8 Sustainable Architecture Feats That Are Blazing the Trail for Green Design in India

8 Sustainable Architecture Feats That Are Blazing the Trail for Green Design in India

Eco-friendly designs are not alien to the Indian ethos. Historically, there have been a number of incredible manifestations of eco-consciousness in the design of several monuments, in terms of design elements that have been included with climate in mind. The challenge today though is how such an approach can be incorporated into the mainstream of design philosophy.

“Green” buildings are constructed to integrate design techniques, materials, and technologies that reduce dependency on fossil fuels and other natural resources, thereby minimizing the negative impact on the environment. Making decisions that are environmentally mindful can tremendously decrease a community’s carbon footprint. The most effective sustainable design is one that facilitates health and well-being, harvests its own water and energy needs, is adaptable to the climate and is able to evolve as weather conditions change. Moreover, it should operate without polluting the environment and generate little to no waste. Though looking aesthetically pleasing and inspiring creativity and innovation is definitely an added bonus of course.

Till about a decade ago, all indications of eco-design were not inherent in one single building or community either. A highly energy-efficient or a water efficient home could get away with being labelled ‘green’. Today however, a green home needs to acknowledge and take into consideration all facets of environmental concerns - location, water and energy usage, and materials used during construction. We rounded up eight such feats in sustainable architecture across the country and chronicled them for your engagement. Scroll on to view our picks.

I. Auroville Visitor’s Centre, Pondicherry

Located in Auroville’s International Zone between Bharat Nivas and Edayanchavadi village, this award-winning structure is a demonstration centre for sustainable technologies such as appropriate building material and technologies, watershed management and landscaping with indigenous plants, renewable energies, waste water recycling techniques among others. 

The primary function of this centre is to inform the visitors about the purpose of Auroville, it’s spiritual and material aim, through the medium of exhibitions and audio-visual aids. Having received grants from HUDCO (Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited) and the Foundation for World Education, this project was initiated in 1988 and continues to grow with more spaces and facilities being added as Auroville develops. 

The process of constructing this building was used as a training exercise for the local villagers in soil block making, earth construction techniques and Ferro - cement roofing techniques. Currently, the Auroville Guest Centre houses two exhibition spaces, an audio-visual room, three boutiques that sell handicrafts that are produced within the community, and two cafes that sell organic produce from the Auroville farms. There are also galleries, book stores, open air walkways through an exposition on green technologies and plant nurseries.

II. Degree College and Hill Council Complex, Leh

Image Courtesy: www.ahujaconsultants.com

Located in Leh, at an altitude of over 3500 metres above sea level in the ‘Upper’ Himalayas, the Degree College and Hill Council Compex has been designed and built keeping in mind the cold, yet sunny climate in the region. Although the months of June and July are pleasant, Leh experiences a long and harsh winter, from October to March and well into April. Lecture theatres, labs and the library in the academic block have all been designed with the building  section optimized for both heat and daylight penetration. All the buildings in the north side of the complex have been designed to minimise heat loss, while the buildings in the south side have been designed to maximise heating and daylight distribution. In the summer, cross-ventilation is used to combat heat build-up due to previously mentioned features. This structure is a “zero energy consuming” building during daytime, the normal hours of operation.

III. ITC Green Centre, Gurgaon

Image Courtesy: www.itcportal.com

ITC Green Centre and the Coporate Centre of ITC business was awarded the LEED platinum rating owing to the the cost effective green building techniques utilized in the building with the focus being on energy efficiency, water savings and air quality. The LEED rating system offers four certification levels, with Platinum being the highest level, for new construction that correspond to the number of credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.The design features that have been incorporated in the construction of this building include AAC blocks for walls (autoclaved aerated concrete that provide structure, insulation and mold and fire resistance), insulation on the roof and double glaze windows with a strategic planning of air distribution systems. 

Energy-efficient lighting system and daylight integration with controls ensures sufficient lighting distributed throughout the building. The construction also integrates innovative wastewater technologies, usage of recycled products, and indigenous materials for construction. The liberal usage of high performance window glass allows light inside but does not allow heat thereby keeping the office cool during the day.The glazing on the windows has been designed to maximise natural light and minimise the need for artificial lighting during the day.

