Spotlight on sustainable design in India


    June 7, 2021

    Thanks to its rapidly expanding economy, India is making its presence felt across the globe — but does its sustainable design practices match up?

    Where does India stand?


    In the global sustainability race, India has made some promising strides.


    Although the BREEAM movement was only adopted by the Confederation of Indian Industry in 2004, India is now the second largest global market for green buildings. However, this fast-developing trend has been totally market driven with very little government support. Clearly, there still is a way to go before sustainable design practices are fully accepted, with the most significant challenge being the gap between technology and economic status.

    A number of architects are tackling the issue by combining traditional aspects of design with more modern, sustainable elements. For example, courtyard design is a traditional climate-responsive feature commonly seen in hot countries. Not only does it reduce the use of artificial lighting, but it also creates much-needed shade for inhabitants.


    Taking all of this into account, what are some of India’s best examples of sustainable design projects?

    ITC Green Center


    Located in in the city of Gurgaon, near Delhi, the ITC Green Center was designed to be a symbol of the hotel company’s commitment to a greener future. And it turned out to be a major success, achieving a platinum LEED rating.


    One significant component of the design was the considered use of building materials. Glass — made with 19% recycled content — features heavily throughout the structure. The unique design allows maximum natural light in while blocking most of the heat, reducing the need for air conditioning. Thanks to features like this, the building achieves a huge 53% energy saving.


    On top of this, water is treated and recycled to be used for irrigation purposes, while rainwater recharge pits are provided to enhance water efficiency.

    Indira Paryavaran Bhawan

    Solar panels, sun and blue sky
    Solar panels, sun and blue sky © Peter Cade

    Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, the office premises for India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, is India’s first net-zero building. Bursting with eco-friendly initiatives, it serves as an example to future sustainable architecture.


    The architects achieved effective ventilation by building the structure in an East-West direction. Plus, the window placement has been optimized so that 75% of the daylight is used, cutting down on the need for artificial lighting.


    A significant 40% energy reduction was made by the use of ‘chilled beam’ air conditioning, which involves cooling the air with convection currents. What’s more, the earthquake-resistant structure is built from renewable materials including bamboo jute composite and fly ash bricks — and there’s even solar panels installed on the roof.

    Solar street lighting with Smart Power India

    India street lighting

    In 2016, the village of Narotoli experienced streetlights for the very first time. Funded by the Signify Foundation as part of its partnership with Smart Power India, solar streetlights were installed as an energy-efficient solution.


    Women and children felt unsafe to venture outside after dark as there was no outdoor lighting. A lack of exterior lighting essentially ended the residents’ day at sunset.


    The Smart Power India team created a larger program to provide 81 villages with street lighting, positively impacting at least 10,000 households through enabling safety and security, above all for women, children, and the elderly.

    Improving young lives

    Outside lighting
    But the good work with solar didn’t stop there. In the North Indian state of Haryana, Signify recently teamed up with the SRF foundation — an NGO that champions quality education — to ensure young people have access to well-lit sports facilities. Installing solar streetlights at the local badminton courts has increased students’ daily practice time by two hours, helping them qualify for district and state-level competitions.
    And taking it to the next level, solar power is an efficient choice for emergency relief. BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, partnered with Signify to distribute Philips LifeLight solar lanterns to more than 46,000 Rohingya families in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, helping improve quality of life by supporting basic needs.

    What’s next?

    Light at night
    India is widely regarded to be on the cusp of a revolution that would see it become a global superpower over the next twenty years. To continue on its sustainable path, the future of Indian architecture will need to navigate not only the expanding economy, but also any social and cultural impacts.

    In fact, socio-cultural factors are already "Indianizing" contemporary architecture, helping a modern Indian architectural identity to evolve. Whether this will continue to heavily feature millennia-old architectural principles will remain to be seen.


    Thanks to rapid economic growth, India has the potential to become the leader of sustainable architecture in Asia.

    Pioneers of Light’s mission


    Pioneers of Light is a community of the world’s top architects, lighting designers and engineers, united by a passion for realizing their visions through innovative lighting. We guide and inspire the next generation to deliver sustainable lighting solutions that make the world a better and brighter place.


    Want to know more about the Pioneers of Light, get in touch!


    Banner image: Information technology offices in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India – Architect : Oscar Concessao, Oscar & Ponni Architects © Dev Images

    About the author:

    Anissa Abbou

    Anissa Abbou


    Head of Global Professional Specification, Signify

    For further information, please contact:

    For editorial enquiries:

    Signify Global Integrated Communications
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals and consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact connected lighting systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2022, we had sales of EUR 7.5 billion, approximately 35,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We achieved carbon neutrality in our operations in 2020, have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for six consecutive years and were named Industry Leader in 2017, 2018 and 2019. News from Signify is located at the Newsroom, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors can be found on the Investor Relations page.

    Meydan Bridge

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