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.



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


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


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)


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.

Whats with Gurgaon!

The first image that flashes in the mind, when I think of Gurgaon is the flashy glass buildings and congested roads. The town which as has been a part of essentially Hindu heritage, Gurgaon, which as per the legend of Mahabharata was the ancestral village of Guru Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas and Kauravas. The village was gifted by the Pandavas and Kauravas to Dronacharya the son of Rishi Bhardwaj, and was therefore known as guru-gram.

But today there is no such trace of its rich cultural heritage, rather contradicting to all it has become a subsidiary ordinate of Delhi. It cannot exist on its own, thus for me it doesn’t qualify to be a city/town or even a village. Be it any of their needs, in order to fulfil them, the residents of Gurgaon have to keep visiting Delhi. It lacks the pride of being called a city/town/village, which is a fundament right of any local resident.

Now the question arises is it the city’s duty to fulfil the locals contentment, if ‘yes’ up to what extent? In essence as per my opinion it should justify with the major needs and pleasures of its natives, if not there is something wrong with the city. And that’s the reason why I strongly support the fact that there is something wrong with the region, ‘Gurgaon’. This something comprises of facts such as lack of definite region, a boundary, and absence of direct connectivity with other cities of the country. Its railway station is absolutely a disgrace to the city. The transport is in a very bad shape with in the city. Due to the presence of walled communities, and only hefty walled communities in the city, it lacks an interaction which a city should offer to its citizens. It’s so called modern flashy glass malls seem like a humiliation to the entire movement of sustainability.

My question is, where exactly is Gurgaon heading, in concrete terms, is it just meant to serve for the needs of the Indian capital.

Will tomorrow it still be called ‘Gurgaon city’ or a ‘Gurgaon nagar’ known as a local community of Delhi??

P.S. – This was a part of a submission made in my Third year in college (2009-2010)

The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity

“It’s not about the fish, it’s not about the pollution, and it’s not about the climate change. It’s about us and our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine world that is different from the selfish world we live in today.” –Jeremy Jackson (Jackson, 2010)

Ecological infrastructure is the naturally existing operational ecosystem which delivers treasured amenities to society, such as fresh water, climate regulation, soil formation, glaciers and disaster risk declination. It is the nature-based corresponding of built infrastructure and is imperative for providing services and sustaining socio-economic development. (Grasslands, 2013)

Since ecological infrastructure is essentially unrestricted, it’s worth is infrequently apprehended in market transactions and thus it mostly remains under-invested. It is the exhaust of nearly 7 billion humans that is leading us towards catastrophic conditions which might result into global disasters. We as a race are doing more than hogging the interest, we are actually using up Nature’s resource taking about what is needed to support species most diverse and what is needed to allow evolution to play at its fascinating potential with the health of building blocks it has created.

Owing to the massive population there has been a demand of massive free land, which further led to massive deforestation. Deforestation exposes the soil directly to sun’s heat which leads to drying up of moisture, evaporation of nutrients and symbiotic bacteria.  In due course, rain washes down the soil surfaces which results in top-soil erosion, and siltation of rivers and valleys. This enormous impact on Land conditions lead to systems reorganization which changes the climatic patterns and change is landscapes. As a fact, humans have moved more land than all natural processes put together. (Santa-Barbara Family Foundation, 2011)

Consistent land abuse has resulted in a reduction in loss of productivity of land continuously, which is leading towards an inability to grow enough food which is leading to hunger and famines.

“Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.” Dr. Jane Goodall

Forests arrests and stores Carbon. In the absence of appropriate cover of forests, we had to create a new mechanism to reinstate the functions which they were performing themselves with full efficiency, which has resulted in massive investments. Also, it could be noted that bees contribute significantly towards pollination and production of important compounds. Their population has been wedged ominously over the last few years. It’s just they as a species haven’t raised a bill for their services which would amount to billions of dollars. This suffering in their community will amount to much more than that; it will impact in a modus which will be a threat to our habitation. (Hickman, 2011) “We currently consume 50% more natural resources than the Earth’s ecosystems can replenish.” World Wildlife Fund 

It is the due time when we need to economise all natural systems. As a race, economics is the only branch which we all seem to understand alike. We face the imminent loss of coral reefs due to climate change, which has thwarted growth of ocean ecosystem. (Jackson, 2010)  This is an ecosystem that is near to the onset of irreversibility, an inclining point beyond which it’d cease to function as a system. The total population dependent on them for food resources ranges from 500 million to over one billion. 30 million of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable population is entirely dependent on reef-based resources for food production and means of livelihood. (Pavan Sukhdev, 2009)

These contribute to variation in system adapted by watersheds, this change is further augmented by deforestation in the area and constriction of floodplains which is directly impacting the natural storm water drainage system and leads to flood uncalled for. This also results in poor water management and amplifies water wastage. These important resources go waste, unharvested, unutilised and results in water-stress.  “By 2025, two-thirds of people will be living in water-stressed countries.” United Nations

It is straightforwardly recognized that natural capital must be directly taken into accounts. This will help us in accounting natural process, grasping the ecological framework and this will significantly influence our policy-makers’ decision making. At present ecosystems are poorly recorded in national economic accounts. All the free amenities and services supplied by thriving eco-systems are neglected, which leads to their destruction. These accounting procedures will help in making corporates apprehend their impact on the environment around and take accountability for that. Often these firms while setting up disrupt a large ecological infrastructure which goes blatantly unnoticed. This natural capital is an important resource for the communities around, not only a resource but the singular reason for their existence.

