Energy Conservation Building Code

Energy codes for new buildings are an important regulatory measure for ushering energy efficiency in the building sector. Energy codes and standards set minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings, assuring reductions in energy use and emissions over the life of the building. Energy codes which are subsets of building codes establishes baseline requirements and presents a unique opportunity to assure savings through efficient building design, technologies, and construction practices. Energy efficiency in buildings also offers the greatest potential for saving energy at the lowest cost.

Energy Conservation Act, 2001 and Energy Conservation Building Code

In India, the need for a legislation on energy conservation was realised only during the ninth five-year plan. In 2001, the Government of India enacted the Energy Conservation Act (ECA), 2001 to provide for efficient use of energy and its conservation and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Under the provisions of the Act, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been established with effect from 1-3-2002 by merging the erstwhile energy management centre, a society under the Ministry of Power.

ECA, 2001 empowers the Central Government under Section 14(p) read with Section 56(2)(l) to prescribe the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC). Section 2(j) of ECA, 2001 defines “energy conservation building codes” as the norms and standards of energy consumption expressed in terms of per square meter of the area wherein energy is used and includes the location of the building. The Act defines “building” in Section 2(c) which means any structure or erection or part of structure or erection after the rules relating to energy conservation building codes have been notified under clause (p) of Section 14 and clause (a) of Section 15 and includes any existing structure or erection or part of structure or erection, which is having a connected load of 100 kilowatt (kW) or contract demand of 120 kilovolt ampere (kVA) and above and is used or intended to be used for commercial purposes.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is mandated to take suitable steps to prescribe guidelines for ECBC under clause (p) of Section 14 of the Act [Section 13(2)(d) of the Act]. The Central Government including the State Governments can amend the ECBC to suit regional and local climatic conditions [Section 14(q) and Section 15(a) of the Act] and they can direct every owner or occupier of the building  or building complex, being designated consumer to comply with the provisions of the ECBC for efficient use of energy and its conservation [Section 14(r) and Section 15(b) of the Act]. Further, the Central Government and the State Governments can direct, any designated consumer if, considered necessary for efficient use of energy and its conservation, to get energy audit conducted by an accredited energy auditor in such manner and at such intervals of time as may be specified by regulations [Section 14(s) and 15(c) of the Act].

Initially, in 2005, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) issued revised National Building Code of India (NBC) which covered a range of structural, safety and other design issues covering the issues of energy efficiency marginally. NBC is a comprehensive building Code, that provides guidelines for all building construction activities across the country. NBC, 2005 covered guidelines on energy conservation in building systems to a limited extent but off lately the new and revised National Building Code (NBC), 2016 also focuses on energy efficiency through high technology, innovation, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy.

Energy Conservation Building Code (Code), 2007 and 2017

For the first time the dedicated code, the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) was launched in 2007 in India to set the minimum energy efficiency requirement for new, large commercial spaces. Under the leadership of Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), a committee of experts finalised ECBC in consultation with various stakeholders in 2007, with an overall purpose to provide minimum requirements for the energy-efficient design and construction of buildings. In May 2007, the Ministry of Power, Government of India formally launched the Energy Conservation Building Code, 2007 (ECBC, 2007) for its voluntary adoption in the country. It is applicable for both Government and private buildings. The code is not applicable to equipment and portions of building systems that use energy primarily for manufacturing processes.

The initial drafted ECBC, 2007 was applicable to buildings or building complexes that have a connected load of 500 kW or greater or contract demand of 600 kVA or greater, based on the ECA, 2001. It was provided that the code would become mandatory as and when it will be notified by the Central and State Government in the Official Gazette under clause (p) of Section 14 or clause (a) of Section 15 of the ECA, 2001. The ECA, 2001 was amended in 2010 to focus on a larger set of building and then specified buildings having connected load of 100 kW or contract demand of 120 kVA and above.

In ECBC, 2007, energy performance specifications were covered under five categories: building envelope (walls, roofs, and windows), lighting (indoor and outdoor), Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, service water heating and pumping and electrical systems (power factor, transformers). The structure of the ECBC is patterned after the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (Ashrae standard) (Ashrae, 2004) and offers two compliance approaches: prescriptive or whole building performance method. Irrespective of whether one opts for whole building performance (WBP) method or prescriptive method, the code compliance requires the building to fulfil a set of mandatory provisions as provided under the code.

In June 2017, the ECBC was further modified in approach and expanded by new ECBC, 2017 launched by BEE, with technical support from the US Agency for International Development (Usaid). During the launch event, it was indicated that an ECBC compliant new building should be able to demonstrate minimum energy savings of 25% compared to a conventional building. Further, ECBC, 2017 encourages additional improvements in building energy performance. As per ECBC, 2017, a new building can achieve higher grades like Energy Conservation Building Code Compliant Building (ECBC Building), Energy Conservation Building Code Plus Building (ECBC+ Building) or Super Energy Conservation Building Code Building (Super ECBC Building) status and these buildings should be able to demonstrate energy savings of 35% and 50% respectively. The objective of ECBC is to provide minimum requirements for energy efficient design and design of buildings and their systems. The code sets clear criteria for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design through the inclusion of passive design strategies.

