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  • Harini Ramisetty

Sustainability in Architecture: Live & Let Live

There was a discussion on sustainability in architecture at the office. We started the discussion on the depletion of resources and how they will become obsolete one day. I did understand what they were talking about but like they said none of us knew the seriousness of this issue. This is very true for most people as they are not aware of reality. We then discussed how buildings influence the depletion of resources and how the role of an architect is important when we talk about sustainability.

Some of the traditional building techniques that were used, like the wide sunshades, verandas around the house, etc. were passive ways of sustainability as the thermal comfort of the house was increased. But now due to the increase in the cost of construction and also the increase in land value, even if we want to follow the traditional techniques, it is not affordable and hence not widely preferred. We should think of alternative methods in design which is more apt for the present day scenario, keeping sustainability in mind. This leads to a reduction in the use of resources and increases the use of renewable energy.

Contemporary house design
Wide Sunshades and Sloping Roofs Maintain Thermal Comfort in Pedanandipadu House Designed by Us

Click to know more about Pedanandipadu house

Contemporary Kerala house
The Wide Verandahs in Vishram by the Sea Is an Example of Passive Ways of Sustainability in House

Click to know more about Vishram by the Sea

Sustainability in Urban Areas

If this is on a small scale, when we look at the bigger picture or at the urban level, the increase in the number of private transport increases the pollution and also in the consumption of non-renewable resources. This shows the importance of us starting to use more of public transport. It not only decongestants the road but also saves energy. For example, if one needs to reach a destination which is 2 km away, then he/she can walk or use the cycle as it is a good exercise and also very safe to the environment. This is just one such idea but there could be more done which might seem to be very insignificant but it will surely have a huge impact if followed by larger numbers.

This discussion continued as to how can one make a place sustainable at the urban scale, but later we also did realise that it’s not just us talking about it that will make the difference but also involves other factors like the higher officials who actually take decisions related to this, etc. One other important factor is individual inputs and the change in lifestyle which leads towards the betterment of the world as only that will change the whole scenario.

In college one of my teachers spoke to me about a syndrome called NIMBY – Not in My Backyard Syndrome, which is true and what most of us should try to follow. The seriousness of the issue should be understood and sustainability should start from each of us individuals which will make the world a better place.

Sustainability in Architecture

Now getting back to sustainability in architecture – minimizing the use of materials and energy is the key factor. Also, the waste produced during construction, and later the sewage, sullage, kitchen waste, etc. should be recycled and reused.

Grey water recycling
Grey Water From Kitchen Can Be Recycled and Used to Water Plants

We could think of experiments and alternative ideas for construction methods, waste management, etc. and see if it is useful in our scenario to make it a green living. One way of thinking for green living is to calculate the carbon footprint which will give us definite numbers to actually understand sustainability better and where we are standing right now. Later after the ideas have been incorporated in a building, the carbon footprint can be calculated again and compared to see what is the difference that is been made.

Even while designing one should see how flexible a building can be at the planning level so that it can cater to the future, which will reduce the number of buildings from being broken down and constructed again.

Few General Green Living Ideas for Any Project

  • 10m green belt around the plot

  • Connecting spaces at a higher level

  • Interaction spaces

  • Extensive use of solar energy

  • Geothermal energy & other renewable resources

  • Activities for the retired community, etc.

Retirement community

Click to know more about Sigappi Illam

  • Carbon footprint in the making of an athangudi tile and a normal tile can be calculated.

Click to know more about Pedanandipadu house

  • The active and passive ways to make a building and the space around sustainable can be researched upon.

How Sustainability Concepts Can Be Useful to Us?

One should have enthusiasm and excitement while doing anything, to get the best results. This is one of the most important qualities one should possess. We should all not just take from Mother Nature but also give something in return so there is a future available.

The topic of sustainability and green living through architecture can be useful to us as we not only do new constructions but also restoration of buildings that cannot be broken down as they carry historical value and are also very close to our hearts. Hence the ideas can be used in the design according to the demand.

- Harini Ramisetty

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