Smart start to 2015

Here are five great ideas that will dominate building design in the New Year. Nidhi Adlakha finds out more.

January 02, 2015 04:56 pm | Updated 04:56 pm IST

1 Brick sense

Smart Bricks are promoted by Wienerberger India and are Porotherm Vertically Perforated Interlocking Tongue and Groove (VP T&G) clay bricks, combined with super glue, that ensure faster construction, optimise the use of natural resources, and are possibly the strongest in-fill masonry product. “They are light-weight, provide thermal insulation, and are 100 per cent natural. This is an ideal solution to achieve optimal labour utilisation, promote less dependence on dwindling natural resources like sand and water, and ensures a clean and dry construction site,” says A. Shankar, National Director-Strategic Consulting, JLL.

The other kind of bricks that will make a mark are mud bricks. As new house designs focus on earthy material that conserves energy and resources, mud bricks are going to play a vital role. Made from a mixture of loam, locally available mud, sand and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw, mud bricks help in temperature control. Shankar explains, “The walls don’t require outside plastering and are left exposed, giving the house a different, rustic look. This saves cement, sand and water. Only 50 per cent of the walls (interiors) require plastering and needs to be painted. Unlike burnt bricks, these have the tendency to retain moisture around them, making the surrounding air cool.”

2 Leading lights

Keeping up with the mantra of ‘energy saving’, experts say Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures will light up most future projects. LEDs are energy efficient, using approximately 85 per cent less energy than halogen or incandescent lighting — that translate to significant savings on your power bills. Says Durganand Balsavar, principal architect, Artes - Human Settlements Development Collaborative, “Reducing the carbon footprint of our homes is vital. Architects are switching over to LEDs in projects and that leads to high power savings.” The fixtures are durable, eco-friendly and produce little infrared light and close to no ultraviolet emissions. As far as design compatibility is concerned, LEDs come in numerous shapes and can produce great lighting effects. From homes to airplanes, schools, and hotels, it’s LEDs all the way.

3 Sane sanitation

Bathtubs are so passé. In 2015, ring in musical showers, Jacuzzis and a range of chic and clever luxury fittings. “Look forward to luxury,” says Sankaranarayan Seshan, Prinicipal Architect, Blueprint Design Management. Fixtures such as water closets with heated seats, and pressure and pulsation control, remote controlled seats, automatic flushes, catalytic deodoriser function and automatic sensor operated lids are all coming in. Other fancied products include vessel sinks that float on solid wood cabinetry, hand-painted porcelain basins, large soaking tubs, vintage-look faucets, LED-lit shower heads and oversized spa-like shower enclosures.

Also, bathrooms consume around 70 per cent of household water, with large quantities wasted because of inefficient fixtures. Says JLL’s Shankar “Developers will be forced to focus on water conservation initiatives with eco-sensitive bath design and smart fixtures such as low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators to pressure assisted toilets, low line bathtubs, etc.”

4 Oh so prefab

Modular housing is set to look up, as developers look to save on construction time and labour costs. Says Shankar, “The technology uses pre-manufactured components such as roof and floor trusses that can be assembled quickly on the site, and that conform to most standards of structural integrity, safety and environmental impact.” Prefab materials include light-weight concrete panels and sandwich panels, which contribute to green and clean construction. The raw materials are environment friendly as they are recyclable and consume lesser natural resources. Construction is fast and dry, thereby reducing timelines by almost 50 per cent and costs by 30-40 per cent. Prefab structures provide better energy efficiency, thermal and noise insulation, and better fire safety.

5 Stay sustainable

The vision of ‘housing for all’ by 2022 can only be achieved by using alternative construction material such as recycled fly ash, interlocking bricks, hollow concrete blocks, rubble filler blocks, stabilised mud-based blocks and funicular (or rope-like) shells. Traditional material like cement and glass will soon be a thing of the past and natural, holistic materials such as recycled rubber, bamboo are the future. “By using such material, construction costs can be reduced by 10-15 per cent on materials and around 20 per cent on skilled labour and construction time,” says Shankar. According to Balsavar, “Recycled rubble floor tiles, stone quarry powder plasters, pre-fabricated technologies, and fire-proof ply boards — all this will be seen in future projects.

Says Sheila Sri Prakash, founder-chief architect, Shilpa Architects, “Bamboo, carbon fibre and flexible cement are set to become popular.” Bamboo, with its high tensile strength and lightweight properties, is gradually replacing timber and construction steel. “Look out for self-reinforced thermoplastics like lightweight structural shells, photovoltaic glazing, and dry construction techniques using modular elements,” says Chiraag Kapoor, principal architect, Chiraag Kapoor Architects.

Besides this, designers need to develop and design products relevant to the Indian context. Says Kapoor, “We need to use quality ceramics, natural material like sea balls or Neptune balls (malted sea weed fibres washed upon the beaches) for furnishing , coconut wood composites, and fungus-based materials for light-weight insulating foams.”

A report by Singapore’s Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) finds that Advanced Fibre Composite Materials (AFCM) is the future of building technology. “Nearly 70 per cent of all damages in the built environment today occur due to corrosion of steel inside RCC structures. In addition, steel is costly and energy consuming.” FCL is working on replacing steel reinforcements with a bamboo composite material, which is corrosion-free, lighter and more affordable and comes from a renewable, organic resource. As you can see, renewable, light, affordable, smart and natural are the key words for 2015.

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