Crankiness – a trait inherited

via Daily Prompt: Cranky

Architects are born pleasant but developed cranky, partially because of the work stress and remuneration and partially because of the thought process. What they see all-around is nothing but the work, building and details all around are their case studies and natural landscapes are potential sites for upcoming projects. Moreover, the work they see all around is not up to the mark, and they can definitely do way better, but the work that they do is not often executed properly, or clients don’t agree to the solutions or sometimes doesn’t come out as expected. This all leads to stress and dissatisfaction, leading to a cranky being.

Being an architect myself, I believe they should take some time to cherish their life. It’s a wonderful life out there, sit back and relax. I know there is so much going on, and sitting back might lead to delay and eventual fatigue but relaxing does no harm. Details all around definitely need to be observed but it should be taking away the comfort; one should quickly register the same and get back to the normal societal mode. They should treasure and prize their work, they are the ones who are creating things out of nowhere. They are the one developing the world. They are creating a habitat, which becomes home for everyone. They play a very important role in the society, which they need to understand and prize.

At the same time, society also needs to cherish architects, its them who have created a beautiful world out there. They should make sure, they get their due and fair compensation. Otherwise, they would have a place devoid of satisfaction, and it would reflect in their lives; making even them cranky.

While, architects are working on their projects they should also understand that they are not the ultimate users, and therefore, it won’t be them who would be using the project. The project, has to meet the requirements, expectations of the client. It is definitely their duty to educate the client, but ultimately it should be the call of the client/user.

These minor changes in the working system would lead to happiness all around and crankiness would be done away with.

And it was Red Mandana!

Mandana is a quartzite stone used for flooring, cladding and similar stone finishing works. It is a chemical resistant hard stone, delivering rich dark red finish subsequent to multiple polishes and is opted for high maintenance luxury stockyards or factories. It is an expensive stone owing to the hard profile of stone making the cutting and stone processing work challenging.

Impressed with this luxurious finish, an architect proposed this stone as the final finish to an institute being built with taxpayer’s money. Being a dark coloured stone, it absorbs light and creates a dark and gloomy ambience in an otherwise lively space, sparkling with students and environment of growth knowledge dispersion.  It makes the space looks smaller and demands for a regular maintenance and in its absence, it starts looking dusky, spotted and tainted.  The strong and tough profile of the stone makes it a heavily demanding exercise to polish the flooring surface and in spite of more concentrated efforts, results in inferior outcomes.

The consultants involved in the project requested the client and architect to replace the Red mandana stone with an alternate finish considering the above listed points, but, under the gravity of the architect’s strong vision of a building jewelled with Red mandana, client shied away from getting involved in the design process and architect continued decorating the building with red mandana. This resulted in a discomforting situation wherein in spite of heavier usage of funds, the flooring finish achieved discomforted the users and added on to the plight of the project managers wherein the time required for finishing and polishing was high and results were a dark, gloomy space.

It leaves me pondering does an architect has a right to override the user comfort with a design idea, or a vision. Today the institute has finally decided to do away with the Red mandana and use an alternate finish in the remaining structure, wherein luckily lot of work pending, but is it how the fraternity functions. An architect is expected to shape the building which shapes the residents using it. Thus the responsibility of an architect is high prior to deciding or zeroing or forcing a design idea/vision onto the face of the client.

I believe before finalising any finish in the building, users’ opinion must be taken while educating them rightly with the characteristics of the finish involved and not decorate the building with red mandana as a personal vendetta of creating a jewel in mandana, as it is not a showpiece but a functional building we are creating.

Designing lives, Designing Classrooms

Teaching as a medium to transmit knowledge has always existed since the dawn of civilization. As read in our scriptures, the system of teaching surpasses the time immemorial, be it listed in legendary texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata or in the ancient texts of Panini and Kalpasutra. Though very different from the current mode of education, the system of Ashrama shiksha (apprentice training) had created its own share of legends in the history.

This mode of teaching revolved around an intense system of togetherness wherein students lived with their mentor, the teacher, the rishi which became their family. Classes there used to conduct under a tree wherein the sage or the teacher would deliver his lesson/lecture to the group of students directly. These classes used to happen under a tree or a courtyard in an informal seating but ensuring a lot of interaction of the students with teachers.

