Design ideas cannot be universal; they have to be sympathetic to the local climate and materials, feels architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
Most important among the recurring feedback on Green Sense, besides generally appreciating sharing of experiences, has been about lack of quality at construction sites. However good an idea, it is not worth sharing if not well executed. When red oxide appears shoddy, filler slab goes wavy, exposed wall has bad joints, tiled roof leaks, even good wood gets bent or materials used turn out to be of unacceptable quality, we repent and regret for trying out an alternative eco-friendly idea. Incidentally, the idea itself has no fault here, yet gets blamed. Indeed a disturbing situation since our heart and purse has been with them all.
Our country encompasses varied climatic zones with vast variety of materials. It is not easy to standardise procedures for construction; however, without norms and codes, it is impossible to set high standards. Historically each region has built differently, but today a few systems rooted in manufactured materials, concrete construction, controlled indoor environment and such others are being adopted everywhere, unfortunately wiping out the ecologically meaningful regional specificities. As such, some attention to basic quality in the making of sustainable buildings is imperative to ensure both efficiency and effectiveness.
While we have a large number of architects and engineers today with varying degrees of expertise in eco-friendly ideas and sustainable buildings, their expertise would be applicable to the region where they advice. Architects can and do design for outstation projects, now even for international locations. However, mostly they get commissioned due to the image attached to their name or the style they propagate rather than for the knowledge of the site location they possess. Hence the possibility of their design ideas not being sympathetic to local climate and materials is very high.
As such, only national-level initiatives such as The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), and National Building Code (NBC) can gather all the ideas and projects for further dissemination. Construction and subsequent occupation of buildings will consume resources, many of which will rely on MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning) services. Since most of them depend upon non-renewable energy sources and depleting resource base, the need of the hour is to increasingly rely upon passive means of achieving indoor comforts of light, air and temperature to which end we need to reduce our dependency upon mechanical, electrical and artificial means. Even in a tropical country like India with abundant sun and wind, we spend much on lighting, cooling and refrigeration. Suggesting standard approaches and concepts of sustainable buildings can assist any architect, engineer or builder in applying them in their respective given context and ensure the buildings consume less resources.
While it appears fair to depend upon the aforesaid institutes, the individuals involved with every construction, right from the owner to the mason, are answerable in case standards are not met with and sustainability is not achieved. Individualising the attitude towards quality and conservation are the only answers to better future.