Special Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: Speakers at an international seminar organised by the Thiruvananthapuram centre of the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) here on Saturday highlighted the need to adopt cost-effective, energy-efficient and sustainable architecture and building methods.

In his keynote address, Simon Unwin of the University of Dundee, Scotland, argued that for initiatives in architecture to be sustainable, they should be informed by social and cultural as well as climatological and technological understanding.

“A Green attitude to architectural design has in the past enhanced people’s aesthetic and psychological relationships with the places in which they lived and worked, producing some of the most pleasing and comfortable places to be.”

Mr. Unwin said the late Laurie Baker had demonstrated that architecture was about making the world better for as many people as possible, not more privileged for the few who could afford to show off and use up expensive and limited resources.

“He realised that architecture is a political and philosophical as well as a cultural and technological medium. It is about how we make sense of our world; how we live in relationship to our surroundings and each other.”

Thomas Brown of the University of Wisconsin, U.S., advocated a ‘first things first’ approach towards adopting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system as a sustainable design certification. Pointing out that the conventional approach of designers had been to a system of ‘point chasing,’ he emphasised the need to follow an integrated design strategy based on a functional approach.

“Without proper attention to the basic design elements of a project, the application of exotic materials and sophisticated renewable energy systems can result in a more costly and seemingly green building, which may well perform poorly or lower than expected. On the other hand, a well-designed building with proper orientation, shading, attention to daylight and a high performance building envelope will prove sustainable on its own. The use of green materials and systems will only enhance its performance.”

In her presentation, Merle Kindred, volunteer communications consultant, termed green buildings as one of the ways of achieving greater balance, equality and sanity not only in built environments but also in our increasingly intricate and intertwined lives. “Green architecture is something we must embody in our work and lives to counter overdevelopment and unsustainable habits”.

IIA Kerala chairman Jose K. Mathew, and Sudhir, chairman of the Thiruvananthapuram chapter, led the deliberations. Participants in the conference were taken on a visit to buildings in the city designed by the late Laurie Baker.