Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings
India’s fast-growing economy is making ever greater demands on its electric grid.
Global IT giant Infosys is leading the way to sustainable growth, decreasing electricity consumption per staff member by 44%. Cutting-edge design of new buildings keeps offices cooler and maximises natural light.
Infosys has shown that cutting energy use makes sound commercial as well as environmental sense. It’s an example to other large businesses and their CEOs, in India and worldwide.
Ashden judging panel
Infosys is one of India’s largest IT companies, and a global leader in consulting, IT and outsourcing. It is growing rapidly, with state-of-the-art business campuses at ten locations in India, and offices throughout the world.
The design of these campuses highlights the innovative approach of the company, and one feature is the use of unique ‘signature’ buildings. Infosys also emphasises sustainability in the way that it develops and manages its estate, and since 2008, all new buildings have been designed to meet the highest standards for environmental performance.
Working on the design of new, low-energy buildings made the Infosys infrastructure team aware of potential energy savings in their existing building stock. With the full support of senior management, they started a programme to identify opportunities for energy savings, and to retrofit buildings to achieve them.
Infosys was founded in 1981 by NR Narayana Murthy, now the Executive Chairman of the Board, and six other engineers. Over 33 years, Infosys has become one of the largest IT businesses in the world, with global revenue of US$8.2 billion and more than 160,000 employees in 2013-14. The sustainability work is managed by its ‘Green Initiatives’ and Infrastructure teams, which have about 58 employees in total. The team is led from the Infosys headquarters in Bangalore, with managers and staff based on each campus.
The energy efficiency programme aims to halve the units (kWh) of electricity used per employee, thus reducing both cost and environmental impact, as well as reduce the maximum power demand (kW).
The programme starts with a detailed audit of each building to identify where electricity is used, where there are potential savings and how these could be achieved. Most buildings have an automated building management system (BMS), which provides some of the relevant data, and additional monitoring is installed where needed.
Some savings can be achieved at low cost, by improving the use of current systems. Others require investment to replace outdated or unsuitable technology. For these the time to recover the investment cost from the savings achieved must be calculated. Infosys requires each retrofit to have a maximum payback of three years. Monitoring continues after work has been undertaken, to check that savings are maintained.
Training related to the programme is provided for management and procurement staff, as well as the infrastructure team, so that energy efficiency becomes part of the wider culture of the company. Achievements are reported publically in the annual sustainability report, which covers a wide range of environmental and social achievements.
The retrofit programme is tailored to each building, based on the audit findings. The technologies and processes that have proved most useful are described below, in order of their contribution to the overall energy saving.
Infosys buildings in India require active cooling to provide a suitable environment for both employees and IT equipment. Cooling accounts for the major consumption of electricity, and substantial savings have been achieved, around 30%.
Large commercial buildings use a central chiller plant to produce and circulate cold water. This water is run through heat exchangers to cool the building air. Infosys found that chiller plants are often greatly oversized by industry standards, and have used a range of techniques to make them more efficient. In some places, chilled water-mains have been installed to replace individual chiller units.
Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings
Other aspects of air handling and cooling have also been improved, for example heat exchangers added, so that the fresh air drawn in to the building is pre-cooled by the stale air that is rejected. Ceiling fans have enabled the temperatures in offices to be increased, and hence cooling demand reduced, without reducing employee comfort.
A simple but effective measure is to paint concrete roofs with a special white paint that reflects solar radiation. This halves solar heat gain, reducing surface temperature by about 20°C, and has been used on about 80% of suitable roofs.
Detailed metering, developed using Infosys’ IT expertise, is used to track how buildings are performing, down to the level of individual floors and items of equipment. By continuous review of this information, both technical faults and incorrect usage can be identified and rectified.
It is crucial for any IT company to have uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that automatically kicks in to provide electricity, if the mains supply fails or fluctuates. This is particularly important in India, with its overstretched electricity grid.
The Infosys team replaced many old, oversized UPS units with new modular units, to provide only the capacity that is needed at a particular time. This UPS upgrade has a substantial impact on overall load, and also saves electricity.
A wide range of other measures contribute to electricity savings. These include replacement of electric water heaters by solar water heaters boosted by heat pumps, and replacement of fluorescent lighting with LEDs.
Costs vary widely between projects, but US$100,000 is typical for refurbishing a major chiller plant. Infosys will make this level of investment provided that the cost is recovered by savings within three years.
Everything that we have done is replicable by everyone else across the world at no extra capital cost.
The retrofit programme has replaced old technology with more reliable, modern versions, and systems as a whole have been simplified, so that they are easier to maintain. This reduction in maintenance results in further cost savings.
There are additional opportunities for energy saving in both the fabric and layout of new buildings. Infosys’ core design approach is to reduce heat flow into the building, and minimise the use of artificial lighting.
Double, insulated walls are used to minimise inward heat flow. Windows account for no more than 30% of the area, to cut solar heat gain, and are inset to provide shading from direct sun. This also avoids glare, thereby increasing employee comfort.
Buildings are aligned North-South to reduce solar gain. Rooms are less deep, so ambient light can penetrate to all parts of the room, minimising the need for artificial lighting. This effect can be enhanced by ‘light shelves’, which reflect sunlight deeper into a room.
Energy audits have been undertaken, and retrofit programmes are in progress at all 13 Infosys business campuses in India. Since 2008 all new buildings have been designed to meet the highest national standards of environmental performance, and many now exceed them.
We have redefined benchmarks in sustainable practices, and we want to be a role model not only for other corporates but for the entire society. Infosys is proud to be recognized for our sustainability efforts across our operations in India.
Rohan Parikh, Head of Green Initiatives, Infosys
If electricity use per employee was the same as in 2007-08, Infosys would have used about 463 GWh in 2013-14, or 209 GWh more than its actual use. At an electricity price of US$0.12 per kWh, the company is saving a significant US$25 million per year on the cost of electricity, or about US$200/year per employee.
Grid electricity in India contributes substantially to greenhouse gas emissions, because of the high use of coal. Each MWh produces the equivalent of 0.8 tonnes of CO2. Large diesel generators, used as backup by many businesses including Infosys, produce similar emissions.
If electricity use per employee was the same as in 2007-08, Infosys would have produced about 370,000 tonnes of CO2 e in 2013-14, or 2.8 tonnes/year per employee. Actual emissions in 2013-14 were about 160,000 tonnes/year CO2 e or 1.23 tonnes/year per employee, a cut of 57%. About three quarters of this cut came from efficiency and one quarter from using renewable electricity.
The energy efficiency programme aimed to cut electricity use while maintaining good working conditions: lack of complaints suggest that this has been achieved. Some changes increase staff comfort: for example, staff who work outside normal office hours still benefit from the new ceiling fans, when the central air conditioning is switched off.
Infosys will continue its retrofit programme until all buildings have been covered. New buildings will continue to exceed the highest efficiency standards. Connected load has already been reduced by more than the target of 7 MW, 50% less electricity use per employee is close, and 100% electricity from renewables looks feasible by FY2018, and the infrastructure team continue to work on new ideas for further savings.