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A good idea is not enough

SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
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If construction problems override good ideas, it’s but natural that our buildings will fall short of expectations. Green sense ideas are no exception, says SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

However good our ideas may be, if construction problems are overriding them, it’s but natural that our buildings will fall short of expectations and the blame game begins. However, in cases where there are genuine construction impediments, it will still remain unfair to target the eco-friendly approach itself as the root cause.

Delayed work, unpredictable costs and poor quality are among the top offenders in the construction industry. Initially identified with buildings built by informal sector works, these problems justified the need for professional designers and builders with transparent contractual systems in place. However, this malice has now spread to projects being handled by professionals also, especially in fast growing urban centres, partly due to shortage of skilled labour and quality material. The attitude of making a quick buck compliments the set of problems, further reducing excellence in construction. May be, we all need to simply refuse handing over a project to a team without adequate proof for quality and punctuality.

Consultants make the difference

If eco-friendly buildings are the focus, proper idea advisors, experienced consultants and willing contractors are a must. With majority of people playing it safe with conventional ideas, building green buildings becomes a double effort. Not because they are more complex, but because the conventional approach attracts lesser queries and complaints. Roof leakage or wall shrinkage cracks can happen in any building, yet they are pointed out in a filler slab or an exposed masonry wall just to pull down the whole approach.

Certain kinds of mud walls or vaulted roofs require specialists only for follow-up service after construction, which are not found everywhere. Though the green approach emphasises local materials, many natural materials cannot be found everywhere. Also, experienced professionals charge a high rate, making the owners tilt towards self-taught masons and such others.

Institutions

Given such road blocks for eco-friendly architecture, which of course are a part of the conventional buildings also, seeking solutions becomes an immediate imperative. We need to begin once again with mutual trust and living up to it, a key social factor in quality work. Lack of trust between owners, designers and builders, hence having test measures to check others, can never lead to good buildings.

There are many institutions offering short-term training programmes for both young professionals and construction teams such as INSTRUCT, COSTFORD, NICMAR, Gramvidya, TERI, IGBC, Auroville, BHOOMI and CGBMT, who need to be supported. If such training programmes become financially viable, we can hope for more of them in future.

Some of them have also published small information booklets and handbooks, hoping to raise construction standards. Organising building workers’ visit to sites can assist in increased exposure to all.

Society appears to believe that all architects make buildings costly, all contractors are cheats and no supplier sells at the right price. As such, everyone tries to dominate the designer, suspect the builder and bargain on the costs. Such attitudes and actions neither build up synergy nor honesty – both required for a good building.


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