Atal Akshay Urja Bhawan: The Government of India, in recent years, has been focused on green energy and energy conservation. As a part of that long term vision, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is getting a headquarter – the Atal Akshay Urja Bhawan – that would be a net-positive energy campus by integrating renewable energy systems and passive strategies. The aim is to not only reduce the carbon footprint but also make such strategies accessible as well educative to the general public. The complex is located on a 2.7 acre site in the Lodhi Road area of New Delhi. To understand more about the campus and how it aims to be a net-positive complex, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan spoke to Shaon Sikta Sengupta, who is the Director of Edifice Consultants. Edifice Consultants is the civil consultant for the project.
“With the imminent threat of irreversible climate change affecting lives worldwide, it has become imperative that newer, sustainable ways of living be devised and implemented. The Atal Akshay Urja Bhawan aims to be a landmark that embodies energy consciousness and demonstrates a new model of civic development that blends iconicity with an interactive public interface,” Sengupta said.
Talking about the various aspects related to the harnessing of renewable energy in the complex, Sengupta said, “A multitude of strategic interventions combine with alternate sources of energy to make Atal Akshay Urja Bhawan a net-positive campus. Strategies like building orientation, fenestrations, jaalis, energy-conscious building envelopes and shading devices work in tandem to decrease passive heat gain. Photovoltaic panels on the roof and southern wall produce electricity to the tune of 1100 kWp with a generation potential of 19 lakh energy units per annum. Water-cooled screw-chilling machines have been used to create a radiant cooling system — running through PEX pipes, they uniformly lower the surface temperature. Additionally, the reduction of the building’s air condition footprint and energy-efficient fixtures have further brought down the building’s power consumption. The project also aims to conserve water by harvesting its rainwater and treating its wastewater, reusing it in the cooling tower and flushing and horticulture. The site’s landscaping has been done with local and indigenous flora, with all lighting fixtures powered through individual solar panels.”
The director also spoke about the unique features and elements of the complex. “The Atal Akshay Urja Bhawan continues in the tradition of institutional and public architecture of New Delhi, using beige Dholpur sandstone as the primary facade material. The east and northern faces have a continuous double-glass unit (DGU) glazed facade to allow daylight into interior spaces while insulating them from heat. The eastern facade is thermally insulated with double walls built using ACC masonry with a glass wool infill of 200 mm thickness. The western facade covers the service cores and features solid walls and GFRC jaalis that allow creepers to grow on them and bring cooling breezes into the building for cross-ventilation,” Sengupta said.
“The soffit of the solar roof also consists of jaalis, providing an aesthetic cover to roof projections and tying the building with the architectural lexicon of the Lutyens’ cityscape. On the southern edge, a solar wall shields the building and its southern seating court from incident radiation apart from contributing to its energy sources. To accommodate the functional requirements of the campus and foster an engaging public realm, the building follows the same orientation as the site, aligning along the north-south axis, while significantly maximising the rooftop area for solar panels. A permeable public edge is created alongside the building’s footprint on the eastern edge to celebrate the site’s frontage,” the director added.
However, undertaking such a project also comes along with some challenges. Sengupta also spoke about them, saying, “Dilution of intent, which is to achieve the Net Positive status of the project, is always a looming possibility throughout the project cycle. As you move along, the project encounters may an instance where we have to prioritise sustainability as the one and only objective to force all other arguments of design dilution to the way side. It has to be implemented by all stake holders of the projects with an un-compromising determination. This has to be meticulously planned, each product scrutinised and then selected. The time impact has to be built in to get the best suited product whether for MEP services or for architectural and interior finishes.”