up on the campus and are used to power the information data center and external lighting.
Aerial view, Suzlon One Earth - Photo by Sunil Rikhaye
Ironically, the biggest challenges for our company, a leading global wind turbine manufacturer, were evaluating a product to suit our scale and choosing the right vendor. Evaluation of vendors from across the globe was done based on the concept of product lifecycle cost, and this required considerable study and analysis at the team level. After much deliberation, a local company was eventually chosen and 18 windmills were installed and successfully commissioned. The major learning was that if you think it, then it can be done. The turbines on the campus today are a landmark of this area and various other small and large organizations have attempted the same.
Another challenge was integrating a new strategy - a water cooled variable refrigerant volume (VRV) system - into the project, as it was the first attempt in India by the vendor. Though the concept was completely new and even the vendor was apprehensive, a systematic design and construction approach spearheaded by the Synefra project team helped mitigate the risk involved and achieve the targets set out. The team discovered that sometimes it was essential to go beyond geographical limits and set norms to achieve desired engineering solutions. The system, which reuses water from rainwater tanks and treated sewage water, is more energy-efficient and helped to significantly reduce the air conditioning load, which usually ends up to be a large chunk of operating costs.
What key moments adjusted the project’s direction or outcomes?
This project was conceived based on Suzlon's business requirements, corporate vision and mission - and on the principal of sustainable development. While sustainability and creating an inspiring place of work was always a given, the decision for getting it certified by a global and national rating system emerged in one of our initial meetings with the client. When we decided to pursue this, it made all project stakeholders think in a more structured way and that made our output more tangible and precise. Synefra, as program managers, set challenging benchmarks to each stakeholder to think innovatively and not just in terms of achieving specified standards. We were dealing with six design consultants, 18 technical consultants, 46 direct suppliers and over 400 sub-contractors/agencies/vendors, and making them all think in harmony. This changed the outcome of the project, ultimately creating a structure that each stakeholder prides to be part of.
Another key moment was the design decision to create a campus low rise instead of a high rise, which changed the perspective in terms of landscape, interiors and even the brand communication, resulting in a very positive outcome for this project.
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