Although ECBC is enacted by Central Government under the Ministry of Power (MoP) its implementation lies with State Government [Urban Development Department (UDD) and Department of Energy (DoE)] and local Government [Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)]. Code adoption, implementation and enforcement involve multiple stakeholders and amongst them the role of State and local Government is the most pivotal of all. The involvement of multiple government departments, with their overlapping roles and responsibilities at various levels needs streamlined implementation as has been observed from its practical experience.

Eco-Niwas Samhita, 2018: Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings (ECBC-R)

Eco-Niwas Samhita, Part I: Building envelope (energy conservation building code for residential sector) was launched on 14-12-2018 on the occasion of National Energy Conservation Day by Speaker of Lok Sabha and Minister of Power, New and Renewable Energy.

Energy Conservation Building Code-Residential (ECBC-R) (Part I: Building envelope) sets minimum building envelope performance standards to limit heat gains (for cooling dominated climates) and to limit heat loss (for heating dominated climates), as well as for ensuring adequate natural ventilation and daylighting potential. The code provides design flexibility to innovate and vary important envelope components such as wall type, window size, type of glazing, and external shading to windows to meet the compliance in a simple to apply format, requiring only simple calculations based on inputs from the architectural design drawings of buildings. In subsequent years, it is envisaged that new parts, Eco-Niwas Samhita in the Part II will be added to address other aspects, such as energy efficiency in electro-mechanical equipment for building operation, renewable energy generation, and embodied energy of building materials and structural systems.

The code is applicable to all residential buildings and residential parts of “mixed land-use projects”, both built on a plot area of ≥500 m2. The code is applicable for family dwellings, group housing, apartment complexes and residential parts of “mixed land-use projects”. Inns, clubs, motels, guesthouses, dormitories and hotels are excluded from the application of this code. Further any commercial areas like club houses or gymnasiums located inside residential complexes will have to adhere to ECBC commercial code.

The States and municipal bodies may reduce the plot area for the applicability of the code based on the prevalence in their area of jurisdiction. This provision is kept taking into account the prevalent plot sizes and housing types in different states and enabling the inclusion of a greater percentage of new multi-dwelling unit residential buildings within the scope of this code. The ECBC-R is relevant for all the 5 climatic zones of India and designed for ease of compliance demonstration. The code aims for promoting design and construction of homes including apartments and townships to give the benefits of energy efficiency to the occupants. The impact of the code is seen in its huge potential for electricity saving and Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and will benefit homeowners and users by improved thermal comfort, reduced electricity bills and healthier environment.

Energy Efficiency Label for Residential Buildings, 2019

The energy efficiency label for residential buildings was launched by the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for power and renewable during the conference of Ministers for Power, New and Renewable Energy of States and Union Territories held at Gurugram, Haryana on 26-2-2019. The objectives of the proposed program are to provide information to consumers on the energy efficiency standard of the homes; a benchmark to compare one home over the other on the energy efficiency standards; a consumer driven market transformation business model solution for energy efficiency in housing sector; and steering the construction activities of India towards international best practices norms.

Proposed labelling program will cover all types of residential buildings in India. Earlier the rating was only for commercial establishments. Under the program, there is no minimum requirement with respect to the area or connected load (kW) for a building dwelling unit to be covered under this labeling program and all single and multiple dwelling unit in the country for residential purpose can apply for seeking an award of label under this program. The schedule in the program defines two specific labelling stages for energy labelling of residential buildings. “Applied For” label is applicable for new buildings with construction permit issued by the authorities having jurisdiction and this label shall be mainly used for marketing of the property whereas “Final Star Label” is applicable for existing and new buildings and this label can only be awarded after the occupancy certificate is issued by the authorities having jurisdiction.

The proposed labelling program is expected to save a substantial amount of electricity through various energy efficiency efforts in the residences nationwide. A 5-star rated home is 40% more energy-efficient than 1-star rated home. With the implementation of the energy efficiency label for residential buildings, energy savings is estimated to be up to 40 per cent over traditional houses with annual savings of 90 billion units by the year 2030.

Way Forward

In addition to ECBC and ECBC-R, there are voluntary programmes which promote the development of green buildings like the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (Griha) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Although, the Codes adopted by India reflects current and futuristic advancements in building technology, market changes, and energy demand scenario of the country, setting the benchmark for Indian commercial and residential buildings to be energy efficient globally but the main struggle will lie in its implementation and mandatory compliance.


*Harsha Rajwanshi is Assistant Professor of Law, Dean of External Relations, Gujarat National Law University Centre for Private International Law, e-mail: hrajwanshi@gnlu.ac.in.

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