Monday, December 29, 2014

Green Buildings Are Not Expensive

Constructing green buildings is a practice that will 'save' our planet earth. Though the concept of ‘green buildings’ has been around in India for last few years, yet most constructions that take place in our country are conventional. This is largely due to the ‘myth’ that the going 'green' is a costlier affair. The fact is that conventional builders do not wish to upgrade the designing process of architecture, water management, energy management and related processes.

If we consider, for example, how water management in green building bring down the use of water, then we understand that going green is more cheaper than we think in longer period of time! Let us assume that a family has four members on an average. In a huge construction, there will 100 homes. Therefore, the water consumption per year, will be around 20 million litres. In a green building, it can be brought down to 90 litres per day per person using water saving faucets and taps.

So if a ‘green’ building is a cost effective proposition then why aren't more people opting for it? The primary reason is that making ‘green’ buildings is not obligatory. More over, consumers doesn't ask for it. If consumers become more and more aware of benefits of going green, then there will be a market for it and builders will have to offer green buildings. Also, the government has to take it up. Apart from going for ‘green’ buildings, making existing homes eco-friendly is one of the best ways to save energy. 

Architecture future: How buildings will begin to make our lives better

The virtual reality and needs of contemporary life have changed our relationship to physical space. Buildings aren't 'regularly' designed as they used to be. The architects, planners and designers have begun to create spaces that do more than protect us from the elements. The new buildings actually make us healthier by encouraging exercise and better diet. They balance our exposure to light and sound, thereby, improving our energy levels. Well-designed public places strengthen communities by drawing users from across social and economic divides to shared experiences.

"Architecture's next step is to build on the green movement that has made structures more energy-efficient and earth-friendly and to develop spaces that work as doctors, coaches and counselors for 21st-century life", writes Ray Mark Rinaldi in The Denver Post.

The holistic attitude, according to Rinaldi, is architecture's greatest promise and seems to be steering trends. More and more, landscape architects — a subset of the profession that used to enter building ventures late in the planning to finish parking lots and lawns — are emerging as project leaders, devising how sites will be organized, used and maintained. These days, they might be the ones to hire building architects to complete their vision.

A new way of thinking has a lot to do with  technology, but they're really guided by a new kind of thinking, one that employs design in revolutionary ways and elevates the role of buildings far beyond their primary purpose as shelter. It's about architecture making itself useful, saving lives, alleviating stress, easing class tensions. Architects spent the last century profiting from the proliferation of spaces that pollute, segregate, encourage us to overspend and exercise less. Green and healthy buildings undo the damage. Read full article:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Healthcare architecture has assumed great importance

Gone are the days when hospitals were shades of sombre grey and white teeming with patients of all kinds. In recent years, there has been a major transformation in the look and ambiance of the healthcare sector. The situation, today, is that it is hard to differentiate between healthcare infrastructure and hotels except in the services they offer. And because of this trend, healthcare architecture has assumed great importance and this specialized area of architecture has plenty of scope in the evolving Indian market.

The entry of major private players in the healthcare scenario in the last two decades brought about a sea change in the Indian healthcare industry. The change has also permeated to healthcare design and architecture. The philosophy of healthcare architecture speaks of the significance of the emotional and aesthetic aspects of the healthcare environment and believes this as an extremely important aspect of hospital design.

Even healthcare professional, now, agree that exposure of nature for the patients, especially direct sunlight, can promote faster healing and enhances the recovery period of the patient. Architects, who have been saying this too, today advocate Strategically located positive distractions like artwork, use of appropriate materials, interior colors and plants in order to reduce stress levels of not only the patients but also the attendants, hospital staff and doctors as well, thereby enhancing productivity.

Efficient utilization of space is very critical without jeopardizing the functional needs and in view of this, sustainable design takes a whole new dimension when it comes to hospitals.

There is plenty of scope to explore in healthcare sector and the requirement for healthcare architects is huge with the growth in the healthcare industry. To reach a ratio of even one bed per 500 patients, India needs to build 8.7 lakhs more hospital beds. According to latest studies, there will be a requirement of two million beds by 2027.

Building Sense: Beyond the green facade of sustainable habitat

A frenzy of construction in India is under full swing to meet the demand for homes, offices, and shops. A staggering two-third of buildings that will stand in India in 2030 are yet to be built. According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), there can be massive environmental debacle in the building sector if resource guzzling and wastes with appropriate architectural design, building material, and operational management are not minimized with some policies. There will be enormous impact (negative) on the quality of urban space; water and energy resources in cities; and waste generation if developers does not make these under construction buildings green.

The New Delhi based research and advocacy organization, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has raised this concern in a study- Building Sense: beyond the green facade of sustainable habitat. The organization has expressed deep concern that the data put out by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) on energy consumption of large commercial buildings that were rated and awarded silver, gold and platinum rating, under the LEED green rating programme, is incorrect. These buildings are grossly under-performing. Several of them cannot qualify even for the one star label under the energy star labelling programme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) that ranks buildings based on their energy efficiency when operational. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The building which led to the future in the skyscrapers

Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, widely considered to be the world’s first modern skyscraper is supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame. Constructed in 1884 in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the building was designed by American engineer William Le Baron Jenney. This was the first tall building to use structural steel in its frame. 

Jenney's lightweight steel frame relieved a structure of its heavy masonry shackles, enabling it to soar to new heights. Perplexed by this trade-in of solid brick for a spindly steel skeleton, Chicago inspectors paused the construction of the Home Insurance Building until they were certain it was structurally sound. 

