Innovation in Green Architecture

Ar. Premnath

Ar. Prem Nath, reputed as a 'green' architect, has presented here green architecture designs and methodologies of the last century, and the latest technologies for today's and tomorrow's Sustainable Architecture

I belong to the last century, but as an architect I have to stay ahead of time, so here I am talking about innovations in green architecture. As an old timer, we were always doing green architecture. As per planning norms ground coverage was 25%, FSI was 1.00, with limited requirements of car parking, there was plenty of open and green area almost 40–50%. Houses and apartments were designed with courtyards, deep verandahs and balconies, cross ventilation with high roof and ventilators, only fans and no air-conditioning, except air-coolers sometimes.


Way back in 1960s, the 70 year old architect Le-Corbusier designed the green city of Chandigarh and public buildings using solar orientation. There were 2–4m deep projections, courtyards, skylights, cross ventilation, high roof ventilators and no air-conditioning. I did the same thing while designing the award winning Refinery Township for Mr. Lakshmi Mittal at Bhatinda in Punjab, except that I used additional features. By using insulating materials like fly-ash bricks for walls and fireclay tiles for roof insulation the temperature dropped from 42° to 30°, with a dual plumbing system and 2,000 rain water harvesting pits recharging 50 mn liters of water and creating zero discharge environment, and saving 40% on water and power.

All this was done way back in 2008 at the planning stage, when there were no green consultants except myself as council member of the U.S. Green Building Council. We did everything in-house, including landscapes, and we were given India's first 'Gold Grading' for Township by Ministry of Environment and now the HUDCO Design Award 2015 for Green Architecture for Township. We have also done India's first Platinum Rated Campus Architecture at Vadodara – so I have been branded Green Architect!

The electrical load in those days for homes and offices was approx. 2 to 3 watts per square feet. Then came the era of computers and IT buildings and intelligent buildings with high automations. Computers required dust free and cool environment at 20 degree centigrade, forcing the staff even in summer to wear jackets and sweaters in their work places. These so called 'Intelligent Buildings' thus became energy guzzlers – consuming 15 to 20 watts per square feet.


With advancement of technologies, computers and other office equipment have become tropicalized and energy efficient. Now is an era of smartphones, smart devices, smart offices, smart buildings, and smart cities. But smart has to be sustainable; smart means Simple-Sustainable, Manageable, Affordable, Resourceful and Technology savvy, and technology must be affordable.

For an architect, innovation does not mean inventions and discoveries, it means application of new technologies and materials, and it requires just common sense to understand how to use new technologies. As an example, till recently, architects were using plenty of glass for building façades, using double glass DGU and e-Glass cladding that enabled 90% heat reflection and saved on AC loads. But this is a major cause of global warming. Since there is dust and carbon di-oxide pollution in the air, the reflected heat from the buildings' glass façade gets trapped in the atmosphere causing a green house effect, and further adding to the global warming.

To overcome this, material scientists have now developed a new kind of clear Solar Films and Solar Glass which is clear and has integrated concentric solar cells which absorb the sunlight heat and convert it into electric power. Thus, a 2m x 2m window glass can produce 1kw of energy per day, and a commercial/hotel building can produce from 200 to 500 kw of power per day. Such materials will be seen in the architecture of the near future. Now, there are many more materials, which are certified as green, and many more new materials and technologies will be available for use in the future architecture.
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