Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Verma on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities at the Honeywell “Smart Building Score” Global Launch

Good morning.  It is a pleasure to be here with all of you.  I would like to thank Honeywell and USIBC for inviting me to be part of this event today.  Let me also thank someone who is not here today, and that is Dave Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, who has served as the co-chair of our US/India CEO Forum, which is a critical group helping to advance the commercial relationship between our countries.  Dave has been a highly effective and tireless leader on the US side, and we are grateful for his efforts.

I returned from Washington a few days ago, where I had an extensive round of meetings – numerous cabinet secretaries, the deputy secretary of state, the national security advisor, the UN Ambassador, leaders of Congress and leaders of industry.  As much as I might like to believe they were eager to see me, they were most interested in how things were going in India.

There is still so much excitement in the U.S. – India relationship in all sectors of our government and private industry, nearly six months after President Obama was here, and some ten months after PM Modi traveled to Washington.

My report to my colleagues in Washington was upbeat and optimistic based on the facts on the ground, not simply based on the deep reservoir of good will between us.  We are, for example, working on over 80 initiatives coming out of the January POTUS visit; we have reached $103 billion in two-way trade; we’ve secured new deals in defense and energy; and we are working hard on a bilateral investment treaty; we will have the first ever Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between our two countries early this fall; and increasingly Indian companies are helping to power America’s growth, through new investments and innovations.  That’s why I’m optimistic.

But I am also clear-eyed about the challenges that lay in front of us, from regional security, to climate change, to ensuring inclusive economic growth, to helping to finance India’s massive infrastructure needs, to the mass urbanization challenges that India will confront from North to South and East to West.

The fact is India will be one of the world’s leaders in the growth of its cities in the coming years – at a scale and pace that few have witnessed before.  This is why the Prime Minister’s Smart Cities initiative is so important – so India’s urban centers can be safer, cleaner, more efficient, digitized, with modern and reliable services for those who live there.

I’m proud of the role that the US has played in the Smart Cities initiative.   We are the leading partner in helping to develop three cities in particular:  Vizag, Ajmer and Allahabad.

Representatives from the Commerce Department, State, USAID, the U.S. Trade Development Agency and the Department of Energy have been involved in multiple efforts with all three cities.

We are also using our convening power to enlist the support of U.S. government finance agencies such as EXIM and OPIC, and also partnering with major Indian business associations such as CII and FICCI in order to make these projects more accessible for U.S. firms.  CII helped organize the first major US industry engagement in Vizag in April and FICCI organized a similar event in Ajmer at the end of May.

We have also established with our Indian counterparts an “Infrastructure Collaboration Platform” which facilitates private sector participation in Indian infrastructure projects.  And U.S. industry, through the American Chamber of Commerce in India and the U.S.-India Business Council, has formed a consortium of over 25 companies to market specific capabilities that support key components of smart city projects:  Energy, especially renewables and smart grid technologies; water and sanitation; safety and security; transportation; healthcare.

Leading experts tell us that Smart Cities are not destinations, but are part of a process; they are all about continuous collaboration among public and private stakeholders to improve the quality of life for urban dwellers.  One of the keys will be to ensure that these smart cities maintain, promote and build smart buildings – which is what we are all focused on today.

According to Honeywell’s research, people spend 80-90 percent of their lives in buildings, making buildings an integral part of their ecosystem.  People want their buildings to be a more dynamic, productive and interactive space.

Experts estimate that buildings consume about 40 percent of global energy, 25 percent of global water and emit approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.  People are now demanding that their living spaces and buildings in particular be more environmentally sustainable, greener and less impactful on the environment.

And, although safety and security in buildings is not as well researched as green buildings, clearly something like fire safety is an issue that everyone understands.  A recent audit in India revealed that more than 50 percent of hospitals and 60 percent of high-rise buildings lacked adequate fire safety measures and did not follow minimum compliance requirements in major cities. People want their buildings to be as safe as possible, using the latest in reliable technologies.

So this innovation that we are discussing today — the Honeywell Smart Building Score — could not be more timely or important.  It evaluates buildings according to three simple criteria:  how green, how safe and how productive they are for their occupants.

Given the significant energy consumption and emissions profile of traditional buildings, just think what a positive impact green building technologies could have.  Applying a Smart Building Score to standards for new and existing buildings could also dramatically improve the safety of hundreds of millions of people in India and around the globe.

And, the discussion around building productivity has only just begun.  But with rapidly developing technologies on connectivity and comfort, including indoor air quality, and a younger generation that is eager to adopt these technologies, the sky is the limit on the role that smart buildings could play in the future when it comes to productivity.

So, I would like to thank Honeywell for choosing India as the site for its global launch and for the company’s continued vision and leadership in technology with this impressive roll-out of its Smart Building Score tool, which be critically needed across India, in Smart Cities and across the globe.  And, to all the other American companies helping with Smart Buildings and Smart Cities, and sharing their innovations and discoveries and working with our Indian counterparts, I say thank you – the payoff will be in bringing a better, safer and healthier way of life to so many.