A green secretariat

Designed to consume less power than conventional buildings.

Business Line, 14 Mar 2010 – Tamil Nadu's new Legislative Assembly-Secretariat Complex in the heart of Chennai, apart from being the largest government-owned green building, will serve as a benchmark for upcoming structures as far as green features go. – R. Balaji

Nearly a million square feet of built-up space, a little over half of it air-conditioned, more than 1,000 rooms for various offices, conferences, waiting area and about seven acres of landscaped area — that is what makes “TNLA-Block A”, as officials refer to, the new legislative building that is coming up in the heart of Chennai, the largest green building by a State government.

With the Prime Minister inaugurating the facility, it will be the new headquarters of the State with the administrative centre moving out of the 16th century Fort St George which has been the administrative headquarters since then. This block with the Assembly Hall, offices of the Chief Minister and a few senior ministers will be part of an administrative complex coming up on the 25-acre site.

The building community believes that a matter of pride is not just it is the largest government-owned green building but that it will serve as an inspiration and benchmark for all structures to follow in terms of green features.

The six-storeyed building designed by German architects, GMP International, with construction by East Coast Constructions & Industries Ltd the principal contractor for the project. At the peak 4,500 workers and 200 technical staff were engaged in the project and the operations were mechanised to expedite the work.

LEED certification

Expected to be fully ready by May, the operational part (including the Assembly Hall and most of the construction) is done and the design and construction qualify for LEED Gold certification from the Indian Green Building Council. The council has certified it as the “first assembly/senate building in the world designed and constructed as a green building” and the largest green building by any State government.

As a green building the legislative assembly has features that will make it efficient in terms of use of energy, exploitation of natural light and ventilation, water use and recycling, generates less waste as compared to a conventional building, apart from the thought that has gone into the design and construction to minimise environmental impact, according to Mr Sathiaram Ram of En3 Sustainability Solutions, the Chennai-based international green building consultants for the project.

The guidelines of green buildings are based on site management, water efficiency and water use reduction, energy efficiency, enhanced indoor environmental quality and conservation of materials and resources.

Ms Deepa Sathiaram says that the assembly building will require about 70,000 litres water a day at peak occupancy when over 3,000 people will use the facility when the Assembly is in session. This is 52 per cent lower use of freshwater as provision has been made for complete water recycling. Water for the landscape and toilets will be reused water. A rooftop rainwater harvesting facility has been installed, apart from rainwater recharge pits at the ground level.

A 2.5-lakh litre a day sewage treatment facility is coming up to cater to the entire complex.

Energy efficient

On energy efficiency, Ms Sathiaram says the design provides for ample use of natural ventilation and shade to bring down air-conditioned space to about 5.2-lakh sq.ft out of the total built up area of about 9.5-lakh sq.ft. The design of roof, wall and glass prevent entry of heat so the burden on the air conditioning is reduced. “If you minimise heat coming in, half the battle is won,” she said.

Part of the roof has gardens, the rest has a reflective surface, instead of the standard brick construction, the exterior wall has granite with an air gap followed up with a reinforced cement concrete wall to insulate the interior.

In addition, the façade is covered with shaded windows, energy-efficient glazing and a screen that prevents sunlight directly hitting the high-performance glass. The centralised air-conditioning has a decentralised control.

Nearly 1,900 control units are provided so occupants can turn off the AC in their rooms when they leave. The lighting units are all energy efficient and these features will help bring down power consumption by about 20 per cent compared to conventional buildings, she says.

Once the building is occupied facilities have been created to put in place a comprehensive recycling programme to handle the paper waste, plastics, glass, metals, cardboard.

During construction, so far, over 3,000 tonnes of construction debris has been used on site for levelling or materials such as steel, glass, aluminium have been recycled.

The entire site has been planned with open and landscaped spaces, and novel features such as battery charging points for electric cars and car pooling spaces in an effort to promote alternative transportation.

Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, natural coir carpeting for the interiors, use of MDF (medium density fibreboards), plywood and veneer when wood is needed are some of the other environmental-friendly measures, she said. The landscaped areas are planted with native species of vegetation and hardy varieties that will need little irrigation once they take roots.

In the second phase, over 70,000 sq.m of built-up space is coming up on the site to house over 30 government departments. This too will target a green rating which is likely to be handled by En3.

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