This was surpassed then by the classroom teaching which started in confined setting. There the format of a teacher teaching a group of students sustained but the seating got formalized to an arrayed arrangement, wherein the focus is not on teacher but board, which promotes the significance of board than teacher and hence influences students to memorize than learn.  This simple example demonstrates the importance of classroom layout in teaching.

In order to substantiate the argument if we consider different classroom layouts and their impacts, we can consider an engineering college, an architecture school and a management institute. Engineering and management institutes requires formal classroom setups whereas architecture schools can manage in unceremonious settings also. Engineering schools mostly have a seating layout (either semi-circular or arrayed) with focus at board wherein students directly concentrate at board. A substantial component of the teaching in these schools also happens in the laboratories and thus those who manage to see and observe details, hear and listen lecture and grasp and do experiments continue as engineers post-graduation and rest leave it for other studies. These trends clearly demonstrate how classroom layouts can influence the learning and interest mechanism of students.

The management schools successfully have disclosed a classroom layout which leads to successful teaching making it the most effective and priced education course. They have a horse-shoe type of an arrangement wherein focus is solely on the interaction. All the students are enabled to look at each other leading to enhanced interaction and thus improved learning wherein they are able to discuss their cases, interpretations and discourses.

This analysis helps us establish the importance of a classroom layout for different teaching techniques and courses. Unlike a standardized arrangement for all the classes, effective systems and layouts need to be explored for fruitful teaching and learning alike, and it can be very well said that a while designing a sustainable institute, layouts of classroom play a very important role as otherwise they wont be able to deliver the purpose they are built for.

‘Designing Lives, Designing Classrooms’

 

How can we develop urban zones through sustainability?

Since centuries, civilizations have thrived besides nature, symbiotically, where development was a holistic function taking into account the surrounding environment and natural habitat. The settlements encouraged interaction of humans with biodiversity and it never became a point of conflict for anyone be it humans, animals or plants. However, the callous development took precedence over societal and humane norms and then preferential allotment to space, funds, and sensitivity was given up by urban gigantic corporations. What they didn’t realised that these buildings meant for human occupation need to establish a bond with its surroundings, as human life cannot be contained in those containers called as buildings. Thus the development today has a constricted approach wherein environment is not considered.

The present development has not been able to sustain the expedient practice of survival and living from the past. Thus, urban planning should take into account that the infringement is happening in the name of metropolitan expansion at the cost of natural regression and biodiversity degradation. It should be perceived that the land prior to human intrusion is host to a number of species and has a unique biodiversity of its own. There is a dire need of an urban design which takes into account the importance of biodiversity.

Moreover, simple interventions such as having water pot for birds at homes, dedicated cattle sheds in clusters, vibrant landscape including native trees and shrubs should be an inherent characteristic of designs. Urban planning should include green spaces which could be in the form of mini-forests within the city fabric which will lead to a holistic urban environment having a rich urban matrix comprising of varied biodiversity. Interventions such as public spaces like bus stops having solar panels over roof for decentralised energy production reducing the grid loads and thus reducing pollution in a manner should become general practice. The natural slopes and gradients should be retained for drainage and thus enhanced water flow which won’t impact the catchment of local flora and fauna. Waste management should be integrated in the design to minimize the impact over environment, as plastic and metal in toxic and noxious for environment.

The existing natural heritage in the form of old trees, native herbs and shrubs, vivacious rocks and natural structures should be preserved and urban development should happen while coexisting with it. Prior to the development inventories should be prepared to record the species of animals, birds, trees etc. present in the area and it should be mandatory to preserve all of them while developing. There zone to definite zones demarcated for the existing natural residents where no negative impact should be allowed. Human with their minds should bring happiness for other organism when they start living with them instead of snatching their habitat from them. Urban development cannot happen at the cost of nature degradation and has to be transformed into all-inclusive conscious environment regeneration. Architects, Ecologists and Biodiversity scientists have this responsibility and unique opportunity of converting this decade into the decade of urban biodiversity development.

