Nalanda University’s Net Zero Energy Vision

Oct 16, 2018

Nalanda, in Eastern India, for over eight centuries was the site for one of the world’s oldest centers for learning. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important place for Buddhist pilgrims.  Lord Buddha preached his famous “Lotus Sutra” discourse while sitting under a mango tree in Nalanda. Following his death, monks started to gather here regularly to discuss the Buddha’s teachings and the concept of monasteries led to the genesis of universities in India. Scholars from Tibet, China, Korea and Central Asia started visiting the Nalanda center for learning to seek and impart Buddhist knowledge. However, between 1100 and 1500, universities started opening up in Europe and there was a gradual shift of focus to the West and Nalanda ceased to exist as a principal center of learning. 

Ruins of Nalanda Property

So, why are we talking about Nalanda today? Nalanda University is now being revived as an international higher education institution with the support of several Asian countries[1]. What makes it special is that the Nalanda University has committed itself to stringent environmental targets, with a design that will blend with the local ecology and rural landscape. So while it will be a modern university it will keep its illustrious environmental legacy intact. When completed, Nalanda University will be India’s first Net Zero Energy, Waste and Water campus[2]. The Phase – 1 of the construction is expected to complete by early 2020.

Artist Impression of Nalanda University Net Zero Energy Campus

I am pleased to share with you that Nexant, as the prime contractor of the USAID Partnership to Advance Clean Energy - Deployment Technical Assistance (PACE-D TA) Program, assisted the university in adopting its ‘Net-Zero Energy’ concept. The management of the university initially had the vision of a “Green” campus but after several rounds of discussions, we were able to convince them of the importance of establishing net-zero energy goals early in the design stage. We, along with our sub-contractor Environmental Design Solutions (EDS), helped Nalanda develop the design requirements and evaluation criteria for a net-zero energy campus. This included the requirements for sustainable planning, building design, lighting, energy efficiency and renewable energy technology solutions.

The Indian President at that time, Pranab Mukherjee, laid the foundation stone of the new campus in August 2016. In his speech, the President highlighted the net zero approach of the University. 

University Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony by the President of India

It is estimated that the Nalanda University would have consumed 58,240 MWh electricity per annum and emitted GHG emissions equivalent to nearly 52,415 million metric tons of carbon dioxide if it had followed the standard building construction practices. By adopting the net zero approach, the University is expected to reduce the energy use intensity of the campus by 63% when compared to the standard building designs.

India has announced its 100 Smart Cities program which includes key metrics such as waste, water and energy management. The Nalanda University, when complete, will be a model for other educational campuses in India on how they can embody the highest level of energy efficiency and climate responsive design to reduce energy demand.