RESTORE OUR EARTH
As the world returns to normal, we can’t go back to business-as-usual. On the occasion of World Earth Day on April 22 architecture and design experts shared their views on sustainability, eco-friendly designs and liveable cities.
By: Dolly Singh
During these unprecedented times of pandemic we have learned many lessons including the importance of relationship between nature and built-up spaces. It’s all about reducing our environmental footprint and fixing the damage we’ve already done. The architects share their thoughts and views on making infrastructure eco-friendly, sustainable and future ready.
A NEW FOCUS ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
B S Bhooshan, Architect, BSB Architects, Architecture & Habitat Studios: Human habitat is a conducive eco-system for humanity to survive. More so to multiply happily. The humanity that evolved from isolated subsistence level of living since the last two or three millennium to reach a techno-social and politico-organisational complexity. The ‘human habitat’ can no more be seen as isolated a physical eco-system or a group of settlements alone; be it a large metropolitan region, a city or a small rural town, nor a tribal settlement or agricultural villages or farmstead any kind. We are social beings like ants and bees, but more complex.
Ayan Sen, Architect, Principal Architect & Planner, Ayan Sen Architects: The attention to eco-friendly development has been increasing for a while. The larger issue of green systems and resource conversation has also been in vogue in the last decade but the this era will be towards the realization of the eco system where global issue and local issue are totally connected.
Ar. Tony Joseph, Principal Architect, STAPATI: It has made people more appreciative of nature and the need to connect with nature. Especially, with people forced to stay indoors for longer periods, it has become more important for a sustainable way of living.
Tanmay Tathagat, Director, Environmental Design Solution (EDS): Covid has forced us all to spend so much time indoors. We have come to appreciate the value of fresh air, natural light, comfortable spaces at home, and also the lack of these in most workspaces. The pandemic has also brought about the urgency of dealing with climate change, pollution, and changing the way we live and work, at a global level. We’ve also realized that our offices are often don’t have the best indoor environments. They are inefficient and uncomfortable spaces, and sometimes the air conditioning system can propagate pathogens and other pollutants.
Chinmay Ajmani, Principal Architect, Intaglio Design Studio: The need for eco-friendly and sustainable development was in the run, prior to the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic too. Architects and designers all around the world were endeavouring to execute ideas that negated the harmful effects caused by any generic concrete structure. However, the sudden crisis that the entire world was bombarded with in the form of Coronavirus, proved the fragility of our situation to the entire world. It provided the requisite impetus, to just not execute environment oriented designs but also implement the ideology on a mass scale, while being at par with any utopian scenarios that the future may hold for us.
Many people have now come to realize that it is possible to have a healthy home as well as offices, which can improve productivity, health and well-being. This can be easily achieved through a combination of climate sensitive design, healthy materials, and operating the building in tune with nature
TECHNOLOGY ENABLING HEALTHY BUILT SPACES
Ayan Sen: We have seen many technologies and clean systems and scanner as well as buffer spaces. Technology can help create smart and clean work spaces with bio scanner across healthcare and work spaces.
Tony Joseph: Ultimately, well designed spaces with good natural light and ventilation will go a long way in creating a healthy environment.
Chinmay Ajmani: The emergence of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology, serves to enhance the quality of life for the users of a particular space while being sensitive to the surrounding natural factors associated with a project. Recently in 2019, architects and engineers were in the process of conceptualising a ‘Smart Building’ with the help of the BIM Technology; that would aid to create economically and environmentally sustainable commercial properties. Even though this idea is yet to be realised in totality, the inception of such an innovative idea could give rise to structures that reduce stress, one of the most looming issues of our world today, and elevate the living standards of all people worldwide.
Tanmay Tathagat: Apart from designing the building to have better natural light, ventilation, and being able to provide connection with nature for the occupants, technology can enhance the indoor working environment by preventing spread of pathogens, by filtering out harmful gases and pollutants from the air, by providing the right temperature, humidity, and lighting. Technology can also ensure that the information about indoor environment is communicated to the occupants so that they are can respond accordingly. A good example of this is spearheaded by EESL as a part of the USAID MAITREE program. RAISE (Retrofit of Air-conditioning to improve Indoor Air Quality for Safety and Efficiency) program is upgrading air conditioning systems in commercial buildings to improve the air quality, giving a healthy working environment for occupants. The implemented projects have demonstrated an indoor air quality improvement of over 95% compared to the outside. This gives a reassurance to the occupants that they are in a healthy atmosphere, facilitating the move back to the offices post the pandemic
B S Bhooshan: The evolving economics of globalising human habitat is propelled by the networking web of productions of goods and services. As the pandemic threatens the human survival even beyond the physical health, the reactions are not just containing it, but to revive the networks as early as possible..
A large chunk of semi-skilled folks living in second tier and third tier regional centres could be harbingers of future. It needs to be part policy and tactics of skill development and creative revamp of local craft-lead building culture imbibing relevant appropriate innovations in technology, especially in the architecture of every day.
TECHNOLOGY AS AN ENABLER OF RESOURCE EFFICIENCY
Tony Joseph: I think technology combined with good design will go a long way in creating buildings which are truly sustainable in all aspects. Green Ratings and Certifications do help the narrative and has brought about an increased awareness. Our challenge would be to create buildings which are truly sustainable, not defined by the parameters of rating alone.
