A Commercial Building Raises the Bar

Innovative Solutions Bloom in India

GreenSpaces is on track to be the greenest large commercial building in the world.© greenspaces.in

When doctors told Kamal Meattle that his lung capacity had dropped to 70%, and it was Delhi’s air that was killing him, he had two choices: leave friends, family and the life he had built for more than five decades and move, or find a solution. An MIT and Sloan School of Management graduate, Meattle was on the Board of Governors of India’s preeminent technology institute — IIT New Delhi — and now it was their turn to lend a hand.

"What we eventually found through our research at Paharpur Business Center (PBC)," Meattle says, "was three common and easily grown house plants that can produce all the fresh air needed indoors."

" "The Living Room Plant" Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
""The Bedroom Plant" Mother-in-lawés Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
""The Specialist Plant" the Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)

He cites figures from recent studies in PBC concerning the office building that he manages in the heart of New Delhi. "When compared to other Delhi buildings, these plants lower eye irritation by 52%, respiratory symptoms by 34%, headaches by 12%, lung impairment by 24% and asthma by 9%. All this has led to 20% higher productivity and has also reduced energy requirements by 15%, because less outdoor "fresh air" needs to be cycled into the building."

Meattle says, "Inspired by what I had discovered in growing fresh air with plants, I had begun retrofitting PBC with green, healthy, energy-efficient technologies. As a result, PBC is now set to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification by the middle of this year. It posts its daily indoor air quality readings on its website, www.pbcnet.com.

Meattle comments, "I decided that if we could build the world’s greenest, most energy-efficient building, and showcase the technologies used, it would serve as a model for all future buildings." And so the concept for GreenSpaces, a 1.75 million square feet super-efficient information technology park near Delhi, began to take shape. "I called on friends and colleagues from around the world to help," says Meattle, and before long he had attracted the attention of international organizations, businesses and government laboratories ready to partner with him in his project.

He remarks, "It is no exaggeration to say that this will be the world’s greenest and most energy- efficient commercial office building over a million square feet. When built, GreenSpaces will…demonstrate that the energy footprint of buildings can be economically reduced from 40% to 10%." The project will get underway this year, and they anticipate the first occupants coming in by 2012.

GreenSpaces is slated to be at least 15% more energy efficient than the new Bank of America tower, presently being built in New York, which is itself projected to be the greenest building in America when completed. Even though the price tag for the building project, at $263,000,000, will be 58% more than a standard "A" class building, the energy efficiencies achieved will mean that additional costs will be paid back in only six years.

A small Canadian internet startup called Blue Green Spaces which had been studying the use of collaborative networks for the environmental community approached Meattle. Inspired by the collaborative spirit that had made Wikipedia a reality, Blue Green Spaces hoped to bring eco-entrepreneurs together. As recently as two years ago, Wikipedia had only three fulltime employees, and even now it numbers only around 20. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, owes its existence to the genius of its founder, Jimmy Wales, in creating a loyal, dedicated community of around 16,000 core users. It is a global collaborative volunteer effort that administers, monitors and cares for the project.

Meattle saw an opportunity, and together they launched the GreenSpaces Challenge. The idea was to invite people from across the globe to contribute innovative, energy-efficient and cost-effective ideas, products and services. Using the crowd-sourcing powers of the Internet to find latent talent pools around the world, they aim to tap a huge community with many diverse actors but one common wish — to play a part in a way that is meaningful.

CONTACTS: Blue Green Spaces; GreenSpaces Challenge; Pahabur Business Centre