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June 7, 2012

Going green: A little disruption can go a long way

Posted by Rohan Parikh (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:04 AM

Infosys has been identified among the top 25 performers in caring for climate initiative. Well, visit one of our campuses and you'll see straight away that we are an environmentally conscious company.

Four years ago, at Infosys, we launched an interesting sustainability effort to come up with great ideas for green initiatives that we could then replicate and share with the rest of the world. We wanted to set global benchmarks by saving resources and money. This tied in perfectly with my passion.  

Our goals were ambitious: cut our per capita electricity consumption by half, use electricity generated from renewable resources, become water sustainable by putting back more than we took from the ground, use only rain or recycled water and, reduce waste. These goals drove all our actions. Soon, we turned our attention to the one thing that consumed the most energy - our buildings. The ironic thing about building design is that it pays little attention to energy efficiency. We created a team of building physicists and, with their input, began to challenge the status quo. We introduced performance clauses for our architects.  Every design mandate came with an energy efficiency rider; for example, every building needed to harvest as much daylight as possible. But in order to build these criteria, we had to first install energy meters that would take deep measurements of the efficiency performance of our buildings. Soon, we had a 24x7 energy consumption profile of our buildings, which opened our eyes to energy usage and waste.  We were surprised to find out just how much energy is wasted when people don't turn off their lights and computers at the end of the day.

This sparked a stream of ideas about ways to conserve energy. The first of these projects related to an occupancy sensor, which would adjust the amount of lighting in a room by sensing human body heat, turning lights off the moment it sensed none. Another of our innovations was implementing a daylight sensor, which kept track of the natural light streaming in through the windows and was able to  adjust the amount of artificial lighting inside. We got an illumination specialist to simulate the lighting schemes in our buildings and recommend the optimal distribution of lights, which also reduced electrical consumption. With the connected lighting load coming down by 50 percent and actual consumption by a massive 66 percent, we were well on our way to realizing our first goal. These initial successes inspired bolder moves, some, which we believe will disrupt the way the world manages its future power demands.

For instance, the granular data from our energy meters was telling us that the nighttime computer load was 50 percent of the daytime peak, simply because the machines hadn't been turned off. A search for a proactive solution ended at Infosys Labs - our R&D arm and innovation nerve center. They helped build a smart power strip, which we attached to the plug points. When the intelligent power strip sensed an idle computer or phone charger, that was still drawing power, it would send a text alert to the concerned employee's mobile phone. The employee could then instruct the power strip - over the mobile phone - to switch everything off.

Another idea challenged the current science of cooling. We discovered that 40 percent of our total energy consumption went into air conditioning..  We investigated a bit, and took a technology called radiant cooling out of the laboratory and put it to work. By embedding water pipes inside concrete slabs, we were able to cool the space using 30 percent less energy than conventional methods.

I believe that the reason for our success can be found in our collective commitment to sustainability. This is what led us to think outside the box and dare to work with disruptive ideas. We threw out inefficient practices, including the science of "thumb-rule engineering." The enthusiasm was infectious because our design team backed us up each time to come up with significant improvements on what were essentially good models.

I am lucky that my job allows me to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a little bit of tomorrow's planet.


Great going team, well done, We infoscions are proud of you!

Very interesting video. Happy to see a big company implementing green building practices. I am curious to know what the cost differences were between the conventional and radiant built buildings.

Nice to know the initiatives. Pioneers in another field

Fantastic initiative! Loved this concept of Radiant cooling in Infy buildings. Wish the team more success!

I liked all the energy saving concepts, particularly the concept of using daylight and shading. Its amazing they lighted an entire floor during the day without tubelights !!!

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