Chinmay Ajmani: Timelessness and efficiency of a structure is largely dependent on the competence of the planning. A well laid out plan, actualized in cognition with apt technological resources is what aids to deliver a longer shelf life. Additionally, the melange of organic ideas which are relatable to the microclimate of a particular location, with the dexterity of technology and a functionally viable architectural concept: is the best possible partnership available to present a functionally and aesthetically relevant design. Green ratings and regulations aid to specify the definitive pointers that constitute in executing a ‘Green Building’; contemplating certain pointers about the health of the working individuals on site as well, thus allowing the designer or architect to attain a clarified frame of reference for their project. The certification, supplementary, provides a sense of achievement and acknowledgement that automatically encourages contemporary architects to invest their concepts with a ‘greener’ approach.
Ayan Sen: Resource conservation is true with some technology enhancement. Using green products and using solar technology and green systems by following any green standard as a checklist. Green building rating system are also key to benchmark based green guidelines. The attitude to making sustainable design is in built in the design philosophy of our practice. Some traditional methods often ignored in buildings have been in vogue now and clients are keen and appreciate sustainable approaches.
B S Bhooshan: The technology evolution transforms production and distribution process as prime mover of humanity that drives standards of living and meaning of life. I dream of an alternative construction building industry organisation made of local groups of artisans and labour, along with quasi-professional individuals and creative professionals or organisations in lower tiers of cities and towns. And I see a large role of technology using social media and hand-held devices in this progressively connecting sites to people and things across many locations. Possibly this can develop competence and confidence in regional centres as innovative one and not just depend on downward flows from larger nodes only.
Tanmay Tathagat: There are technologies and construction techniques that can ensure that the building can have a very long life. Buildings do not need to be demolished and rebuilt thereby ensuring much lower carbon footprint over their lifetime. Besides, buildings must be designed to be adaptive, to be able to be retrofitted without major demolition. This is applicable not just to the building shell but also to the systems and services, which need to be flexible and future proof from a variety of perspectives. A resilient building needs to withstand not just earthquakes, but also storms and floods and situations that are unforeseen. All of these things put together contribute to building having significantly longer useful life, and can reduce carbon footprint and the environmental impact substantially. Green building rating systems universally have worked as a comparative system which can help make buildings greener. At the same time, these rating systems also provide an unbiased, third party of the design and construction, which can reassure the stakeholders that green measures have been properly implemented and tested. Most of these green building rating systems are now going beyond the design performance but are looking at actual performance of the building in terms of its energy use, water use, air quality, comfort, etc as a metric for sustainability.
Could the alternative to the continuous growth and accumulation of excessive concentrations at limited nodes of the networked habitat be the stabilising of the system by devising methods to reverse the flows in the network? To regain beauty in everyday life again. In finding goodness in plural trajectories to future of different regions? Can it be dreamt to have freedom from forced acceptance of uniformity?
STEPS TOWARDS CREATING HEALTHY & LIVEABLE CITIES
B S Bhooshan: We often see the reactions to environmental disasters and climate change arguing for a reversal of the urban-ward movement and dislike of the large cities. Emotional reactions apart, the interdependencies makes it impractical to put these arguments to practice. Nothing has made the ‘concrete jungles’ of large cities less desirable to teeming millions searching for the opportunities leaving the ‘grand goodness’ of frugal dearth in villages. Even affinity of Covid to human concentrations has not triggered any reverse exodus except in forced lockdown to be resumed back sooner, so is the cry, for sustainable luxury of zero carbon architecture co existing within the insatiable temples of consumption.
Tony Joseph: Good Design backed by a strong policy framework and implemented rigorously would go a long way in creating healthy, liveable cities.
Ayan Sen: Clean environment and health oriented planning with green spaces .as wells sustainable environments are key. From parks walkways and dustbin to better technology connection can make for a better green footprint and healthy environment. And lastly households need and neighbourhood having health care facilities and waste management systems integrates in a better way.
Chinmay Ajmani: Good designs have the capability to alter and influence our daily lifestyle. A well laid out Urban Design scheme, according to me, is the first step at achieving a healthy and liveable city. This will enable controlling the crime rates and amend to rectify common issues faced by any inhabitant of a metropolis. Equitable distribution of every type of Architecture, would be step two; considering this would aid the city to possess an apt amount of services as required for the well-being of each resident. Finally, inculcation of numerous interactive and green spaces, thus providing the breath of fresh air every inhabitant needs while in the midst of their daily struggle.
Tanmay Tathagat: To create healthy and liveable cities the most important aspect would be to do judicious land use planning to ensure a balance between built and the unbuilt environment, to create accessible green and open spaces, which can define the character of our cities. The second aspect will be to design mixed use development with inappropriate balance of transport, densities, and services so that the overall resource impact of the city is optimized. The third step will be to have a climate responsive urban form, where each building must be environmentally conscious or green.
The city design needs to be human centric, and pedestrian focused. The urban development norm needs to be dictated by these concerns along. Large infrastructure can be replaced with distributed services which are primarily nature driven, whether it is for energy, water, or waste management.