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At the UN pavilion in the Dubai Expo 2020, there were portrayals of ordinary people creating extraordinary value while not exploiting the environment. Fresh from the motivation, I walked headfast towards the pledging platform and became one of 538,511 agents of change to make a pledge towards the UN sustainable development goals 2030.
And the pledge was this,
I will make sure our company provides voluntary opportunities towards sustainability that fit with our sector and strength.
I had 3 pledges to choose from and I ended up choosing providing voluntary opportunities because I strongly believe that working towards a better future cannot be forced but can only be encouraged.
When I mentioned the pledge to Shreeram and Gobi, they connected me with an awe-inspiring personality, Mr. Vasu Guruswamy, an IIT M alumni who retired as the Vice President of Services in Schlumberger and co-founded Lavni Ventures. Vasu is equally passionate about sustainability and he had an amazing strategy to help startups like us in our experiments.
Vasu had a 2 acre plot in Kanchipuram which he planned to use as a ‘Startup sandbox’. Listening to this idea, Shreeram and Gobi presented me with an unique opportunity where I was given freedom and a budget to pursue the idealogy, “Innovation without exploitation”.
Soman and Kowtham joined this small experiment and the 4 of us decided to take up this experiment and attempt building the “First modular zero-energy building” in India.
But experiements aren’t always meant to succeed. It isn’t fun if it does, right?
Our group enthusically dived deep into
- Analysing the materials used
- Net water zero and trying to achieve it by setting by rainwater harvesting, greywater and blackwater recycling systems
- Setting up solar panels and wind turbines
- Geothermal cooling tubes along the roofs and the walls
- Modular green roofs
- Setting up a water eco-system
We also got in touch Professor Thalappil Pradeep, a Padma Shri awardee on setting up water audits and Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala about commercialising net-zero energy buildings.
Researching and doing are two different things, and we were only able to build greywater and blackwater recycling; solar panels and a small water ecosystem that Vasu ended up building with the timeline and the people constraint.
Nevertheless, we haven’t lost hope. We have learnt a lot with this experiment - from technical limitations to inspiring people to innovate. By the time you’re reading this, the first phase of the building would have been constructed.
Not only that, we would have started working on how to take the second phase of the project closer to our ideal - a truly net-zero modular building.
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