U.S. Embassy New Delhi: The Big Green Machine

Embassy New Delhi embraces Secretary Clinton’s call for Green Diplomacy, and we are committed to saving taxpayers’ dollars, conserving resources, and reducing our environmental impact.  Our Resource Conservation Unit (RCU), the first of its kind in the Department, consists of a group of committed, resourceful local staff that is dedicated solely to accomplish our greening goals.  While Post has always demonstrated a commitment to protecting our environment, our RCU consolidates our efforts into one section for easier measurement, best practice sharing, and provides a one stop ‘go-to’ shop for expert advice and analysis.

Click here for photos.

We’re taking a four step approach to accomplish our goals:

  • Auditing:  Determine what the existing conditions are at Post (transportation, procurement, water, gas, electricity, and waste stream).  This is an ongoing project.  We’ve started with a comprehensive review by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) from the Department of Energy.  We use this extensive report as our road map to the future.  We also began an extensive metering project in New Delhi that tells us where our energy goes and how much we’re using, and allows us to pinpoint energy and water ‘flashpoints’ that need correction.
  • Short Term Actions:  Identify low or no cost projects that can be executed immediately for fast results.  These ‘low hanging fruit’ are varied and simple actions with returns of investment less than two years.  Several projects are listed below.
  • Mid to Long Term Actions:  While the NREL gives us a viable path forward, many of their recommendations require capital, hard to obtain in these tight fiscal times.  But with our partners in Overseas Building Operations (OBO) we are working on several capital-intensive projects, from chiller replacements to solar panel installation.
  • Education:  Post uses several publications to highlight our efforts and educate our community.  From our Green Facts column in the India Ink (our Community Liaison Office newsletter) to several green articles in SPAN Magazine (our local information magazine published by our Public Diplomacy Section), to our Earth Day celebrations, and finally an upcoming piece in State Magazine highlighting our sustainable landscaping, we are all about awareness!

    Check out some of the awesome projects we completed in the last year:

      • RCU along with our colleagues in the Facility Management Section (FMS), and using a hi-tech leak detection device, performed a leak detection and correction study of the underground water distribution system at the Enclave 54 unit housing compound.  The result, a 30% reduction in water consumption, savings of 25,500 KL of water per year, and a reduction in carbon footprint by 511 metric tons of CO2  annually.  How long did it take our fancy leak detector to pay for itself?  About a week.
      • Post installed over 500 low flow faucet aerators throughout our office buildings and residences, along with many water efficient fixtures; sensor faucets, automatic flush mechanisms, and low/no flush urinals and toilet
      • Embassy New Delhi has embarked on a comprehensive lighting retrofit.  Post replaced almost all outdoor lights with over 100 LED fixtures, reducing per fixture consumption by 40% with returns on investment less than two years, and replacement cycles greater than twenty years.  Many of our electricians installing these new lamps will retire before we need to replace the bulbs, they last that long!
      • Post replaced thirty standard electric motors with variable frequency drive (VFD) motors on our air handling units, condenser pumps and chiller pumps connected to the Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system.  VFD installation is capital and labor intensive, but with returns on investment of less than 3 years, and reductions in carbon foot print by 300 metric tons of CO2 per year, well worth the effort and expense.
      • The RCU monitors the electric consumption of each residence and sends the results to each occupant in the form of an ‘electric bill’.  Post pays for utilities, but many occupants were surprised at their consumption trends, exactly the awareness we desire.  Any residence that is flagged for excessive consumption triggers an energy inspection by FMS for illegal electrical taps, faulty wiring, and malfunctioning equipment.
      • As our Enclave residence units are heated and cooled by a central plant, RCU began monitoring the thermal energy consumption of our Enclave housing residences.  RCU installs BTU meters in all the apartments within the compound. Consumption bills will be sent to the occupants to make them aware of their air conditioning/heating consumption trends for the month. Houses experiencing extraordinary consumption will be checked for infiltration of air and equipment malfunction.
      • Post recently initiated newspaper and e-waste recycling programs.  We have virtually eliminated this type of debris from our waste stream.  Our NGO partner for newspaper recycling turns our old newsprint into paper shopping bags, our small but important contribution in India’s efforts to clean up its landscape.
      • Wherever possible our FMS gardeners create ‘nature-scapes’ areas devoted to native species.  We choose these varieties specifically for their tolerance to the heat extremes of subtropical, monsoon climates.  Once established, these plants thrive despite seasonal droughts, extremely important in thirsty New Delhi.   Hardy native species such as Arica Palm, Ficus Panda, Gulmohar (Flame Tree), and Bougainvillea require little maintenance, and are naturally pest and disease resistant. Full article available in State Magazine’s April 2012 issue, p.10-11.
      • The extremely resourceful FMS staff at our American Center building in downtown New Delhi devised a very unique and cost saving idea for the thousands of gallons of waste water generated by our Library of Congress micro-filming operation.  While not potable, this wastewater is certainly flushable, and now we re-use this ‘grey water’ in all of the toilets and urinals at the American Center.   This action alone saves Post 8,000 liters of water per day and $7,000 per year.  That is a lot of money that is not going down the toilet!

        There is more, much more, but you get the idea.

        So what’s the payoff?  The RCU pays for itself, and saved Post over $175,000 in its first year.  We also reduced our environmental impact by a whopping 2,490 metric tons of CO2 annually.  The buildings throughout Post are over 40 years old, with associated mechanical systems that are 20+ years old.  Our efforts included more than just turning the thermostat down. Embassy New Delhi is very proud of these achievements and credits the creation of the RCU and the subsequent savings to our forward thinking and environmentally conscious ICASS council and customers

        The best is yet to come.  Currently in the works for Post…solar water heater and photovoltaic panels, chiller replacements, further metering of major electricity consuming equipment, new ‘green’ procurement standards, and a comprehensive review of our residential diesel generator program.  We intend to lead the world in Green Diplomacy!

        Visit the U.S. Embassy New Delhi website for more information.