Architects share their views on why one must consider alternative technologies, age-old traditional building practices of India, and locally available solutions while planning and executing contemporary buildings


Ar. Sundeep Gwash, The Firm

Ar. Sundeep Gwash
I look at Green architecture as a sense of responsibility that we all need to share. In our capacity as planners and designers, we have the opportunity to make a difference to the world around us; we only need to accept it as we think, draw and write! Design aims to create architecture that is beautiful, however, what the planet needs at present is an architecture that is virtuous and impartially beautiful. Virtuous architecture is essentially borne out of strong beliefs, eternal optimism and enduring enthusiasm of the designers and patrons alike.

There is an influx of new technology in the building sector, yet what is missed is a resource portal of knowledge related to performance of new technology, which must stand the test of time or a prototype. The unbiased post-commissioning performance reviews if made available on a common platform, could be a boon for the fraternity. Not only would this boost adoption of new innovations for more projects, but would also lead to making improvisations in existing projects. Provided that, the ground reality stands the chance to come closer to what is projected in the spreadsheets during presentations. Easier said than done as availability of such data is the preliminary challenge. So far, such a resource is subject to realization.

Positively speaking, there is a lot of awareness amongst professionals and select patrons about the agendas for environmental protection. It would be a stupendous change if all stakeholders walk an extra mile beyond business; India would not look back if that should happen.

Ar. Prashant Chauhan

Ar. Prashant Chauhan, Zero9

Sustainable buildings, more so appropriate and climate responsive buildings, are the need of the hour. Our buildings have become energy consuming machineries and we have to change this approach to make more breathable and alive built forms. The biggest challenge in this scenario stays the idea of competing with the West and constantly trying to ape the glamour it offers.
M Selvarasu, Director, LEED Fellow 2015 & Faculty USGBC

M Selvarasu
Green architecture is the heart and soul of all architectural design for a better world. Historically, eco-friendly structures and systems for rainwater harvesting, water storage, step wells at temples which served as passive cooling systems, jaali wall designs for windows and balconies as seen in our famous Rajasthan palaces, Gujarat havelis, and Chettinad houses, have been a part of the Indian culture and architecture.

Modernisation has enriched traditional concepts, which coupled with new technologies are enhancing building performance with better resource management and saving. The green building concept was just an idea that came into being in India only during early 2000. When the Indian Green Building Council was formed, it was a conscious effort by the council body to enrich the building sector and market. Today, projects registered under IGBC number around 3,976 with a footprint of over 4.5 billion sqft. There is tremendous potential for further growth in the green building sector because availability of green building products is much easier as compared to 10 years ago. In 2016, India was ranked third among the top 10 countries by the US Green Building Council for LEED.

When we analyse the challenges that have been faced for a green building project, the first point raised is always the separate budget allocation for CAPEX and OPEX. Many a times the sustainable building features are incorporated into a building design only after the schematic design has been completed. This is invariably leading to an incremental cost to the owner’s CAPEX. This situation calls for the Integrative Design Approach, where establishment of many goals in the beginning of the project can help the owner reduce any additional investments. Similarly, OPEX budgeting is critical er to have fruitful operations during the life of the building.

Secondly, the infrastructure support from the governing body to have capabilities to match the green building communities in terms of technology and communications is critical. Awareness and education are in some respects lacking in our culture, therefore, a change in mindset is necessary for the coming generations to protect our mother earth and provide a better environment.

Ar. Sabeena Khanna, Founding Principal, Studio KIA

Ar. Sabeena Khanna
Even traditional architecture includes climate receptive and climate responsive designs with the use of local and sustainable building materials, water harvesting, natural cooling systems, sun orientation, etc, all are relevant even today. Modern architecture needs to respect and incorporate these learnings as a powerful tool to create more meaningful and improved buildings of the future. The reservoir of knowledge passed down through generations can be a boon in energy conservation, if implemented diligently. Architectural elements like courtyards, clusters, wind towers, roof terraces and jaalis (stone lattices), among others, are used for effective climate control in this part of the world and have become social and cultural elements. The challenge is to reconcile these ancient methods with modern technological innovations.

We are also undergoing a rampant change as technology has impacted several aspects of architecture and the wider field. Challenges are also arising due to extreme urbanisation, reduced natural resources and climate changes. With each project, the architect has to keep in mind these global challenges and carefully tread the path of sustainability, alternative technologies and eco-friendly solutions.

Yatin Pandya Footprints E.A.R.T.H.

Yatin Pandya
Pol houses (housing cluster) of the traditional quarters remain the classic model in passive cooling strategies. The typology remains in use since over five centuries and needs no air conditioner for environmental management even today. Can we not learn the principles of these time-tested architecture and apply them in a contemporary way, today?

Deep narrow courtyard houses split on three floors provide reduced exposure to external conditions and make effective use of the land resources to achieve up to 2.7 FSI. With compact built form, more units get connected within short travel distances and service lengths. The internal courtyard modulates the sunlight while combating glare and filtering light, and ventilates the internal spaces.

An underground water cistern harvests rainwater from rooftops to meet the entire year’s drinking water needs. Windows resolved as three-part combination provide for light, view and ventilation. Top hung part over lintel acts as ventilator for evacuating hot air, middle openable shutter provides view and communication, while the floor level opening is an inlet for cool air.

The upper floors project outwardly to provide for overhangs and shelter wall surfaces from solar radiation. Even closely packed units create mutual shading conditions. Activities split over floors give sheltered environment in lower floors for daytime use while escape night radiation in upper sleeping areas at night. Even swings provide evaporative cooling of body perspiration.