Direct conservation via threatened areas and sustainable use constraints and restraints is a mean of maintaining our ecological institution healthy and prolific.  A very systemic cost-analysis need to be accounted for and new eco-certification measures need to be regularised which provide detailed analysis of the benefits and causes. This should be explicitly linked with the natural hazard risks, these systematic assessments of natural capital will pave the way for combining environment risk reduction with economically efficient investment. (Pavan Sukhdev, 2009)

“If we were running a business with the biosphere as our major asset, we would not allow it to depreciate. We would ensure that all necessary repairs and maintenance were carried out on a regular basis.” Prof. Alan Malcolm, Chief Scientific Advisor, IUPAC


Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN. (2010, May 1). Population Facts. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from United Nations:

Ecotrust. (n.d.). Ecological Infrastructure. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from Reliable Prosperity:

Eschool today. (2010). Forest preservation. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from Eschool Today:

Grasslands. (2013). Ecological Infrastructure. Johannesburg: Sanbi.

Hickman, L. (2011, January 14). Population explosion. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from The Guardian:

Jackson, J. (Director). (2010). How we wrecked our oceans? [Motion Picture].

Pavan Sukhdev, J. B. (2009). TEEB Climate Issues Update. Bonn: United Nations Environment Programme.

Santa-Barbara Family Foundation. (2011, October 23). Population and scale. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from The Sustainable Scale Project:

Sukhdev, P. (Director). (2011). Put a value on Nature! [Motion Picture].

The Rewilding Institute. (n.d.). Population Growth. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from Rewilding:


Architectural education equips a student to get into the real world as an Architect. It culminates with a thesis project where a student standing at the threshold of the professional world showcases their learning they garnered in their journey of becoming an architect from a student. It becomes a project they associate themselves with; it carries a trait of their personality and it is a utopian world they live in. This ideal project paves the way for their entry to the profession. However, this dream project remains far from real life practice where it is rich with idea but the practical execution details don’t amalgamate into it.

As young professionals, students join architecture firm to practice what they learned in architecture schools. As an entrant, they are often given tasks in the office like working on execution/construction drawings, preparing coordination drawings, writing specifications or calculating quantities etc. of which they have very limited experience from college and they face real life problems for the very first time in real life.

In college, students romanticize Starchitects and aim to become impeccable creators, creators who design, craft and showcase their creations. Conceptual design is a skill in which the architects are trained at their best and they can create marvels but the process of creating this marvel from inception to execution is a multifaceted web of millions of processes and sub-processes, which one doesn’t actually learn or experience during college. Hence, the dream of working as a Practitioner and Architect doesn’t materialize easily wherein young architects gradually start learning various aspects they need to know about the profession and practice.

In order to establish an office, few of the different challenges that an architect faces are:

  • Procurement of Software
  • Finding Client and projects
  • Fixing the fee for a project
  • Project details:
    • Statutory Approvals drawings and procedures
    • Structural design
    • Integration of Services design – plumbing, electricity, HVAC, ELV, sewerage etc and coordinated drawings
    • Demarcation – coordinate drawings
    • Calculating quantities and preparing BOQs and project estimates
    • Preparing execution drawings and listing detailed specifications
    • Overseeing construction – quality control and monitoring
  • Establishing office

These are few of the challenges which bombard on graduates as they aim for establishing a practice, all on their own. Mostly, one tries to gain an experience by working in a firm which could equip thyself to establish their own firm, however, there is no fix formula to calculate this period of familiarity and young architects are often confused, as to when and how to start their practice. However, as one starts working in a firm and begins the process of learning, slowly they get into the firm, a few pursue post-graduation and then with the increased age, salary and experience, it becomes difficult to leave office and set up a new practice from scratch. A few believe that these skills can only be acquired while working and practicing them in others’ offices while others think that they could only be truly acquired if one works on them responsibly, and this responsibility would be felt on their own projects only.

As per my personal experience it has to be a mix of the two, where one should be working on a real-time project (preferably large scale) where complete responsibilities of the project should be experienced and involvement should be from conception to execution and then in parallel one should take a project where one can implement the learnings from project. This will help young architects to effectively acquire and perfect their skills which will help them become good practitioners. These important factors support a practice, but the spine of a good practice and the key for a successful architect is the Concept and good designing skills which will work only if supported with the factors stated above. Hence in my opinion, prior to starting a practice one should have complete knowledge of execution of minimum of one project and it should not be delayed as otherwise the passion and appetite for establishing self-practice reduces and further might get lost.