A Thousand Thunbergs Collaborate Towards Net-Zero

Sreejith Jayaram, Amanda Thounaojam, Janani Venkatesh, Yashima Jain, Gaurav Vakil | 2022


India’s building sector contributes to 39% of greenhouse gas emissions. Communities have begun to face climate change through heatwaves, droughts, floods, and cloud bursts. Our buildings need to become net-zero, but the building sector currently does not have the capacity to implement net-zero energy buildings. The education curricula also do not provide the necessary training and tools necessary for the workforce to address climate change. The Solar Decathlon India Challenge intends to address this gap by enabling students to learn and design real net-zero buildings. The participating teams were provided learning resources and tools intended to build their capacity in this area. The authors analysed the final reports submitted by the teams to understand if they were able to fulfil the requirements of the Challenge and produce evidence-based designs for their projects. The findings showed that the teams claimed to propose strategies to optimize building performance, but many did not provide evidence and analysis to support their claims. The findings saw that up to 95% of the teams proposed strategies on Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs), while 80% provided evidence for the different types of ECMs. 95% of teams provided evidence for ECMs to reduce envelope loads, and 23% gave evidence for natural ventilation strategies. 95% of teams addressed the 10 contest areas. Up to 95% teams provided evidence for energy and water contests, and 45% of teams provided evidence for affordability and resilience. A total of 43 innovations were proposed by 21 teams, and 47% of the innovations had a direct impact on climate change mitigation. Areas of weakness in the students’ ability to provide evidence-based designs need to be identified. Additional resources to improve them and integrate the programme into built-environment education are important to enable stronger capacity building.