Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has said ‘India’s traditions long stressed the importance of living in harmony with nature’. Yet if today’s policy trends are followed, India’s building thermal energy demand will grow by 700% by 2050 compared to 2005 and associated COemissions will increase tenfold. Currently the city of Delhi consumes more energy than all other major Indian cities combined. To tackle this, the Clean Energy Challenge in Delhi asks: How can we promote clean and green buildings in Delhi?

Commercial and residential buildings account for most of the energy consumption country wide. The number of buildings and energy consumption is increasing rapidly, in the city of Delhi. Buildings burn through energy mostly powered by coal, through heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, interior and exterior lighting, electrical power and appliances. Affordable housing is much needed for those living in informal settlements in poverty, but in the rush, sustainability is low on the agenda.

The Indian government is, however, trying to fulfil the housing needs at the same time as limit COemissions. While they have made commitments to largely increase renewable energy, including rooftop solar panels, it is also increasing its long-lived dependency on coal. One of the government’s successful campaigns in reducing energy use, was UJALA. This campaign provided people with low-cost LED lighting which supplied over 300 million LED bulbs, saving 30 million tons of COa year.

Possible approaches

The Clean Energy Challenge looks to designers to come up with solutions. Consider promoting or creating passive building practices to reduce energy use, such as natural ventilation and shade for cooling, and use of sunlight for light and heating. Look into creating a service for local energy generation (such as rooftop solar) that is affordable and easily maintained. Create products and services that harness DIY ingenuity to reduce energy consumption and get jobs done without electricity or fuel. Cultivate a movement calling for more sustainable building codes and practices.

Mock-up of DIY Air Cooler made of plastic bottles

Inspiring ideas

There are already some inspiring ideas which are in practice regarding greener building practices. Build-Inn is a service which helps customers find sustainable materials for building homes. A DIY cooler made from using plastic bottles can cool a space by 5 degrees. Help Delhi Breathe was a public campaign to reduce air pollution by raising awareness to change behaviour.

When designing for Delhi, it’s important to consider that a third of the population lives in energy poverty. That means they either have no access to energy infrastructure, cannot afford the prohibitive prices, or that they rely on stoves that pollute their homes. Also, it’s important to regard that India has many traditional practices which are inherently sustainable. Solutions for Delhi should be rooted in the local context.

To read the full brief and know more about entering the challenge, go to