The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD-PR) campus in Rajendranagar is an urban oasis. Visitors entering the campus are greeted with the sounds of birds chirping and a microclimate that feels a few degrees cooler than the rest of the city. The campus introduced a Green Protocol in April 2016 and has made significant strides in reducing carbon footprint.
A board at an intersection of roads, ahead of the main administrative block, outlines how the campus roads have been laid using 16 different technologies. For one of the roads, plastic waste has been added to coal tar mix. “The roads were in bad shape and needed to be redone. Since the Ministry of Rural Development promotes eco-friendly road technologies and NIRD-PR trains engineers, we felt we should set an example by incorporating these techniques. It is permissible to use eight to 10% plastic waste with coal tar mix, and this increases the longevity of roads,” explains W R Reddy, director-general of the institute.
When Reddy took charge as director-general in March 2016, one of the mandates was to begin working with different stakeholders and promote mission Swachh Bharat. But he observed that the NIRD-PR campus was far from clean, and plastic water bottles were piling up after training programmes. He introduced the Green Protocol, with the help Radhika Rastogi, the deputy director-general.
Bubble water dispensers and glasses were made available across the campus and hostel. Visiting delegates received information in handmade paper folders as opposed to plastic ones. The campus has its own paper recycling unit. Wherever possible, the digital dissemination of information is preferred.
“Everyone was open to these ideas,” says Reddy, adding that students of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan within the NIRD campus were also sensitised to cut down on plastic use.
The next step was waste management. The campus has 250 houses and nearly 400 people (both students and visiting delegates) use the hostel during weekdays. Everyone was encouraged to segregate waste at source.
- NIRD-PR has published a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) guide detailing its green protocol, and a book explaining its building technologies. For more details on the SOP guide and the book, look up www.nirdpr.org.in
Sanitation workers were provided electric battery-operated vehicles to collect the segregated waste. A 250kg biomethane plant was set up. Biofuel generated from the wet waste is now used for cooking purposes in the hostel. Heaps of dry leaves collected in the campus is composted to make green manure for the gardens.
A sewage treatment plant (STP) provides around four lakh litres of recycled water each day and this meets 70% of the water requirement for the gardens.
Reddy has observed a chain reaction with delegates incorporating some of these measures in their own offices. “Things are working well, sometimes people tend to revert to old habits. Again we nudge them to fall in line,” he says with a laugh.
Home, cool home
The Rural Technology Park (RTP) located within the NIRD-PR campus promotes eco-friendly constructions and has demo houses. W R Reddy’s residence at NIRD is a demo house in itself, built following sustainable architecture guidelines, using locally available materials. The house won the green building award at HUDCO Design Awards 2018.
The RTP has the facility to make compressed mud blocks; these are not burnt, and are thermal efficient. The use of compressed mud blocks in different sizes helps minimise the use of cement and filler materials.
Reddy opted for plain mud-plastered walls and bamboo railings for stairways. Cut pieces of leftover bamboo have gone into designing artistic installations in the atrium.
The design allows plenty of natural light, reducing the dependence on electricity during the day. “We tested and found that the house is four to five degrees cooler than the surroundings. Air conditioners have been installed only in bedrooms, which are used if required for harsh summers,” says Reddy.
Tandur stone was preferred over marble and tiles transported from Rajasthan, to bring down the carbon footprint and ensure cooler roof surfaces. The 5000 square feet house, Reddy informs, was constructed at ₹1500 per square feet (all inclusive) and the cost incurred for the entire house was around ₹75 lakh.
Engineers who come for training at NIRD-PR take a look at this and other demo houses, all of which are equipped with rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and solar panels.
Reddy feels villas in gated communities (ground plus one or two floors) can be built using similar compressed mud blocks.
He observes that it’s easier to promote sustainable architecture in urban areas, “Concrete houses have an aspirational value to those in rural areas. When we suggest mud blocks, they feel we (in the city) live in concrete houses but are asking them to build mud houses.”
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