9 Basic Rules For Sustainable Architecture
Architecture is a profession with many rules, some written and some not. An architect is continuously oscillating between two states. That of following all the rules by the book or making allowances for the imagination and experimentation. And a lot of imagination is inspired by nature. We don’t have to look far to see the proof of this. Our own heritage offers a plethora of things to learn from.
Continuing from my last instagram post on World Heritage Day, I want to reinstate and reemphasis the fact that Indian architecture in its silent eloquence tells us how man and nature are intricately connected. Forts, palaces, and ordinary houses – these were all built around nature at one time. The people innovated and implemented ideas that used nature to the fullest and limited the wastage of resources.
Over the last century, as buildings reached higher into the sky, they not only housed growing populations, but they became symbols of modernity and progress. And somewhere on the way these very buildings also became detrimental to the earth’s climate. Today, 40% of the energy- related global emissions are attributed to buildings and 60% of waste comes from buildings or related activities.
But for smarter planet, buildings can be designed differently – buildings that harness gifts of nature, buildings that need less energy, buildings that breathe. Fortunately, there are various tools to measure the environmental performance of buildings. IGBC, GRIHA being the leading metrics. The use of these tools can ensure that the building uses energy and water optimally and generates minimum waste through its life cycle.
While working on the projects in the UK and USA I got to learn a lot about the construction technologies like Geothermal System and Term Deck that efficiently use the renewable resources reducing the load on non-renewable fossil fuels, oils and gases. In turn reducing the carbon emissions. This is not only beneficial for our environment but also has health, social and financial benefits. It gives me joy to share that our upcoming Farmhouse project in 11,000 sq. Ft is designed to make use of all such resources effectively.
In recent years, sustainability has increasingly become a common interest of numerous disciplines. The reason for this is growing awareness of the need of rapid sustainable development. The concept of Green Architecture, also known as Sustainable Architecture or Green Building, is the theory, science and style of buildings designed and constructed in accordance with environmentally friendly principles. Green Architecture strives to minimize the number of resources consumed in the building’s construction, use and operation, as well as curtailing the harm done to the environment through the emission, pollution, and waste of its components.
Some steps that architects can take towards sustainability –
- Start early. Plan well. – The site planning should be done with the intent to reduce the impact of development on the natural environment. The orientation of the building should take advantage of solar access, shading and wind patterns that will lessen the heating and cooling loads. Passive solar designs like shape and form of the building, orientation of the facades and smart shading techniques should be adopted to stop direct solar radiations in hot summer season and give diffused light in the indoors that reduces the use of artificial light during the day.
- On site – Regulate the air pollution during construction by making barricades to stop the dust spreading to the surrounding areas.
- Materials – Use environment friendly materials with high recyclability. The materials that are composed of renewable resources and are environmentally responsible. This will result in reduced maintenance and replacement costs over the life of the building and improve occupants’ health and productivity. These materials have zero or low off gassing of harmful air emissions, low toxicity, durable and are locally produced. The common materials are clay and sand mixed in water, straw or another fiber, rammed earth or earth bag, wood as timber frame columns and beam, bamboo, and stone.
- Ventilation Design – Ventilation system designed for efficient heating and cooling.
- Say No – to energy intensive materials like ready mix concrete or use as little of them as possible.
- Use the Sun – Have the external lights t powered by Solar energy.
- Save Water – Water is source of life, so it should be captured, stored, and recycled. This can be efficiently done by using water saving plumbing fixtures. The use of non-sewage and grey water for site irrigation is a good way to conserve water. Rainwater harvesting should be done. Using paving in the outdoors that is pervious and allow rainwater to percolate, thereby saving rainwater flowing out on the road.
- Strategic Landscaping – Landscapes can be planned to maximize passive solar energy. Also, before commencing the digging of earth for foundation, the topsoil should be carefully separated, preserved, and reused for landscaping when the building is complete.
- Grow Green – Plant as many native and adaptive plant and tree species as possible.
These strategies and methods lead to a general apprehension about the costliness of these measures. The question – How expensive are green buildings as compared to conventional buildings – is understandable and relevant.
A research by GRIHA says efficient lighting reduces the lighting load by 55 % in a green building. Efficient envelope and efficient lighting reduce building cooling load by 17.5% in air-conditioned and by 74% in non-air-conditioned areas. A green building consumes 51% less energy in non-air-conditioned areas and 37% less in air-conditioned building. The pay-back period of a green building is 3 to 4 years. The total cost saved in a life span of 15 years is approximately 6 times the incremental initial construction cost.
The current situation of pandemic has also reinforced the need for sustainable architecture, for using materials which help the environment instead of harming it and constructing in harmony with the earth, nature, and environment. More local materials, greater interaction with the natural elements and minimizing waste, made in India, would be the norm not far from now. Our time on this earth is borrowed and we owe it to the earth to be respectful of all that we have received from it.
Get in touch with us for your next project. Let us add some green together to this planet.