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All About Solar Decathlon India Initiative Towards Net Zero Buildings

The Solar Decathlon India is an initiative that is working towards climate-resilient solutions for buildings of all kinds.

All About Solar Decathlon India Initiative Towards Net Zero Buildings

Many regions in India are currently battling with the intense heatwave. With the rising temperature, the spotlight remains on climate change. But have you ever thought that innumerable skyscrapers around have an impact on climate change? Surprisingly, buildings contribute to 21 percent of global carbon emissions. Not only this but they continue to emit carbon emissions for their entire lifetime. Now, the question is — what is a good building and can it be built in an eco-friendly way? This is where Solar Decathlon India (SDI) comes into play. SDI is an initiative towards climate resilience solutions for buildings of all kinds.

How is SDI working towards its goals?

SDI, through its annual competition, challenges students to work in real estate. This way, they create innovative Net Zero Building Solutions. In just four years, SDI has become the world's largest Net Zero challenge.

What are Net Zero Buildings and how are they different?

In a conversation with NDTV, the director of Solar Decathlon India, Prasad Vaidya said, “Solar Decathlon India is a Net Zero building challenge. Our purpose is to educate and train the next generation of Net Zero building professionals, to become future-ready and industry-ready. So that we don't have to train them in the workplace. So, most people are aware of their environmental footprint. But what they don't realise is that the buildings that we inhabit have a much bigger environmental footprint and it is like a huge splash.”

He added, “Green buildings try to reduce this so that the footprint can be smaller. But Net Zero buildings are such that they try to leave no footprint behind. It is the lightest way to walk the earth.”

It is worth noting that the evidence linking buildings and climate change has been here for some time now.

SDI design challenge and solutions being proposed

Since 2020, SDI has grown as the world's largest net zero-building challenge. In its fourth year now, 2,100 students from 187 institutions across India have collaborated with over 200 partners from the real estate industry.

It is a tough and intense nine-month innovation challenge, which is full of learning and collaborations. Out of the 175 teams, 37 have made it to the finals. The finals were held at the Net Zero Mysuru campus of Infosys. The entire event was carbon neutral.

What do students feel about this competition?

Megha Roy, one of the finalists, said, “I think it is a lot of knowledge gained. We get to understand and know about a lot of materials that we didn't even know could have existed.”

Manav Seth, the division winner, said, “We feel the pleasure that we have been able to participate in something that was extremely innovative and it is important for every one of us to do our bit for the climate change aspect. It was a great challenge before us to design something that is contributing to climate change. We have taken care at all points of time throughout the nine months to do something that brings out even a little bit of change from our side.”

The SDI Net Zero Building challenge is a practical and hands-on opportunity for students from across India to contribute to the implementation of Net Zero solutions in the construction and real estate industry.

How is this competition helpful?

The 37 finalists presented their solutions for climate-resilient net zero buildings in five categories—multi-family housing, educational buildings, office buildings, community resilience shelter, and construction worker housing.

A sixth category for product renovation included residential cooling retrofit. This sixth category challenged students to develop products that we can put into our homes to get cheaper and better cooling.

Principal architect at Ashok B Lall Architects, Ashok Lall said, “The challenge of Solar Decathlon is a design challenge, which is something we as population and citizens are all concerned with. It is a challenge that is looking at the reality of climate change. We have all been experiencing it now in all cities. Who is going to solve those problems for us? Who is going to take us a step away from climate change and have a secure future? It is the designer of our built environment. So, we have to start with the young batch. We need to get them trained. And SDI with this nine-month program has already provided a platform for the designers of the future.”

One of the jury members of this challenge, Anuja Sawant said, “Challenges like SDI are connecting dots. Because if you look at the whole setup of the contest it is making architects and engineers come together. They are meeting industry partners. And this kind of association at the young stage is going to give them first-hand experience with what we got after five years of college.”

Apart from the students, 25 start-ups showcase their innovations and Tech Solutions at the Solar Decathlon India. The climate-smart innovation exhibition serves as a dynamic platform for collaboration, learning and exchange of ideas, driving forward the vision of a sustainable future.

SDI is about building a community and sparking a movement towards a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

It is designed to create a large ecosystem of builders, developers, manufacturers, innovators, engineers and architects, who need to work together to build a more sustainable and climate-resilient India.

SDI engages with investors and funders, recognizing their critical role in scaling sustainable solutions.

Dr Manjunatha, vice president of JSW Cement LTD, said, “Last year we participated as jury members, but this year we have come as partners, like sponsors. JSW is advocating green and sustainable practices in the construction industry. It is going to help the whole world to reduce the carbon footprint.”

SDI is conducted by an Alliance for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Indian Institute of Human Settlement (IIHS) and the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF).

Team Genesis from NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture bagged the grand prize at the end of this 9-month-long competition.

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