While setting up new development, a minimum of the following few points should be mandatorily considered:

  • Built environment and urban green spaces

While building, the importance and relevance of figure ground pattern is often missed, this leads to morphed space arrangement. The breathing spaces are lacking which affects the natural ecosystem which used to exist at the location earlier. Hence prior to any urban development and design, careful study, analysis and assessment of the existing conditions (flora, fauna, temperature, RH, wind direction etc.) should be made.

The design should be then done considering these conditions so as to avoid any interference with the existing ecological infrastructure. The documented conditions should be cross reference post occupancy and any change (if not an improvement) should be rectified and corrected on immediate basis. The stress should be laid on using native species for landscaping.

  • Urban forest

Cities, Townships and Urban design besides inculcating the importance of functional landscape should also ensure that urban forests are incorporated within, since it is a mandatory requirement now, for survival of human race. They not only provide an appropriate home to the biodiversity but also ensure the preservation of oxygen levels and ecological conditions. Cities like Bangalore and Pune have survived the population explosion solely because of the thrust on dense tree network within the populated zones of the city. This has also helped in maintaining pleasing weather conditions in spite of dense traffic conditions.

There should be small pockets within the city with dense forestation and minimal mechanical interference. These zones will help the areas combat the population explosion, traffic and interference in climatic patterns. Moreover, they will also support in maintaining the required biodiversity proportion.

  • Regular air and water quality monitoring

Human activities and inconsiderate arrogance of development impact the air and water quality in the places. In fact, at a number of locations this progress and made the land, air and water toxic for survival of any species; such areas can be found in any locality/city in the forms of landfills, industrial zones, CBDs etc. This affect happens owing to uncontrolled and careless discharge of garbage, affluent and pollution.

Therefore, in order to control this negligence, frequent monitoring of air and water (including Particulate matter, Nitrous oxides, halides etc.) should happen in different zones and results should be displayed at prominent locations.

  • Public Transport

Commuting is biggest contributor to the emission of Green house and polluting gases in the inhabited area. Therefore innovative public transport systems based on clean energy should be explored, for eg. In New Zealand, the scientists have developed public bus which runs on excreta and in Sweden, they have developed the public tram which uses energy generated by the waste of the city.

Public transport systems should be integrated within the urban design fabric so as to boost their usage by having accessible and user friendly stops which can be the nodes in the settlement carrying interesting and desirable activities.

  • Waste disposal system

Waste handling and management has emerged as the biggest challenge for the settlements. Effective waste management strategies should be explored and imbibed since the design phase as otherwise they come out as standalone feature which at times is seen as an eyesore. Hence landscape, building and interior design at their own scales and levels should include design of dustbins and they should become a part of furniture. Moreover, segregation at source should be the principle governing the waste management strategy. Duly colour coded dustbins should be installed at appropriate locations blending with the setting; the segregated waste becomes a resource which has the harnessing potential.

The sewerage should be scientifically treated either through STP or DEWATS system and compost pits/bins/systems should be installed at the community/cluster levels.

  • Renewable energy and Smart metering

The urban design should include the design for the renewable and clean energy systems. A few suggestions on the same are following:

  • The solar water heaters should be installed on rooftops.
  • Decentralized Grid connected solar energy systems should be installed on available surfaces (rooftops/parking stops/bus stops etc.)
  • Shaded terraces should be landscaped for horticulture, agriculture, medicinal plants etc.
  • Community bio-gas/vermi-compost plants should be installed
  • Energy efficient fixtures like LED lights and superfans should be used
  • Smart meters should be installed which have effective tariffing and help in allowing customers make informed decisions by providing highly detailed information and also helps the environment by making users lower their electric demand
  • Subsequent to feasibility analysis, micro-wind turbines should be installed for sectoral/community usage.
  • Walls should be adequately insulated to avoid surplus cooling/heating.
  • District cooling centre

The air-conditioning has risen from a luxury to a necessity lately. The individual air-conditioning units uses high energy and still release environmentally hazardous materials. However, this can be met with effective centralised air conditioning systems which can be further improved with district cooling centres. There are centrally managed and pipelines can be developed with the allied infrastructure. The not only reduce the energy consumption per capita vis-à-vis individual air conditioning units but also in comparison are environment friendly, wherein city level water reservoirs/waste etc. can be used to drive the system making it superior and more energy efficient.

