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Green is the way to be

Apart from carpets of landscaping that welcome visitors in green building offices, the concept now travels right inside for the employees to live out an experience. Two certified green offices in the city Grundfos and Vestas Wind Energy even have horticulturists on their payroll, says PRINCE FREDERICK

GREEN, ALL THE WAY: Application of green concepts in buildings is not just for certification, the payback is seen in the soothing effect it has on employees. The photos show the green takeover at Grundfos and Vestas Wind Energy.

Chennai did not have a `certified' green building until recently. Grundfos, a Danish company manufacturing centrifugal pumps, has remedied the situation. Last month, the United States Green Building Council certified the company's Thoraipakkam unit a green building. It finds itself in the 'Gold' category, which is between two others silver and platinum.

Truth be told, the first-green-building-in-Chennai honour should go to Vestas Wind Energy, a manufacturer of wind turbines. But, as luck would have it, the company's Sholinganallur unit "was constructed much before the certification norms came into force". Although the building has passed scrutiny and qualified for a `Gold' rating, certification is yet to come. But then, a bit of delay in certification is not unusual for existing buildings. That's about the only difference between the two companies.

Call it coincidence or what you will, both have a Danish connection, a common architect and are located on the IT Express Highway (also known as Old Mahabalipuram Road). And, what's more, the two companies went green for almost the same reason. "We've always felt green is the way to be. Believe me, we were not aiming at certification or ratings." That's one reason why Ranganath N. Krishna, Chief Executive Officer, Grundfos Pumps India Pvt. Ltd., is against pushing the envelope and reaching for 'Platinum'.

Green building norms were the last thing on his mind, when Ramesh Kymal, Managing Director, Vestas Wind Energy India Pvt. Ltd. was planning the Sholinganallur unit with his architects. According to Kymal, the building is much ahead of the certification norms. A visit tells you it's no empty boast. Structured in the shape of a wind turbine, the building itself is arresting. A central formation crowned by a dome represents the hub of a wind turbine. Three rectangular structures branch out, giving the picture of a wind turbine. While the "hub" is the reception room, the "wings" house the different departments.

The icing on the cake, however, is the green concepts that come alive in room after room. These rooms are brightened by natural light streaming in through broad windows. Heat is arrested by thick foams that sit in walls. They also cut down on energy consumption by ensuring minimal use of air-conditioning. Insulated glass windows and heat-reflective tiles supplement the foams.

Although installation of "green" material jacked up construction costs by seven to eight per cent, Kymal was not a bit perturbed by the additional expenditure. "The payback was fast". Ranganathan cannot agree with Kymal more. The combined experience: "We save 25 to 30 per cent energy". However, their "green" or non-conventional energy comes from different sources. Vestas Wind Energy gets it from its wind turbines and Grundfos banks on solar energy. The other `green' activity recycling natural resources also cuts down on costs. But going `green' is not about cutting costs; and payback is not measured by operating costs. Kymal says "our employees are living out an experience". He says, the green that carpets the landscape around the building, the trees that dot the place and the potted plants that plonk themselves beside computers have a soothing effect on his team. Both Grundfos and Vestas Wind Energy have horticulturists on their payroll.

Kymal sees a palpable change in his team, since `green' ideas were implemented. "Productivity has gone up. The team is unruffled and poised even during demanding times." Ranganathan gauges how special his office is by the "oohs and aahs" they evoke from visitors. "And, of course, we find it uplifting to work in such an ambience."

Interestingly, these companies are still pushing the limits by taking new `green' measures.

Although they insist that they are not eyeing the coveted `Platinum' rating, they are probably moving towards it.


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