The Swiss Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction and the Indian cement manufacturer ACC Limited are jointly supporting the construction of the exemplary sustainable headquarters of Development Alternatives, an NGO based in New Delhi.
In the third quarter of 2007 in New Delhi what is probably the most sustainable building on the Indian subcontinent will be finished – the headquarters of Development Alternatives, a "center for excellence in sustainable habitat."
Providing spaces for offices, training, conferences and technical research, the structure is being built by local workers using chiefly local materials that embody little energy. Refined passive and evaporation systems keep the building cool with minimum energy consumption, even in the hot climate. The building is also very user friendly – and its pioneering technologies can easily be adopted in other locations. With notable technical, environmental, social and cultural merit, the building is a sort of laboratory for sustainable construction in tropical or subtropical zones.
Development Alternatives, a non-governmental organization, promotes commercially viable, environmentally friendly technologies, and helps predominantly poor people to create sustainable habitats themselves. Development Alternatives was founded in 1983 by Ashok Khosla, one of the world's leading experts for the environment and sustainable development. Khosla has been director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and consultant to the World Bank and the government of India. Currently, he is a member of the World Future Council and acting chairman of the Club of Rome.
Contributions from India and Switzerland
That the construction of the Development Alternatives headquarters building can be completed on schedule is due also to Holcim’s engagement in the project. The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction supports sustainable construction worldwide – by organizing design competitions and international forums, and by financially supporting important research and construction projects. The Foundation is backed by the Swiss Holcim Ltd. ACC Limited, a Group company of Holcim, is the largest cement producer in India. The Holcim Foundation and ACC jointly donated USD 320,000 to enable completion of the "center for excellence in sustainable habitat." This is the first time the Holcim Foundation, established in 2004, has made a donation of this kind towards a construction project. The Foundation recently donated USD 200’000 to support five research projects being conducted by Ph.D. scholars in Brazil, China, Mexico and Switzerland.
Commitment towards improvement of livelihoods
At the ceremonial presentation held in Thailand, Holcim Executive Committee member Paul Hugentobler stressed that Holcim and Development Alternatives pursue similar goals: "The promotion of a sustainable society is for us more than lip service; on all continents Holcim seeks partnerships with organizations that concretely contribute to sustainable improvement of livelihoods and habitats." The collaboration with Development Alternatives is not limited to the support of the construction project in New Delhi, assured Hugentobler: "We are looking forward to a long-term partnership with Development Alternatives and other like minded organizations that will enable Holcim to take an active lead within the Indian cement industry in establishing solutions for improved rural livelihoods." ACC has been strongly engaged in India for years in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility; under Holcim this tradition will be continued and expanded.
Exemplary – in every respect
Ashok Khosla expressed gratitude for the financial support "in the name of the millions who hope to have access to the kinds of materials and technologies that Development Alternatives is innovating.” The organization helps people help themselves – building good habitats, and thereby permanently escaping often miserable living conditions. "We are dependent upon support, and we are delighted about the generous contribution of ACC and the Holcim Foundation." At the presentation of the joint donation check, Sumit Banerjee, Managing Director of ACC, and Edward Schwarz, General Manager of the Holcim Foundation, expressed their hopes that "the impressive building and the projects that will be developed and conducted within it in the future will serve as valued examples of sustainable construction and of supporting masses of needy people."
Renowned Indian architect
The Holcim Foundation and ACC are not the only sponsors of the new headquarters of Development Alternatives – and the Foundation is not the only supporter from Switzerland. Roughly half the construction cost is being covered by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). However, this strong Swiss financial structure does stand on equally strong Indian foundations. The architect, Ashok B. Lall, is principal of a leading architectural firm in New Delhi and Dean of Studies at the TVB School of Habitat Studies. He was also a jury member for the first global Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects. The second cycle of the Holcim Awards competition began recently; projects may be submitted to www.holcimawards.org through February 29, 2008. Prize money for the five regional and the global Awards totals USD two million.