Development Alternatives Headquarters, India: LEED certified sustainable buildings.

Development Alternatives Headquarters, India: LEED certified sustainable buildings

Partly funded by a grant from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction and our Group company in India, ACC Limited, the world headquarters of Development Alternatives (DA) lays claim to be the greenest building in the Indian capital. Its construction has involved a wide range of resource-saving strategies, ranging from indoor climate control to rainwater harvesting and natural lighting. The idea originated from a desire to demonstrate the possibilities of sustainable construction and to show that a sustainable construction is possible and economically feasible. The building seeks to be a laboratory for sustainable construction in tropical or sub-tropical zones.

The building was designed by architect Ashok B Lall, who integrated a number of environmental aspects to make the building possible. Minimising energy consumption was one of the main priorities. The use of steel and concrete cement was reduced by up to 30% compared to conventional buildings even though the structure is a multi-storied office building. The timber used was from mature, harvested trees, from Madhya Pradesh. The mud and debris from the old structure at the location was recycled as material for the building's construction. The structure draws on building traditions from the past, and the design embraces tradition, not for the sake of the past, but for the sake of the future and seeks to redefine old methods in a contemporary context. The project is a showcase of traditional, environmentally efficient construction materials and systems that can be economically developed for low-energy mass production and adopted by the mainstream building industry, especially in developing countries.

The new office building tests innovative, specially designed elements and components such as a hybrid air-handling unit that incorporates evaporative cooling and refrigerant-based cooling in a new way to reduce energy consumption for air conditioning by 30 per cent. Water consumption is also substantially reduced, recycled and used for irrigation or to recharge groundwater. There is no waste water discharge into local rivers.

Key features of the structure include:

30% Less Embodied Energy
(Lifecycle 'cradle to grave' approach to assess energy content of materials)
Low energy natural materials used for building elements

  • Mud and fly ash blocks instead of burnt brick or concrete
  • Timber for doors and windows
  • <25% of external wall area glazed
  • No aluminum or PVC used


90% materials sourced from around Delhi; thus involving minimum transportation
Highly efficient use of materials

  • Thin ferro-cement channels with stone slabs instead of heavy concrete slabs
  • Stone flooring pattern designed to reduce waste to less than 5%

40% Less Operational Energy
User acceptance of indoor temperature range from 18 to 28 degrees Celsius
Optimised orientation to

  • Maximise natural lighting and ventilation
  • Minimise heat gain

'Green clothing' (planting on building façade), cavity walling and built-in shading devices to minimise heat gain
Innovative 'Hybrid' air conditioning system minimising use of energy and water

  • Prioritising evaporative cooling for hot and dry months
  • Supplemented by refrigerant cooling for hot and humid months

100% Wastewater Recycled
Rainwater harvested for use or ground water recharge
Wastewater recycled for use in toilets and gardens
Surplus wastewater treated before recharging the groundwater

15% Recycled Materials
Mud from old building salvaged to make new compressed earth blocks
Stones used for masonry
Industrial wastes such as fly ash and stone dust used in construction

30% Less Steel
Ferro-cement channels with minimal steel bars and chicken-wire mesh
Shallow domes with fly ash blocks requiring no steel reinforcement
Short-span Reinforced Cement Concrete frame for basic structure

CFC Free Building
Permissible refrigerant used; can be upgraded as better refrigerants available

30% Less Cement
25 mm thick ferro-cement channels instead of 150 mm thick slabs
Minimal cement plastering - celebration of exposed natural materials

People-driven Design
Interactive process between staff and the architects; design evolved over a series of workshops
Sensitive to requirement of universal access

  • Enabling persons with disabilities to reach all points with ease
  • Enabling persons from all strata of society to feel welcome

Child care and recreational facilities

Commitment to People and Nature
Promotion of skill-based techniques and artisan products

  • Terracotta fenestration
  • Materials produced from micro-enterprises

All wood from managed plantations

For further information please visit the following websites:
Development Alternatives -
ACC Limited - www.acclimited.com
The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction - www.holcimfoundation.org