Reducing the carbon footprint of India’s building sector with UN-endorsed expert coalition approach

Improving the sustainability of a country’s building sector is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. It requires very specific local knowledge, according to GBPN expert, Aarti Nain. 

Aarti Nain | GBPNMs Nain is a member of JINDA, a sister program of the successful expert coalition program GBPN established in Indonesia called HIDUP, and a consultant at Environmental Design Solutions (EDS). She said JINDA worked because it allowed for detailed exploration of local conditions and tailoring of solutions to accommodate them –  which ensured implementation would be effective. 

“My task as part of JINDA was to ensure that what we were proposing was pragmatic enough for the state agencies to be able to implement it,” she said. 

“You can develop very complex codes, but you have to be cognizant of the capacity of the local agencies –  people on the ground, officials – to be able to implement it. And you also need to consider the systems that they have, not just the manpower, not just the human resources, but also the IT systems and other systems in place. 

“So my task was to keep giving feedback that this will work or this will not work, even though it is a good idea, so we know our recommendations will be effective.”

JINDA (meaning ‘alive’ in Hindi) is composed of a state-based alliance of five local experts who bring their specialist experience from across a diverse range of areas.

The group’s main role is to support the Government of India’s implementation of the Energy Conservation Building Code (also known as the Eco Niwas Samhita – or ENS) by aiding the adoption, compliance and enforcement of the proposed changes.

GBPN’s Senior Advisor, India, Gautam Nagar, said the project was a pivotal initiative that would provide important learnings for the whole country.

“We expect the work carried out by the JINDA alliance in Gujarat will provide insights and approaches that can be adopted and tailored to regions elsewhere in India.”

Partnering with specialists on the ground

GBPN’s goal is to ensure that ENS implementation is as easy as possible by engaging local experts who know the region, the issues, the local policy landscape, and who understand how to make a difference there. Ms Nain said the organisation’s willingness to hand the reins to local experts, listen to different perspectives and take advice was pivotal in delivering strong results. 

Ms Nain’s previous experience analysing capacity and perceptions of markets and consumers in India towards energy efficient technologies came into play when reviewing the policy documents brought to the JINDA table for each of their monthly Focus Group Discussions.

“There was never an expectation that we would sign off on the first attempt when providing feedback,” Ms Nain said.

“We’d question GBPN relentlessly and they were very patient with our comments. Quite often that would involve completely rewriting the presented documents. 

“The objectives were very clear, and very methodical and I didn’t feel rushed to do things. GBPN were very much focused on the output. I think the workflow methods implemented by GBPN for JINDA, were very good.”

JINDA model a template for India building reform

“Any other state in India that wants to start from ground zero and efficiently integrate energy efficiency laws into the local building law can use this document and this process – with revisions specific to the locality. I believe it can be a great master document.”

–   Aarti Nain, Environmental Design Solutions.

Experts within the core working group of JINDA agree the process could be successfully translated elsewhere in India, due to the regulations and the regulatory framework of building construction being consistent across the country. 

“What we are doing is proposing a method of ensuring efficiency within the systems that already exist, and this will be done so while understanding the capacities of a state to monitor the design and construction of any new buildings,” Ms Nain said.

“Any other state in India that wants to start from ground zero and efficiently integrate energy efficiency laws into the local building law can use this document and this process – with revisions specific to the locality. I believe this approach can be a great tool.” 

Mr Nagar said the timing of the project, and its successful roll out, is especially important due to the expected update to the National Building Code of India in 2025. Discussions relating to amendments have already commenced with the Bureau of Indian Standards.

“We were keen to tap into Indian expertise from the building sector to help shape the recommendations,” Mr Nagar said.

“We took a very collaborative approach, using GBPN’s coalition methodology, and worked together to ensure the recommendations were practical and evidence-based.” 

The future of the coalition model

GBPN is now focused on scaling up its engagement with its network of experts to support the overarching mission of decarbonising the building sector. 

Kate Mcfarlane | GBPNKate McFarlane, GBPN Head of Networks and Engagement said that the local expert coalitions like JINDA are instrumental in the fight against climate change.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with our local experts to develop local strategies to decarbonise the building sector through policy reform at a local level,” Ms McFarlane said.

“GBPN’s approach brings the right people together, forming powerful coalitions in the right locations to deliver maximum impact.”