in the news

Back to Guest Features


Ad: American Hydrotech







March 2009
guest feature article

Green Buildings in India

The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (also known as CII or CIIGBC) earned a LEED® rating of 56 credits
and became certified “LEED Platinum” in 2003;
Photo Source Left: Christine Thüring; Right: CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.

By Christine Thüring
Photos Courtesy Christine Thüring, unless otherwise noted

In early January 2009, I was fortunate to visit the first green roof in India.  Further to hosting these unique “roof gardens,” the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) building in Hyderabad was also the first LEED® Platinum rated Green Building outside the USA at the time of its opening in 2004.  In fact, at the time of its construction, it was one of only a handful of LEED Platinum buildings in the world!

Before getting into the details of the building, I cannot overlook my luck or the goodwill that permitted this spontaneous visit.  Truly, my chances of finding this green roof were so close to nil I may as well have been looking for a needle in a haystack.  Despite months of attempted networking, I remained without any responsive contacts.  I was uncertain of the name of the building since, I would discover, I’d been using the wrong keywords.  Even after I’d found my way to the city district where the building is located, my inquiries about anything “green” were met either with disappointment (as Indians really wish to be helpful) or offers to sell green things (e.g. t-shirt).

It may have been Luck, but I’d like to think that any of Hinduism's 30 million gods have a soft spot for determined green roof enthusiasts.  Whatever the reason, somehow I championed all these obstacles and found my way to the CII building.  How exciting to see the green roofs from the street entrance!  After four weeks traveling around South India, I felt like I’d found my way home, to something familiar yet exotic and new.  Stoked with luck and radiating blessedness, now imagine being told by Security that admission was impossible due to the 4-day festival of Sankranthi: the entire nation was on holiday, could I return next week?

Beyond simple amenity, the courtyard serves as a light well granting 90% of the interior spaces with daylighting and natural views.

A few times in my life I’ve experienced moments of such desperation that the world seems to slip into a different dimension, if only for a split second.  In this case, the chemistry of stoke combined with sudden and profound disbelief must have transmitted a charge to the depths of the Universe.  After some time spent between negotiations and alternating team huddles, one of many security guards informed me that I would be met by someone who happened to be in for the day.  I could enter.

LEED® Platinum in India – CII, Hyderabad

While the rest of the country was flying kites and eating sweets to celebrate the 4-day harvest festival of Sankranthi, I was extremely fortunate to meet with Mr. K. Sivaram, an energy specialist and Counsellor at CII, who was just in to catch up on some work.  After four weeks of absolute foreignness, what a strangely comforting touch of familiarity this presented!  Mr. Sivaram generously toured me around the site and, over a cup of sweet chai, explained to me the status, experience and vision for green architecture in India.

One of the key aspects of the CII is its zero discharge of water.
Photo Source: ED+C Magazine, via Green Air Through Green Roofs

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) opened its first chapter in Hyderabad in early 2000.  With support from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), IGBC created its own LEED® Green Building Standard by fine-tuning the ratings to reflect Indian conditions and priorities (e.g. more points for water conservation).  As of January 1, 2007, the LEED® India Green Building rating system has certified a number of LEED®-New Construction and LEED®-Core and Shell buildings in India.  The IGBC has six chapters, with the steering committee seated in Hyderabad.

The CII is the first building in India to achieve LEED® certification (October, 2003).  As Mr. Sivaram explained, this building serves for demonstration, but is also considered an experiment “to see what can be achieved.”  It comprises a balance between imported and locally-available technologies, with some imports currently being indigenized.  From performance windows to waterless urinals, wind towers and biological water treatment ponds, this building is as modern as it gets.  Not likely by coincidence, the best toilets in India are also found here.

Left: Green roof, photovoltaics and 2 wind towers interface with the sky. The rooftop photovoltaics provide for about 16% of the buildings energy needs, or 24 KW.; Right: The wind towers are traditional architectural elements that catch air and cool it as it descends.

The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre was inaugurated by the president of India in July, 2004.  Seat of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), around 18 staff occupy the daylit office spaces of the complex, which also includes a large conference room and sheltered walkways.  As an entity, the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre is a unique and successful model of public-private partnership between the Government of AP, Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co and Confederation of Indian Industries, with technical support from USAID.

Pausing for a moment to consider the bigger picture, recall that South India represents a living remnant of one of humanity’s earliest human civilizations.  Together with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Ancient India was one of the world’s three earliest urban civilizations with remarkable planning and infrastructure flourishing between 2600–1900 BCE. Visiting one of the greenest buildings in the world after a month exploring this heritage (ancient temples, exotic palaces, medieval European colonies) was a quick fast-forward to the present (or, perhaps, the Future).

Hyderabad is the "City of Pearls"; Charminar Photo Source: Wikipedia

As it is, Hyderabad is one of India’s fastest developing cities.  Located in south-central India in the state of Andrha Pradesh (AP), Hyderabad is not only famous for pearls, gems and spicy pickles, but also for its role as the IT hub of India.  The CII building sits in the northern district of “Cyberbad,” near HITEC City.  A construction site across the street advertises an up-market residence named “Legend Platinum.”  Were it not for the Indian style of land use that persists everywhere (i.e. ubiquitous vendors, free-roaming cows, burning garbage), the buildings here are so modern that a weary traveler could easily believe they’d been transported to the West.

The up-scale residence being erected across the street seems to borrow its name, "Legend Platinum," from its LEED-certified neighbour.

