Saint-Gobain celebrated their 350th anniversary by hosting a Smart Green Summit in Delhi. The forum brought together stakeholders from the building and construction industry on one platform and discussed innovative initiatives in the field of sustainable habitat. Venkat Subramanian spoke to P Krishna Kumar on the sidelines of the summit on the evolving Smart Green concept
What ignited you to host a conference on Smart Green Building concepts, and how Smart Green is different from the more entrenched Green Building concepts?
We have been doing various activities on Green buildings over the years. Compared to Green, Smart Green is a more evolved concept. We are doing something of this kind for the first time. Being the 350th anniversary of Saint-Gobain, we thought it is more relevant to do something that reflects the value of our company and the direction the industry is taking and play the anchor role of bringing the entire community of stakeholders in that direction.
As far as the evolving concepts are concerned, Green per se is an old concept. Lot of new facets has been added to it to evolve into Smart Green. Under Green, focus has been on energy efficiency, green credentials in terms of LEED rating, etc. Now we have a new concept called multi-comfort. The multi-comfort concept, of course, addresses the issues of Green building like energy efficiency, recycling and reducing wastes, etc. Going further ahead, multi-comfort looks at the whole comfort of people in a built space so that they can perform the duties entrusted on them in a comfortable fashion. For eg, the acoustics, daylight, air quality, etc. are considered equally important as energy efficiency or sustainability. Anybody who works in a natural lighting will be more productive than a person working in an artificial lighting environment. Similarly, the air quality in a built up space plays a vital part in enhancing productivity. There are a lot of volatile organic compounds within a built up space which get circulated within the environment because of air conditioning. This tires one out by the end of the day. There is whole of lot things developers can do to improve the aesthetics. This contributes in creating mood and productivity. These are the concepts we are working on currently.
How do you plan to get into this space and what are the preparations happening in that context?
Saint-Gobain has a lot of focus on research and development, globally. We are constantly looking out for materials which are interesting to develop products and solutions that would help multi-comfort initiatives. Where we don’t produce materials ourselves, we procure such materials and create solutions. Our endeavour is to create awareness in the market by working with architect, designers, developers, etc. We also need to train people to make these concepts produce results on the ground.
The concept is still evolving and therefore requires development of new softwares, trials and testing, and certification. We are investing a lot into it. We understand and believe that it can bring major interesting changes towards improving the productivity of the people in a built up space globally.
Saint Gobain is known for glass business in India. How is the brand diversifying into various other segments associated with habitat?
Yes, we are primarily known for our glass business in India, constituting 50% of our turnover even today. But globally, glass constitutes only 10-12% of our global business. Saint Gobain came to India market only in 1996. So, we haven’t brought all elements into India in one go. That we will be definitely doing over a period of time, and that will give a multi-dimensional perspective to what Saint-Gobain is all about to the market.
What we do keep looking at is opportunities. The introduction of Gypsum Plastic Board in India market is part of that strategy. There is a lot of scope for that product in the India market. We engage ourselves in lot of research on building physics in different geographies including hot and humid climes. That helps us to bring relevant products to that market.
The government is pushing Smart Cities agenda in a big way. As a key stakeholder in the building business, what are the opportunities you see to associate with it?
Smart cities are a good concept by the government. That will certainly throw up big opportunities as well as challenges. Challenges associated with conventional construction are known – labour shortage, skill shortage, soil ad material shortage, water shortage, etc. But we have solutions as well to some of these challenges. Certainly our intention is to contribute to that and benefit from that.
|About the Spokesperson|
|A B-Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Chennai, Venkat Subramanian is the Managing Director of Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd- Gyproc Business.
He holds the responsibility of delivering the topline and bottomline targets of the business and strengthen the trust of the stakeholders in the group.
Prior to Saint-Gobain, Subramanian was with Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) for 21 years. He joined HUL as a Management Trainee in 1983 and his exit in 2004 was in the capacity of Managing Director, Vashisti Detergents Limited (an HUL Subsidiary company).