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Best of both worlds

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Here’s how traditional and modern styles of architecture are coming together to deliver energy-efficient solutions.

The quest for safety, security and decent living conditions is what drives most people to home-ownership. Despite the high costs of land acquisition and building materials, constructing homes is an important mandate for both, governments and industries across the world. This explains why the real estate industry is among the highest contributors to the economy and also generates employment in high volumes, both directly and indirectly. However, there’s no denying that developing, using and maintaining real estate is a high-energy consumption affair. Mumbai-based green technologist Dr Shrikanth Patil, says, “Industrially produced materials such as steel, concrete and glass have a low thermal resistance and require high energy intensity, thus resulting in the need for high air conditioning in urban homes. Sustainable practices in building construction can yield about 10-12 percent in energy savings. Many urban people are now moving away from cities to places where there is luxury of space to build homes using vernacular architecture.”

Aesthetics meets efficiency

So what exactly is vernacular architecture and how does it relate to energy savings? Renowned conservation architect Benny Kuriakose explains, “Vernacular or regional architecture uses materials suited to the local climate to bring down overall energy consumption of the structure. There are thousands of buildings in villages across the country that were built before power supply reached those villages. They are far more sturdy and energy efficient than urban structures. Vernacular architecture involves the construction of customised buildings after taking into account local climate and cultural practices.”

With space constraints on the builders’ and consumers’ minds, it seems almost impossible to imagine living spaces conceived with natural sunlight and ventilation. However, using natural resources effectively and weaving these into your home’s design are the most intelligent things to do. Mili Majumdar, Managing Director, Green Business Certification Institute Pvt Ltd, India, says “The need of the hour is passive bioclimatic architecture where natural elements like sunshine and wind direction are taken into account while building both, residential and commercial spaces. For instance, homeowners can consider shading windows to optimise sunlight. High-performance glass in commercial buildings can reduce heat indoors and consequently, the need for more air conditioning.”

Material magic

While building construction is perceived from a functional perspective, traditionally, it has been a community affair, and therefore, a significant component of differentiation. In the pre-Industrial Revolution phase, India’s built environment, as in the rest of the world, was shaped by certain values and cultural beliefs. However, with tremendous urbanisation and globalisation after the Industrial Revolution, India’s rich cultural and architectural heritage is vanishing. This is primarily due to an increased use of industrially-produced and standardised materials.

Kuriakose says, “We must realise that it is impossible to design a building, which is 100 percent sustainable. We must use materials such as steel, concrete and glass. However, I try to limit their use by incorporating locally sourced materials such as wood, mud and stone. Wood remains one of my favourite materials as long as natural forests have not been cut down to source it. Growing more trees to sustain its use in construction applications is the need of the hour.”

Annabel Dsouza, Times Property, The Times of India, Bengaluru

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