These points if considered can lead us to better designed, adaptable and effective urban spaces where biodiversity can co-exist and sustainability becomes an imbibed system.

DRIVING FORCE FOR A SUSTAINABLE PROJECT

#in line with the previous post, this is the introduction to the working paper. Please leave your comments and help us improve on it.

INTRODUCTION

Architecture, Construction and Sustainability

Since time immemorial, human have inhabited the earth and they have coexisted with nature and natural elements. Moreover, the human settlements had an enhanced ecosystem wherein flora and fauna flourished alike. From rock-cut caves to straw huts, architecture has continuously evolved to take into the needs of humans and enrich the environment around. Construction was an activity which involved eco-friendly materials and construction techniques, and even encouraged interaction being a social activity.

Survival and Wellbeing of Mankind since centuries

Sustainability had been an imbibed system with which human have evolved. Settlement growth pattern could be mapped with growth in relationship with plants and animals. Homes has spaces where cows, horses, oxen lived as a part of families and were an inherent partner of life. Cow dung was used as a plaster for facades and tree barks were added in flooring paste for colours and crack resistance. The settlements evolved around water bodies and trees acted as nodes in them. There was no external force but inhabitants of respective settlements took care of their needs in all manner.

Climate Change and Green House Gases Emissions

The times, however, changed and post-renaissance and during industrialisation, the interpretation of survival needs has changed. Sustainability was no more the living force but a long lost system. Factory production and Manufacturing took over the natural regeneration systems and so-called growth was limited to a few hands. These were the people who owned the black boxes, i.e. the factories where production happened and gases released. These gases were the Greenhouse gases which had a detrimental impact over environment growth.

This system took over the construction industry also where buildings became an eminent source of pollution. Natural building materials like clay and lime were replaced with fired bricks and cement which gave a perceived form of strength while weakening the foundations of sustainable survival. Moreover, the newer systems like Air-conditioning and allied Services contributed to an enhanced scientific pollution where the terms and terminologies became alien to common man and their pollution became necessary fee to be paid for development.

Architects and Environmentalists have realised that this growth pattern is not consistent with the natural harmony around which humanity is evolved and, therefore, are now exploring systems where once again human can live symbiotically with nature.

Role that Sustainable Architecture and Technology play

Today, Green Buildings and Sustainable Architecture is being rediscovered wherein technology is playing a crucial role to harness natural energy and help us satisfy human needs and demands. 100% self-sustainable and reliant Buildings and clusters can now be developed by using a mix of traditional wisdom and modern sciences.

Architects have commenced practicing eco-friendly architecture using natural materials and ecological construction systems. These practices lay stress on zero pollution and carbon release. Materials like Bamboo, Clay, Earth, and Pebbles etc. with construction styles such as Cob, Rammed Earth, Wattle, Dhajji etc. are being explored with modern materials and construction technologies.  These buildings have innovative and interesting forms, but the construction systems are yet not known completely by public.

Now-a-days, Education is playing a critical role in spreading awareness. Hence, this is the platform to be explored by Architects, designers, planners and engineers to spread awareness regarding sustainable architecture and technology with the help of budding students who will be tomorrow’s leaders, besides green campuses inherently ensure well-being of students and residing population.

Subdued practice of Sustainable Architecture

Notwithstanding anything cited above, it is critical to note that the sustainable architecture is being practiced by a handful of architects. The eco-friendly system of construction is not widely known and practiced which makes regular construction very easy while demanding very less planning from consultants and designers. The current class of public and large scale authorities have very less know-how of sustainable systems which adds to the complexity of getting a sustainable campus developed.

The regular styles using cement and bricks can be easily constructed, but they are not the energy efficient system. Moreover, to add onto it Green architecture is also superfluously perceived as add-on since not many people comprehend what Green is. Existing rating systems do judge buildings energy factually but don’t consider if the building design can itself be more energy efficient and eco-friendly. Material applications such as usage of more E-glass and more Rubberwood into buildings can give the best in class Platinum or 5 star ratings wherein building can actually be using twice the energy than a sustainable and energy efficient system will demand.

