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Alumnus leading infrastructure at India's second largest IT company

Alumnus leading infrastructure at India's second largest IT company

Rohan Parikh is one tough customer. But he makes no apologies: when the weight of a sub-continent rests on your shoulders, you don't settle for half measures.

Parikh is head of infrastructure at Infosys, India's second biggest IT company, which recently won the top award from the UK's Ashden awards, known as the "green Oscars", for what the judges described as game-changing efforts to slash energy use throughout its 10 campuses across India.

Through insisting on the highest energy efficiency standards, Parik has driven the company's six-year transformation from one that commissioned electricity-guzzling glass monuments to ones that use only natural light and little or no air conditioning.

Helped by a substantial investment in renewable energy, the company, which had global revenues of $8.2bn last year, has doubled its staff to 60,000 and added 1m square feet of office space a year with little increase in energy bills.

Parikh says the reason Infosys is doing this is simple: "In a country where 400 million people have no access to power, and 20% of GDP goes on energy imports, how can you afford to waste energy?"

Google, for one, has taken notice. A Google team visited Infosys' newest campus at Hyderabad, where buildings combine passive design principles – such as orienting buildings to minimise heat and glare, strategically placed windows and the simple expedient of painting the roof white – with technologies such as shading and pumping cold water through pipes embedded in concrete, known as radiant cooling. Google has said the new 1.1m sq foot eco-friendly headquarters it will build in Mountain View, California will be naturally lit.

This pleases Parik to no end. "When Google and Facebook adopt technologies, the whole world looks up to them. We are hoping that if a few of these new disruptive technologies get used by Google, technology adoption and diffusion globally will take place at a much faster rate."

Ten years ago, Infosys, like other Indian IT companies, was still trying to overcome western perceptions of India as a country of sweatshop labour, Parik says. "We felt we had to create the wow factor with [western-style glass] buildings."

Ironically, they were literally high-tech sweatshops for the people inside them because they were built without insulation and low-emission glass to keep out the relentless sun. Cue blinds being pulled down, lights on day and night, and air conditioning at full tilt to battle outside temperatures as high as 45C.

Parik, who has a MS in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, convinced Infosys's board of the error of its ways and got the green light to take an entirely new approach with the new commercial space it was adding every year. Parik's team of engineers was able to show that energy efficiency economics stack up: it costs 15% less in capital costs to build an energy efficient building than a conventional one because they don't require expensive air conditioning systems, chillers and diesel generators, he says. And then of course there are the energy savings of up to 60% a year.

Read more at The Guardian.

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