The Home Insurance Building stood until 1931, when it was demolished to make way for another skyscraper, the Field Building (now known as the LaSalle Bank Building).

The sky is the limit for wooden buildings

Skyscraper and tall buildings have started to choke the atmosphere. In Britain alone, 47% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from buildings, while 10% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials. Architects and engineers are now seeking new ways of building taller and faster without having such a drastic impact on the environment. And they are now looking at  the most basic building material of them all: wood.

Wooden skyscrapers could be the future of flat-pack cities around the world, says Athlyn Cathcart-Keays in an article published The Guardian. The development of engineered timber could herald a new era of eco-friendly ‘plyscrapers’. Christchurch welcomed its first multistorey timber structure this year, there are plans for Vancouver, and the talk is China could follow.

Wood in its raw form can not compete with iron or steel, therefore, layers of low-grade softwood are glued together to create timber panels. The “engineered timber” offers the prospect of a new era of eco-friendly “plyscrapers”.

For Vancouver-based architect Michael Green, the sky is the limit for wooden buildings. While nearing completion of the University of Northern British Columbia’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, Green’s practice, MGA, has also drawn up plans for a 30-storey, sun-grown tower for downtown Vancouver.

If built, Green’s vision would be easily the world’s tallest wooden building, soaring past the current contenders - London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys, and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne. But that’s not the main motivation, according to MGA associate Carla Smith. “To be honest, it’s not like we really care about being the tallest,” she says. “We really do see a wooden future for cities, and our aim is to get others to jump on board too.” 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Impact of Architecture on Health and Wellbeing

Architecture is probably the last thing that comes to our mind when we discuss public health. But the influence it makes on us is very significant. Architecture helps shape the quality of our environments and therefore certainly contribute to health and wellbeing of the public.

Architects have a big role to play in shaping the qualities of our environment and this promote our mental and physical health and make us happy. They are able to do this because they work in close collaboration with people who will use the space designed by them and also understands their needs and ambitions. And when a architect designs something that honours the needs and wellbeing of those who will use it, he actually determines how well a community lives and thrives.

Similarly, good architecture can help to create spaces in homes and hospitals that have the provision of treatment or support for those suffering with illness or trauma and also for caregivers. Architects through their intelligent architecture designs can ensure a positive prognosis for the future of healthcare by creating buildings that are good for body (health) and mind. This can surely be achieved if architects ensure multifunctional use of space (in hospitals) that is not only efficient but also provide privacy for every patient. Not only the comforts be kept in mind but also storage and entertainment systems should be such that patients feel as if they are being treated at home.

The public, healthcare professionals and architects must collaborate to provide quality healthcare architecture offering long-term benefits for their users.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wind for Power and Water: Ancient Persian Windmills

Green buildings, sustainable energy, utilizing natural light and water may all sound recently coined buzz-phrases but in reality these concepts dates back to tens of thousands of years. From Greece and Rome to Persia and North America, our ancestors had innovative concepts to use geothermal, water, wind and solar power. 

Ancient Persian windmills are perfect examples of how wind was utilized for power and water. Some 3000 years before in ancient Persia, windmills were used to grind grain and pump water. Vertical paddles were created by bundling reeds together and these paddles spun around a central axis. Carefully placed exterior walls ensured that wind would primarily drive the potentially bidirectional system in the desired direction. 

Images via: Ullesthorpe, Blue Planet, Deutsches Museum and World of Energy

Green Building Congress announces three new rating systems

The Indian Green Building Council recently announced its own rating system for new buildings. Till now the US Leed certification was followed in rating new buildings in India. The three new  rating systems will cover schools, metro rail projects and new buildings. Announcing the launching of the three systems at the CII Green Building Congress 2014, Prem C Jain, Chairman of IGBC, said the New Building Rating System comes in the backdrop of IGBC and US Green Building Council parting ways on the Leed certification programme. "We have adopted this approach as we believe India could become a next big Green Building base in the world,” he said.

India now has a registered green building base of over 2.2 billion sq.ft, which has been achieved in about 10 years. The Indian Green Building Council is aiming to have a registered base of about 10 billion sq.ft by 2022, when India would be 75 years after Independence.

A portal has also been created to facilitate online interface on green building rating systems.

Friday, September 5, 2014

AIIMS campus in Delhi to become climate-responsive

Ministry of Health has recently taken initiative to make AIIMS campus in Delhi climate-responsive. Renowned solar expert SP Gon Chowdhury will attempt to make the half-century-old All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) campus in Delhi energy efficient. Gon Chowdhury will also be advising the ministry to ensure that the new AIIMS units proposed in different states - including West Bengal - become 'green buildings'. The task to make AIIMS in Delhi climate responsive will be a tough one. The buildings of the institute dates back to the 1950s, and therefore large-scale retrofit will be  required. Though installing solar panels on the roof will be easy, conserving water, capturing daylight and managing solid waste effectively will be difficult.

"To reach the ultimate goal of a climate-responsive campus, we have to modernize the buildings so that they are more efficient. There are systems and technologies like solar dome to capture daylight and stream it through highly reflective 2-3 inch tubes. This can be used to light up an entire building during the day without the need to switch on electric lights," Gon Chowdhury explained. He also wish to capture the heat generated by air-conditioners and then use it to generate thermal power.

"Retrofit is happening everywhere including Italy, Latin America, the US, Australia and Germany. While any retrofit is a challenge, the bigger hurdle is to change the mindset so that people recognize the importance of being energy-efficient and carbon neutral," said Gon Chowdhury.