Therefore, it is of critical importance that Architects and designers having a working knowledge of energy-efficient and sustainable architecture spread their knowledge base and accessibility. Public buildings and institutes should involve them as advisors to get truly sustainable buildings wherein their involvement could be on an advisory role, ultimately fetching the citizens a low carbon and energy efficient, sustainable built environment.

DRIVING FORCE for a SUSTAINABLE PROJECT – Policy Making and Regulatory Framework

SUSTAINABLE PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT INSTITUTES

The importance of sustainability is appreciated commonly by all; however, practice of sustainability is surprisingly uncommon. The driving force behind a sustainable project is cohesion between all the stakeholders; commonality to plan, design and build sustainably. These cohesive forces fail to unite if not initiated right at the inception of a project and subsequently the project misses the mark.

The client, therefore, should be inspired right at inception and design the brief accordingly and the client also needs to have a strong design team with architects and planners to govern the design process and help the client to take an informed decision. Otherwise, they might be misguided to accept inappropriate, incongruous and unworthy solutions.

With the analysis of the latest projects in Rajasthan of similar typology, similar funding mechanism and client setups/ownerships we clearly explicate the difference that an informed client makes in the project. Through our research, we have established that the duly deliberated design brief of the project is mandatory to build sustainable designs and accomplish it successfully.  The projects selected under the framework of analysis are IIM Udaipur, IIT Jodhpur, Cental University Rajasthan and AIIMS Jodhpur. Their comparative investigation depicts the importance of a policy framework for sustainable design. We put forth the realisation that sustainability is a process which has to be driven from the top. Rating systems like GRIHA have brought consciousness, but the policy frameworks like NBC and bye-laws cannot be limited front and rear setbacks and different devised sustainable guidelines for different regions like Hot-Arid etc. need to be systematised.

(# – The paper shall be uploaded in near Future)

URBAN DEVELOPMENT OR BIODIVERSITY DEGRADATION

Since centuries civilizations have thrived beside nature symbiotically, where development was a holistic function taking into account the surrounding environment and natural habitat. The settlements encouraged interaction of humans with biodiversity where trees became the nodal points of interactions in the form of chauk/ panchayat centre etc, ponds became water point which used to be communication hub for ladies and children alike at different points of time, the same pond was used by cattle and different animals for their uses also. The interesting point to be noted is that this never became a point of conflict for anyone, be it humans, animals or plants.

The present development has not been able to sustain this expedient practice of survival and living. Today, urban planning doesn’t take into account that the infringement in the name of metropolitan expansion is happening at the cost of natural regression and biodiversity degradation. In the last two decades, regular animals and birds like sparrows, peacocks, mongoose, monkeys, horses etc have all gone astray. I can still recall from my childhood where there were trees of pomegranates, mulberries, mangoes, blackberries, peach etc. besides our colony which were a home to numerous species of birds, retreat for many animals and leisure abode for us children.

I have noticed the development of new housings, colonies and even in urban design at city/sector level projects where authentic environment assessment is entirely missing. It should be noUrban growth in South Udaipur over last decadeticed that the land prior to human intrusion is already host to n number of species and has a unique biodiversity of its own in the form of birds, animals, trees, shrubs, insects etc. There is a dire need of urban design which takes into account the importance of biodiversity. Moreover, simple interventions such as having water pot for birds at homes, dedicated cattle sheds in clusters, vibrant landscape including native trees and shrubs should be an inherent characteristic of designs. Urban planning should include green spaces which could be in the form of mini-forests within the city fabric which will lead to a holistic urban environment having a rich urban matrix comprising of varied biodiversity.

The existing natural heritage in the form of old trees, native herbs and shrubs, vivacious rocks and natural structures should be preserved and urban development should happen while coexisting with it. Inventories should be prepared to record the species of animals, birds, trees etc. present in the area prior to the development and it should be mandatory to preserve all of them while developing.

Urban development cannot happen at the cost of nature degradation. It has to be transformed into all-inclusive conscious environment regeneration. Architects, Ecologists and Biodiversity scientists have this responsibility and unique opportunity of converting this decade into the decade of Urban biodiversity development.