Foundations of the future - Hindustan Times

Foundations of the future

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi
Sep 22, 2011 11:48 AM IST

Since the building sector is directly or indirectly responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, what architects need to do is go green with a vengeance to protect the environment.

Where work is concerned, architect Sanjay Prakash is led by his heart, and not his head. This designer of environment-friendly or ‘green’ buildings ensures there are adequate environment-friendly practices incorporated in his personal life as well. Trains are preferred to flights. Invitations to seminars and conferences abroad, which involve long-haul flights, are politely refused – all because he wants to reduce his carbon footprint.

His home (with exposed brick facade to minimise plaster and paint use) in Gurgaon reflects Prakash’s concern for the environment. He has made an example out of it. There is optimised natural ventilation, a courtyard and rooftop garden (terrific insulation) to keep the house cool in the summer and enough south-facing windows to let the sun in and keep things warm in the winter. Easily replacable ‘secondary timber’, reused glass, bamboo railings, terrazo floors made of broken chips and marble dust instead of bigger stones, are some of the features. A rainfall harvesting system is also in place and ‘grey water’ left over from washing utensils/ clothes etc is used for gardening.

Any kind of ‘specialisation’ in sustainable architecture, says Prakash, “would defeat the transformative purpose of sustainable architecture. Rather, green architects should strive to become people with a sustainable lifestyle and develop a sustainable ethos informing their architecture and other design work.”

Train as an architect, but for the ‘green tag’, you should get familiar with one of the first rating systems to become part of the professional discourse in India – the initially US-centric LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Designs).

Says Abhishek Kiran Gupta, Head - Real Estate Intelligence Services, Jones Lang LaSalle India:

“In India, the green buildings ratings system in use are GRIHA (via The Energy Research Institute, or TERI) and LEED India (via the Indian Green Building Council, or IGBC.) LEED is the most widely followed rating system globally. Europe also follows systems such as BREEAM, Eco Quantum, Eco Effect and Eco Building Total Quality Assessment. The best means (for builders) of obtaining sustainability certification is to turn to a consultancy that is experienced and qualified in sustainable practices integration.”

Bangalore-based Chitra Vishwanath, a graduate of the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad, was drawn to green architecture because of “serendipity, a new challenge, and just the excitement of working with hitherto not used materials as well as design demands”, she says.

Both people and the environment matter, she says. “Sustainability in India should look at the people first and then materials. People who work at construction sites should be paid equal and real wages and not be exploited. Safety and health are also issues which need to be addressed in a stringent manner. The budget of the building should be such that more money is spent on labour than materials. Craft should be encouraged.

“Less paint should be used and materials for construction should come from the closest possible distance,” she says.

The ‘green’ concept, says Gupta, will survive because it is the way of the future. Those who adopt the way now do not do so for immediate monetary benefits but out of commitment towards the environment and to build a convincing brand. “It must be borne in mind that many international occupiers follow a strict policy of occupying only sustainable buildings anywhere in the world. While this may not be an immediate concern for most Indian developers, there are still concerns that are building for the future – not just the present,” he adds.

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What's it about?
Architects design buildings – from homes to commercial to retail spaces. Architecture studies insist on efficient structural designs, climatic designs as well as understanding how to use water, light and air. After a basic course in architecture, familiarising yourself with the ‘green’ ratings will help you build structures responsibly

Clock Work
8.30 am: Grab breakfast and rush for client meeting to discuss placement of solar panels on the roof of his office building
1.30 am: Lunch
2.30 am: Reach studio, check blueprints for a jungle resort
7.30 am: Head for home

The Payoff
Those who are starting out as architects can earn anything from Rs20,000 to Rs40,000 a month. There’s no limit to what private consultants and those with their own businesses can earn

Awarness of environmental problems and a keen desire to ensure its survival
. Good designing/drawing skills and ability to provide cost-effective solutions to clients as ‘green’ planning is expensive
. Good communication skills as you deal with clients/spread awareness about what you do

How do i get there?
Take up science and mathematics in Class 11 and 12. To get into an architecture college, you have pass exams like the AIEEE (All India Engineering/Architecture Entrance Examination), conducted by the CBSE; NATA (National Aptitude Test in Architecture); RPET (Rajasthan Pre-Entrance Test), or Punjab CET. Later, familiarse yourself with rating systems such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Designs), website: or the Indian GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment), website:

Institutes & urls
. School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi
. Jamia Millia Islamia (Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics), Delhi
. Sir JJ College of Architecture, Delhi
. Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University, Ahmedabad
. IIT Kharagpur

Pros & Cons


Great deal of satisfaction in doing meaningful work


People need to be more aware of environmen-friendly practices

You Must have respect for nature

A practitioner talks about living responsibly to build responsibly

Can sustainable architecture make a big contribution towards reducing global warming? How can this be done?
Since building-related emissions contribute to a significant proportion of the total emissions of this sector (up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, depending on how you count the direct and indirect demand of the sector), this obviously makes some contribution towards reducing global warming. However, the building industry today is a part of a complex web of activities that we call industrialisation – of which the most striking lifestyle choices that contribute to global warming are: undifferentiated consumption, dependence on the personal car, industrialisation of agriculture, and addiction to air-conditioning – all of which have to transform for humans to evolve into a viable post-industrial world. In the field of global environment, even if you pick up one part, the entire web comes away in your hand. So, the change will only happen integrally – it will not be piecemeal. The way sustainable architecture can contribute is to make buildings more efficient in their use of resources, substitute non-renewable resources with renewable ones, and reduce the demand for services through supporting an alternative lifestyle of sufficiency.

How ecologically sustainable are your buildings? How have these been rated?
I have always tried to design buildings (or other products and processes) with what I considered were my personal values of thrift, respect for nature, participation of the user, and energy efficiency. With this background, I guess I am considered one of the leading practitioners of what has now been labelled green architecture. By the way, none of my buildings so far have been rated, unless you count the platinum rating given to one of our housing complexes in Bangalore, the first to be so rated. But it was after completion and sought by the rating agency and later the promoter without my support.

Another building, a manufacturing unit in the National Capital Region, is being rated and will be our first consciously rated building (aiming for LEED Platinum).

How do you work on designs/ plans for a green building?
The process is not too different from what a mainstream architect does, except that the design values informing the choices are different. In a day-to-day sense, the work consists of conceiving the idea, which is an undefined process with a mix of judgement and experience thrown in, followed by the relatively mundane processes of drawing and modelling, checking and analysing, collaborating with engineers of many disciplines, specifying, costing, repeating the steps required for optimising (value engineering), and then supervising the design so that it is implemented as per the intent of the conception.

Architecture, especially green architecture, in practice is like film production (though the outcomes of both processes are vastly different) – multi-disciplinary, creative, participatory, technically complex, value- and goal-driven. You could say that an architect like me who heads a team is the equivalent of a film director.

Who will hire a ‘green’ architect?
In a few decades, everyone! Today, promoters like to have a ‘green’ project when the tenants demand it, while owners often want a green building for themselves simply as a lifestyle choice.

Has there been an increase in interest/queries in green design?
Tremendously! Unfor-tunately, no one (not even architects) fully understands what the new directions to our current modes of building are.

Sanjay Prakash, principal consultant, Sanjay Prakash & Associates Pvt Ltd Interviewed by Ayesha Banerjee

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