Climate Change

Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute is one of the greenest campuses in India

The buildings have been designed in a way to maximise thermal comfort while relying less on air conditioning

Published: Tuesday 19 February 2019

Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) has become one of the greenest campuses in India today. Named after Anil Agarwal, one of India's leading environmentalists and a founder of India's environmental movement, the institute has set a new benchmark for resource management and sustainability. It was set up by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and incorporates a range of sustainable practices involving energy, water and waste.

AAETI is located about three hours from Delhi, in a village called Neemli in Alwar district of Rajasthan. Spread over 10 acres in the shrubby Aravalis, AAETI has been conceptualised as a learning, training and innovation centre designed to find appropriate and affordable solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems faced by the global South. Through its six schools, it aims to impart training and education on issues such as climate change, air pollution, urban mobility, water and waste management and environmental degradation.

AAETI has been constructed keeping in mind the local topography and physical environment. Less than 9 per cent of its total area has been built upon. The buildings have been designed in a way to maximise thermal comfort while relying less on air conditioning. Passive architectural designs like shading, wind shelves and use of insulated building material, ensure that there is minimal use of auxiliary heating and cooling.

The bulk of the heating ventilation and cooling at AAETI is done by a three-stage evaporative cooler. In the first stage, the air is cooled indirectly by pipes carrying water which is humidified in the second stage through direct evaporation.

The third stage which uses the refrigerant for cooling instead of water kicks in only when the ambient air has too much humidity rendering evaporative cooling redundant. This system restricts the use of energy-intensive refrigerant-based cooling to 2-3 months of monsoon.

There are two variations for the third stage cooling. For the hostels, a heat-pump is employed which enables recycling of the heat-reject of the system to meet the hot-water requirements of the campus. Additionally, it doubles up as a space heater in the winters.

In the academic block, the third stage is catered via a water-cooled chiller since there is no need for hot water in the block nor heating in winter. The block is used only during the day-time and passive design of the building helps keep interiors comfortable.

The AAETI campus has been designed to be water neutral. It is surrounded by the Aravalis which means the catchment area for water is huge. The natural drainage channels within the campus have been maintained so that water can flow and percolate into the ground.

The rooftops of two of the buildings have been designed to collect rainwater and all the wastewater including greywater and sewage is treated and reused. AAETI needs about 150 kiloliters of water a day. Of this 60 per cent is met using fresh water, extracted from the ground and saved in tanks from the rooftop rainwater harvesting system. The rest of it is met with recycled wastewater.

There are 40,000 square meters of land within the campus which can be used for groundwater recharging. Rooftop rainwater harvesting can be done in another 1458 sqmt. A total of 12,000 kiloliters of rainwater can percolate into the ground while an additional 912 kiloliters of water that fall on the rooftops can be collected in underground tanks. The remaining water requirement which is for flushing and horticulture is met through recycling of wastewater.

There are four decentralised systems of varying capacity which use different technologies at AAETI with a treatment capacity of 30 kiloliters a day. There are plans to increase this to 60 Kiloliters a day once the institute runs at full capacity.

The academic building and the faculty housing is connected by an 8 kiloliters a day  Decentralised wastewater system or DWWTS. This is a three-stage treatment system where the sewage passes through a settler, a baffled reactor and then treated in an aerobic polishing pond. The quality of water from this system is being used for gardening and horticulture.

The sewage and grey water of the students' hostel and the cafeteria is treated in a Soil Biotechnology based wastewater treatment system, which has been designed and patented by IIT Mumbai. This system which can handle 20 kiloliters a day of wastewater uses two bioreactors that have layers of crushed stones, jute bags and crushed bricks along with media for microbial growth. The water from this is pumped to an overhead tank and is used for flushing.

The campus also has two septic tanks, one of which is an improved septic tank. The idea behind this is to see how a conventional septic tank system, which is widely used across India and other parts of the developing world can be improved. The improved septic tank has three chambers as against the widely used 2 chamber system. The first and second chamber is for settling and the third chamber improves the quality of sewage through biodegradation.

AAETI also has a strict solid waste management regime, with the idea of becoming a zero waste campus in the near future. Solid waste is segregated into five streams. These include cooked and raw food waste; plastic waste; textile, rubber markers and hazardous waste; and glass and metal waste. Food waste is sent for composting, while all other waste is sent for recycling.

AAETI is now planning a stringent monitoring system to evaluate the performance of all the green features on the campus. It also has plans to generate its own renewable energy through solar rooftop systems.

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