Earth Day 2019: Building Sustainable Campuses and Communities in India

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By Renuka Rajagopal, Senior Director, Real Estate and Workplace, India, VMware

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it gives me a chance to reflect on our commitment toward creating a sustainable future—both in terms of how we construct new buildings and nurture the communities in which we operate.

In truth, Earth Day should be practiced every day. This occasion serves as a reminder of the opportunity and pressing need to respond to the most important challenges of our time: global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy, and threats to human health.

VMware has been a core part of India’s technology economy for more than 10 years, contributing to incredible local customer innovation journeys and partnering with communities to improve their prospects. We believe that innovative campus projects in Bangalore and Pune—part of $2 billion in direct investment that we’ll be making in India over the next five years—together with similar efforts from other like-minded companies, are a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.

Building Green from the Start

In India, we are creating our greenest campus yet in the Asia-Pacific region.

Our new South Bangalore site is under construction, and this project represents a significant and exciting investment that will house more than 4,000 employees locally. There will also be a new VMware site in Pune that is currently being scoped.

These campuses will house the lion’s share of our India-based research and development (R&D), support and sales operations—second in size and scale only to those at our headquarters in Palo Alto.

Our goal is to design campuses that benefit and restore the surrounding area. Indian cities continue to experience high carbon emissions, as well as growing demand for limited water and energy resources. We have been taking these challenges into account through investments in green buildings across our entire portfolio, from new constructions to retrofitting existing spaces.

Keeping Things Fluid in Bangalore

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With rising temperatures and depleting groundwater, our Bangalore campus is designed with an integrated water management system that includes low flow fixtures for reductions in potable water usage by 40 percent, the reuse of water from sewage treatment plants for domestic flushing and landscape uses, and water metering per floor to track usage. We’ve even implemented microfiber mops in office cleaning. These mops help the environment by using less water and chemicals, contributing less to the waste stream. Our desire is to help combat water scarcity in Bangalore’s urban districts, and every little step adds up to make a difference.

This is not just an issue in India, though. Across the world, 844 million people still don’t have access to clean water—all while we are using six times as much water today as we did 100 years ago. Making thoughtful choices as businesses and consumers helps ensure access to water for basic needs is prioritized, wherever you are in the world. This means everything from fixing leaky taps and faucets to putting non-potable water into service more than once or even harvesting rainwater for use.

Building Towards Net-Positive Impact

Water is just the start. Our campuses are created to meet Platinum or Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Our current South Bangalore site (Vista) has been LEED-certified to the Platinum level—the highest rating for green buildings in the world. The use of special light fixtures and sensors has reduced energy consumption of lighting by more than 40 percent. Much thought has also gone into heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) design that is 30 percent more efficient. We are designing the new South Bangalore and Pune site to follow suit.

We will continue our leadership role in using wind power procurement and are proud to note that 85 percent of the electricity used at the South Bangalore site is generated by wind.

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But we didn’t stop there. We’ve also introduced green corporate transportation options for employees. This includes installing cycle stands and charging stations for electric cars, as well as launching connecting bus services to the metro. Plus, there are now incentives for employees who carpool, and we operate one of the largest all-electric fleets for shift employees so we can reduce employee commute-related emissions by 25 percent.

Going Green Inside

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When thinking about green construction, we also take into consideration the materials used in the interiors. Adhesives, paints and composite wood products used for our office interiors are low on toxicity and selected for zero-carbon impact. More than 90 percent of our construction waste is being recycled to save energy and financial cost, which further reduces our carbon footprint.

We’ve achieved carbon neutrality at VMware two years ahead of our 2020 goal, but as my colleague Nicola Acutt rightly emphasized: “reaching carbon neutrality is a milestone, not our final destination”. We aspire for net-positive impact in India and globally, and we look forward to working with others who might wish to follow our “LEED.”

Achieving Carbon Neutrality

A Major Milestone on Our Journey To Net-Positive Global Impact

Sorting Waste at its Source

Our final aim is to divert as much of our waste as we can from landfills. Apart from the obvious problem of finite space for waste disposal, we are also aware of regular fires at landfill sites.

In progress toward our goal of 90-percent waste diversion and zero e-waste to landfill by 2020, we expanded our analysis of waste management data collection from 34 percent to 50 percent globally. At our major existing sites in India—South Bangalore, East Bangalore and Pune—we instituted waste segregation, performed waste audits to discover areas for improvement and reduced single-use plastics. We recently switched to glass bottled water instead of packaged single-use plastic bottles. Even as we report global waste diversion of 91 percent across half of our real estate portfolio, we must push on to increase these rates as we grow our operations in India and beyond.

More than 100 cities in India have pledged to adopt sustainable waste management practices. We are fully committed to this initiative and urge businesses and consumers to join our employees’ efforts in sorting their cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, food and paper. And we hope everyone can go further and consider joining reuse programs that extend the life of office supplies, furniture and computer equipment.

We only have one planet, and hopefully you can see how committed we are to building a positive and sustainable future. We all have a part to play, so this Earth Day, why not see if you can make a small change to the way you and your company approach waste.

 

My passion in workplace design, customer experience and creating spaces for innovation has led me down this meaningful path. This week, I’d like to encourage you to consider how you can combine creativity, innovation and personal interests to empower the community and foster an even more sustainable future.