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.

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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.

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

Bibliography

Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN. (2010, May 1). Population Facts. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/popfacts/popfacts_2010-5.pdf

Ecotrust. (n.d.). Ecological Infrastructure. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from Reliable Prosperity: http://www.reliableprosperity.net/ecological_infrastructure.html

Eschool today. (2010). Forest preservation. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from Eschool Today: http://eschooltoday.com/forests/problems-of-deforestation.html

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

Hickman, L. (2011, January 14). Population explosion. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/14/population-explosion-seven-billion

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: http://www.sustainablescale.org/areasofconcern/population/populationandscale/quickfacts.aspx

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

The Rewilding Institute. (n.d.). Population Growth. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from Rewilding: http://rewilding.org/rewildit/our-programs/population-growth/

DILEMMA OF AN ARCHITECT!

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.

Why not Villages? We need Smart region and not Smart Cities!

At the beginning of 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi had said, “The soul of India lives in its villages.” Today we are standing on a dwindling cliff, where the soul of our country is in distress and losing the significance of its existence. The villagers in the hope of prospects and employment have been migrating to cities which are leaving our villages crippled.

This migration to cities has led to an unplanned and unsustainable growth of cities augmenting urban agglomerations. This growth is like a tumour affecting the cities somberly.  The infrastructure of cities is not sufficient to support extra population which leads to poor conditions be it in transport, sanitation, education etc. The cities don’t have sufficient housing for the people, sufficient drainage to supply water, sufficient schools to educate children or sufficient hospitals for health care facilities. This leaves the migratory population in inferior conditions than their own villages which they left.

This segment of the population ends up finding their solace in the slums which are areas with deprived conditions. As per Indian census around 40% of the population in Mumbai is living in slums and conditions are not much different in other metros. These slums have clans where one room is available for an entire family in a house covered with tin sheets or asbestos roofing. The sewerage supply is not present which leads to poor sanitation and thus health problems; however still the percentage of the population in a city living in slums is growing with each day.

The intensification of slums in a city needs to be strictly controlled. The chieftain reason behind them is the migratory population which comes to the city looking for opportunities. Today, while we are thinking of making 100 new smart cities but we are forgetting our villages. A smart city will remain smart, only if it is allowed to support the population it is planned for. Any encumbrances on these cities need to be abstained, for which we need to make our villages Smart and desirable.

The investment required for the development of villages and creating opportunities therein is meagre in comparison to that required for a smart city. Moreover, it will safeguard planned development of city thereby protecting the massive investment that would be done to create smart cities. Hence, the entire conception of a smart city cannot be done in isolation leaving the surrounding areas. Creation of smart city has to begin with a conversion of surrounding and neighbouring villages to smart villages.

These smart villages have to have sustainable housing, health, sanitation, education, electricity, drainage and allied facilities. In addition to it, the ‘X’ factor of each village has to be identified and work should be done to enrich it. These aspects would vary from agriculture, heritage, culture, micro-industries, nature etc. These factors need to be institutionalised within village level and developed making it self-sustainable. The infrastructure should be sufficient to give it an equal opportunity as a city in terms of roads, electricity and telecommunication. The limited population of a village (which could vary from 1000-2500) helps in an apposite planning and implementation.

The scale of the villages is much more convenient and there exist examples like Tilonia, Dharnai, Punsari, Mawlynnong, Pothanikkad etc. which have utilised their forte and today are standing taut on world’s map. There are micro-industries like Pottery, Manufacturing of  Khadi, Sari, Churi, Craft work like Brass, Mojri, Silverware, Leather, Puppets etc which can be harnessed and centralised institutions can be developed for them. This will also help in boosting tourism, but it should be controlled and strictly monitored. It needs quality workshops and training for the villagers along with a creation of suitable infrastructure. The scale and requirement of these villages are just fit for trying new strategies like energy production through solar, micro-wind turbines, net metring, rainwater recharging and harvesting, geothermal cooling etc. It will set up model smart villages and will help us in converting our existing cities into smart zones.

Hence, a zonal plan should be developed for creating a smart region rather than aiming to create solely a smart city. The villages neither could be left alone nor separated if we are talking of smartness. The development of smart villages and smart zones would have far-reaching effects leading to successful implementation of our plans.