IV. Baptist Church, Chandigarh

The construction of the Baptist Church in Chandigarh lends itself to an environmentally conscious design attitude in the context of the region and the local culture. The building has been designed within the strict by-laws of Chandigarh Administration and a number of decisions were taken during the conceptualisation to make it energy efficient. Cavity walls in the north-east and south-west sections of the building are used to prevent heat gains, while the use of glass has been kept to a minimum and white painted barrels vaults have been placed in the roof to maintain a comfortable temperature in the interiors during the summer. 

Several Ashoka trees have been planted along the circumference of the site that not only provide shade but have also considerably altered the microclimate. The windows are deeply recessed in the walls to avoid direct sunlight, while still providing enough natural light to almost entirely eliminate the usage of artificial lighting during the day. Over and above that, energy efficient lighting equipments are utilized to minimize energy consumption. Fenestrations are planned to ensure a good amount of cross-ventilation to reduce the load on cooling devices in the summer - the cool air that enters from the lower windows becomes warm and leaves from the upper windows facilitating good air flow.

 V. SOS Tibetan Children’s Village, Dehradun

Image Courtesy: www.conorashleigh.com

The Children’s Village in Dehradun is located in the Mussoorie foothills, housing 15 family cottages that provide shelter and education to 225 children, residences for the director and co-workers, community facilities and a place of worship. The concept is a simple low-cost, low-maintenance construction with the primary goal being protection from the harsh winds from the north-east and providing solar access. The outdoors, which is used extensively by all the residents, is designed to be a ‘habitable’ space. The large playground is a wind-sheltered zone with clear access to the winter sun, with the existing fruit orchard doubling up as a shaded playground.

All the separate buildings are adjusted to the terrain and face south and no matter what the layout of the building is, each structure received ample winter sun. All the cottages have an outdoor terrace, designed to be a natural extension to the front verandahs and serve the purpose of a an outdoor living space. The block that houses the toilet in the north-east corner of the family home acts as a combatant against the harsh winter winds. Certain features of the building also allow for cross-ventilation in the summer.

VI. Sangath - An Architect’s Studio, Ahmedabad

Image Courtesy: www.greatbuildings.com

The architectural studio in Ahmedabad, comprising reception areas, a design studio, office space, workshop, library, conference room and other open spaces has been designed to naturally manage the extreme temperatures in this region. The juxtaposition of design elements, layering of spaces, controlled interiors and transitions to the outdoor spaces, the varying outlines that break the sun into shadows and open the roof into the night sky are all themes that work for a hot and arid area like Ahmedabad

The structure is buried under the ground for the most part to employ earth masses as a form of natural insulation. External walls run almost a metre deep but have been hollowed out as alcoves to function as storage, maximising space efficiency. The roof has been constructed using optimal material quantities The higher volume density created hot air pockets thus keeping the lower levels relatively cool. Extensive vegetation all over the site creates a favorable microclimate by absorbing solar radiation. Rainwater and excess pumped water from the tank on the roof are harnessed through roof channels that run through a number of cascading tanks and channels to culminate in a pond from where it is recycled or used for irrigation purposes.

VII. Pearl Academy, Jaipur

Image Courtesy: www.mimoa.eu

Given the nature of the institution, budgetary constraints on the project warranted the use of cost effective design solutions to keep within the price points they set out with and yet be able to achieve the functionality and visual impact that was required. The adverse climate in this region made it a challenge to control the microclimate within the area, thus incorporating various passive climate control methods, indigenous to old houses in Rajasthan, became a need such as open courtyards, water body, a step-well or ‘baoli’ and ‘jaalis’ (perforated stone screens). The outer wall sits four feet away from the building and reduces the direct heat gain through fenestrations, but still allows for diffused natural light during the day. The jaali serves the function of 3 filters - air, light and privacy.

VIII. The Druk White Lotus School, Ladakh

Image Courtesy: www.buffalo.edu

This building includes teaching courtyards, dining hall and kitchen, computer and science labs, art studios, a medical clinic and resident blocks for staff and pupils. The primary design form is that of a ‘mandala’ - an ancient symbol of wholeness and the ultimate model for organisation. Sustainability was the centre stone for the design of this structure because of the harsh, high altitude, desert environment where there is a scarcity of water. Cutting-edge technologies are used that pump water from melted snow to the site, for drinking as well as irrigation purposes. 

The toilets don’t require water at all because they have a passive technology that eliminates odours and turns waste into compost. The temperatures are extreme in the winter as well as the summer, so passive solar heating panels have been installed. In the winter, sunlight is harnessed and used to heat the school and accommodation. A timber frame structure with robust connections and steel cross-bracing was used to construct the building to protect it from earthquakes and mud slides. 

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