An example of everything done right, the CII building emanates a distinct taste of the Future, both for India and for the rest of the world.  To India, the facility challenges the realities of poorly managed infrastructure which can so rapidly blur the vision of a healthy and sustainable future.  However, embedded as it is within one of humanity’s earliest civilizations, the über-modern CII facility in Hyderabad authenticates the motto we’d frequently encountered in our travels: in India, anything is possible.

The Green Roof

Of the 20,000 ft2 footprint, 55% of the CII-building is covered by extensive green roof.  An information brochure summarizing the Green Features for the CII building value the “roof garden” for its insulating qualities.  Measurements attest that the green roofs provide valuable insulation for the conference centre and offices, but this benefit is not likely perceptible under the concrete walkways.  Given the minimal highlights or information about the green roofs at the CII building, it is clear that they are only part of a much greater package.

Extensive green roofs, or roof gardens, cover 55% total roof surface area.

The green roofs on the curvey building are divided into parcels that are separated by parapets.  On top of a concrete roof, the green roof system begins its build-up with three layers of waterproofing.  According to Sivaram, leaky waterproofing is the paramount concern with regards to green roofs in India.  Yet another point of familiarity!

Left: All wastewater and runoff generated by the building is recycled by "root zone treatment" where specially selected plants purify and filter the water that irrigates them.  Right: Water leaving the “root zone treatment” is directed to one of three ponds, thereafter to be used for domestic purposes. The building achieves a 35 percent reduction of municipally supplied potable water, in part through the use of
low-flush toilets and waterless urinals.

The green roof system comprises 2” of sandy soil topped with the same pervious paver blocks used at grade, and overlain with a uniform grass sod. In their appearance and composition, the green roofs are identical to the grassy pedestrian and parking areas at grade.

This section of the CII green roof reveals a section of structural pavers where the sod is thinned, likely a seam. Note also the puddling in the next level up.

On the 30°C day of my visit, the grassy rooftops were being irrigated to the point of puddling.  The pervious paver blocks prevented any compaction.  Water is definitely a key design consideration for green buildings in India, where a hot and dry season is sandwiched by two monsoons (SW Summer Monsoon and NE Retreating monsoon). Of the 810 mm annual precipitation in Hyderabad, for example, most of it occurs during the monsoon months of June – October.  As part of the zero discharge design, recycled water from the building is used for irrigation and any runoff is directed to percolate at grade.  During the dry season, the green roofs are irrigated daily.

Being the first of its kind on the subcontinent, the green roof’s drainage system is exemplary of pioneering resolve …
... and locally-inspired innovation.

In Closing

India is in a fascinating position with regards to issues of global sustainability and the environment.  With the world’s 12th largest economy at market exchange rates and the 4th largest in purchasing power, it is one of the world’s fastest growing economies.  Still a developing nation, however, India is not bound by the Kyoto Protocol and suffers from high levels of corruption, not to mention poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition.  Its emissions are growing as steadily as its economy, its middle class, the use of motorized vehicles, and the trendiness of shopping malls.

In Hyderabad, the construction sites and the visibly burgeoning middle class presented the concepts of global ecological footprint on perfect display.  What will our world be like when the new transportation infrastructure is in place, and the up-scale residences occupied?  Will green buildings in India assume their true potential?  Will green technology assume the dominant status quo that so many states would like but few will commit to?

What better place to model my colourful Indian digs than on a green roof?

Rather than playing catch-up with the West, India has begun to tap into cutting edge technology and enforce visionary policies, all the while maintaining clear sight on its traditions, which may hold immense meaning for the global economy and the global environment.  In India, anything is possible!

Green Building FACTS (compared with normal buildings)

• 35% reduction in potable water use
• 50% savings in overall energy consumption
• 88% reduction in lighting consumption
• 80% of materials used are either recycled or recyclable
• 20% of the building’s energy requirement is provided by photovoltaics
• 15-20% less load on AC thanks to aerated concrete blocks used in facades
• Zero water discharge building
• 90% of building daylit
• 75% of occupants have outside view

Publisher's Notes:  The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the growth of industry in India, partnering industry and government alike through advisory and consultative processes.  Visit the Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre website's Photo Gallery, and click on "Green Building Tour" on the right for more photos.

See the CII - Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre profile in The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See the Platinum CII - Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre LEED Project sheet showing the 56 points achieved here, and access the U.S. Green Building Council's Certified Project database list here.

Christine Thuring is the Student Editor and has been focused on green roofs since 2001. After interning with a green roof company in Germany, she earned a MSc from Pennsylvania State University's Centre for Green Roof Research (2005). She helped organize the World Green Roof Congress in Basel (2005), has taught green roof courses at BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology, and helped develop Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' 401 accreditation course. Sign up for her Student Forum Ramblings Newsletter, "Students on Green Roofs" and read her column "Green Roofs on the Curve."

Christine is best defined by Chlorophyllocity, through which her many interests and activities are represented. From collaborative design projects to applied research, translation, and study tours (check out Green Roof Safari), her mission is to facilitate and support humanity's transition from the carbon to the ecological age. A multi-lingual citizen of the world, Christine currently lives in a Tyrolean alpine village (northwest Austria). She flies carbon neutral, loves bogs and spring wildflowers, and rides her bike everywhere.

Contact Christine at:  Tel: 0043 (0)676 904 7780;  Email: or

Past Guest Feature Articles

The opinions expressed by our Guest Feature writers and editors may not necessarily reflect the beliefs of, and are offered to our readers to simply present individual views and experiences and open a dialogue of further discussion, debate and research.  Enjoy, and if you have a particular comment, please contact the author or send us an email to:


Back to Top