Wednesday, May 06, 2009: 04:27:03 PM



Malls are mushrooming everywhere in India and there are concerns with respect to their design and compatibility with local resources. Shibu Philips explains how the design and maintenance of Oberoi Mall in Mumbai address these concerns

Mr Shibu Philips

In the past decade, India has witnessed a significant level of growth in the number of mall properties spread across the country. At present, over 30 malls operate in the city of Mumbai alone. Malls comprise a total of 7.13 million square feet of retail and entertainment space. With the significant rise in shopping centres, the prime concern is the environmental aspect. The advent of ‘mall culture’ has become a cause for concern for the local community and the environment. Such properties require a significant level of energy with respect to various operations, which include internal lighting, signboards, displays and cleaning equipment.

Several industry experts have questioned the impact of the design of Indian malls. They state that the design and construction of a mall does not take into consideration natural lighting, waste disposal and water treatment. With regard to the latter, the water consumption in several malls is very high. Several news reports over the recent months have cited depletions occurring in the local water supply. In addition, there have been complaints about water wastage due to faulty plumbing or improper maintenance. At present, the impact may be minimal but in the long term, it will be crucial for future malls as well as for present malls to restructure or implement services to ensure that no environmental damage is caused.

Oberoi Mall is one of the largest shopping malls to be added to the Mumbai urban landscape at Goregaon (East). Within a year of its inception, the mall has become a major luxury shopping and entertainment destination for residents and visitors to the city. It offers a wide range of shopping choices from clothing to books to electronics and food court. On an average, the mall receives 18,000 footfalls during the week and 30,000 footfalls during the weekend.

The mall has a specially designed ‘Eco- Program’, which consists of four segments that address the environmental challenge. The programme itself was drafted prior to the mall’s construction, which started with the architects who had created a space that would compliment the surrounding area. This formed the first aspect of the programme.

The design incorporated polycarbonate transparent roofing in the ‘atrium space’ in order to allow maximum flow of natural light into the atrium and interior walkways. This ‘green design’ has helped to ensure a minimal requirement of electricity usage during the day. Complimenting this design feature, the interior of the mall uses CFL lamps, which drastically cuts down on lighting consumption.

In addition, energy saver panels have been installed and are used to cut down the lighting consumption by 15 percent. All lighting is set by a synchronised timing system, which regulates the lighting required within a given area. Another feature built into the energy segment is a building management system to control and monitor the operations of the equipment and to obtain maximum efficiency. The escalator systems run on auto sensors, which turn the escalators off when they are not in use. Moreover, the escalators are on dual programming to minimise the operation time. Air curtains have also been fitted at the main entrances to arrest AC leakages and maintain the internal temperature within the central atrium. Regular checks are conducted each week to monitor the level of energy consumption within a particular area. In addition, the mall has a business tie-up with Reliance Energy to ensure that all electrical systems are working at their optimal level, thereby significantly reducing the energy loss and consumption within its premises.

The second part of the Eco Program overlooks water conservation at Oberoi Mall. Service staff conducts regular maintenance checks to ensure that there is no wastage of water at all the public facilities. Sewage water and waste water is treated through a special sewage treatment plant (STP) before it is released into the municipal drains. The plant operates 24×7. It treats a total of 300 m³ of water a day. The mall also reuses waste water that has been treated for its horticulture area. In addition, there are two specially created rainwater harvesting plants that have been built, which collect rainwater, recycle and utilise it within as well as outside the premises.

The green areas around the mall are carefully manicured using organic material and are watered with special hosing in order to ensure that no water wastage occurs. In addition, the entire area of the mall is cleaned throughout the day with jet spray equipment and area cleaning machinery. These machines require very little use of water and detergents and ensure that surfaces are kept well sanitised. In addition, the aforementioned equipment is checked and serviced daily. Pest control activities are also carried out throughout the day in order to keep its premises free from infestation. The chemicals used for its pest control are herbal-based and are non-toxic in nature. This is important as it ensures that neither the garden space nor the customers are affected by them.

The external environment of the mall forms the third segment of the Eco Program. The mall ensures that no garbage is left anywhere in the vicinity. The ground staff collects garbage that is left out in the open. Within this segment, is the fourth segment of the programme that focuses on the retailers. The mall encourages all its retailers to use only paper bags and avoid the use of plastic. It has generally been found that plastic bags are the prime cause of blocked drains and amount to as much as 70 percent of the garbage discarded outside a given premises. More importantly, plastic is non-biodegradable. Hence, the mall ensures that paper bags are provided to customers.

By overseeing every aspect of the mall’s operations, the mall owners will be able to secure a more favourable position in the minds of their target audience. In the long run, these initiatives would strengthen their rapport with the local community.

The author is the Business Head, Oberoi Mall

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