Great Lakes Institute of Management goes green for all-round benefits

Founder and dean of Great Lakes Institute Dr Balachandran explains how the campus lowered resource consumption and raised student experience through its green initiatives

Sixty kilometres south of Chennai, near the medieval temple town and port of Mahabalipuram, straddling the old and the new, is the Great Lakes Institute of Management. It is the brainchild of Dr Bala V Balachandran, an educationist whose cross-continent experience is reflected in the institutions mottoGlobal Mindset, Indian Roots. The colours that bring this credo to life are green (symbolising earth), blue (for water), white (for air) and black (for fire/coal energy). But obviously, celebrating the elements goes beyond mere words: it is simply a way of life at Great Lakes, where green is literally a big part of the campus design, built into it so that it conserves resources in operations.

It started with a vision of keeping the evirons pastoral

 

When the founder and dean of Great Lakes Institute Dr Balachandran set about envisioning the campus, his inspiration came from rural India. I come from a humble rural background. Creating an education facility in a villagefar from the madding crowd but not too far from the cityis my way of giving back, he says.

But Dr Balachandran was as focused on creating a campus that the villagers in the vicinity would be proud of and relate to, and that meant going green. An energy-guzzling concrete mass would stand out in stark contrast to the gentle rural environsa definite no-no for this educationist who walks his talk: I am a firm believer in doing the right thing. Its even higher than doing things right. Possibly no citizens rights are abused in India as much as democracy and freedom. I wanted the campus to echo responsible freedom, that is, sustainability in every facet of its design.

Dr Balachandran is also the JL Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Information Management at the Kellogg School of Management and Executive Professor and Strategy Advisor to the Dean at Bauer College, University of Houston. Among other things, he has taught students about Carbon Credits as an incentive to be responsible and accountable to the environment.

Investing in a green campus was thus very much in sync with his expertise and with the times even though it meant higher initial project costs (approximately 8% higher) and a delay in completing the extensive compliance processes.

Jamshyd Godrej, an advocate of the Indian green building movement and Board member of Great Lakes, backed this long-term vision.Needless to say, Dr Balachandran was thinking as much for students. A green campus can impart valuable lessons in sustainability. With increasing urbanisation and a growing population putting greater pressure on resources, a resulting corporate trend is preference for managers with a practical exposure to conservation measures and who are willing to take proactive steps to make a difference to the environment.

Managers are no more evaluated for their impact on bottom-lines but also for their impact on the triple bottom-line: people, planet, profits. Dr Balachandran expounds this management lessonIt is a matter of great pride that at Great Lakes, the art of leadership blends with the science of management. Going in for the highest possible green rating, Platinum, for the campus is leadership at its best. Managements must think holistically about the welfare of the surrounding villages. We cannot be optimisers at the expense of the environment. Still, it takes great courage to walk the road less travelled. When we started out, it would have been only too easy to construct the campus at the lowest possible cost. We struggled financially in the early days but were committed to doing the right thing, reminisces Dr Balachandran.

The vision led to the decision of building a platinum certified LEED campus

Construction of the Great Lakes campus started in 2008, in Manamai, about 60 km out of central Chennai.

Propelled by Intellect but Steered by Values is the campus motto, which reflects Dr Balachandrans commitment to make the right choices--in this case, to construct the campus to meet Indian Green Building Council specifications for Platinum certified LEED buildings.

DESIGN: Building green starts with intelligent design. Great Lakes campus is arranged around legible axes for clarity in circulation; this encourages people to get around on foot and on cycle. The salient building features include air corridors which lower the indoor temperature and reduce power consumed for cooling purposes. The building orientation ensures that the areas in heavy use are sun-lit with overhangs and shadings to reduce solar gains. Rain water harvesting has been incorporated in the design to harvest 4130 cu.m. per day of rainwater. As a result, the postconstruction runoff is less than the preconstruction runoff.

LOCAL PROCUREMENT: Sourcing materials locally is an important green building tenet. About 45% of the materials and products for Great Lakes, by cost, were extracted, harvested and recovered within 800 km of project site. About 60% of the total material by cost was manufactured locally/regionally, helping to minimise pollution arising from material transportation. Salvaged material such as broken china mosaic tiles and bricks was used for the roof and to create sculptures and artifacts. Overall, the project has achieved a combined recyclable content value of 12.63%, thus reducing exploitation of virgin materials. Up to 95.87% of the total construction waste has been recycled or reused, thereby diverting them from landfills.

CHOICE OF MATERIALS: Great Lakes uses environment-friendly fixtures and materials such as low flow dual-flush toilets, sensor based urinals and low flow faucets to conserve water; and insulation and reflective materials on the entire roof to reduce heat ingress and to minimise impact on the surrounding microclimate. To help cut power consumption, an energy-efficient glazing boasting of optimum shading coefficient and an intelligent air-conditioning design incorporating high performing variable refrigerant volume systems were used. Environment-friendly refrigerants help avoid global warming and ozone depletion. Aerocon block walls provide excellent insulation and bring down energy costs. Efficient lighting fixtures and occupancy controls optimise energy consumed for lighting. In Great Lakes experience, building green increased the overall cost of construction by 15%. It will take 12 to 15 years to pay back the extra investment.

 

The green campus helped in saving water and power consumption

 

Great Lakes May 2009 batch was the first to enjoy the new campus. Since 2009, the campus has doubled in size from 14 acres to about 28 acres. The additional infrastructure is yet to be certified by LEED. Meanwhile, the results have been encouraging: Water efficient fixtures reduced water consumption by over 32.52%. Only wastewater which has been treated on site to tertiary standards is used for landscaping. Over 75% of the areas in regular use get sufficient daylight and hardly need any artificial lighting. Over 90% of the areas in regular use get an outdoor view. Solar powered street lighting use about 15% less power consumption than regular street lights.

The efficient Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) air-conditioning system cuts power consumption by approximately 20% whereas the efficient lighting reduces the overall consumption by almost 50%. Solar water heaters further reduce power consumption by another 10%. All told, different power saving materials help to save 25% power that would have been consumed in a traditionally built environment. About this, Dr Balachandran says It is to be expected. Doing the right thing always pays dividends in time. In our case, it helped us achieve high levels of efficiency. Additionally, carbon credits are helping to offset the cost difference as evidenced by the Electricity Board reducing our tariffs. Also, we will soon be installing more solar energy panels.

In the meantime, lets not forget the bonus. Green environs help to reduce students stress levels and provide the right ambience for studies. Open spaces encourage students to interact with their peers outdoors. Students can be seen outdoors working on group assignments. All of these will pay dividends in the long run, as they promote communication skills and team work, much sought after at the workplace


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