Redefining the Greys of the Green; Ar. Yatin Pandya

Redefining the Greys of the Green; Ar. Yatin Pandya

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The building uses fly ash bricks, dump fill site waste residue bricks, stabilised soil blocks, wood crate panels, glass bottles and waste filled plastic bottles etc. for walling options

‘Green comes in various shades. It is a phenomenon and not a formula. It is a concept more than a configuration.  As architects we alter the landscape forever and as responsible professional we need to understand and own its consequence. Green has to be our resolve rather than mere rendering’, says Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.

“Green” has been a fashionable word these days. Unfortunately, more often than not it has remained a word rather than a colour. As a result it gets interpreted in numerous shades. While on one hand fully glazed building using photo sensitive glass product may be rendered as green, on the other end building with adequate comfort conditions without use of air conditioners would not find favours with the LEED rating system. There needs to be a boundary defining the blacks and whites of the green. No doubt that with the current state of affairs, which has rendered the environment dismal grey, every possible shade of green may be a welcome tone. Range is vast but we still need to define priorities.

While, turning the television at night, rather than keeping it on a standby mode can save billions of Rupees worth of Energy (50 million pound estimated for entire UK in a year). We still need to identify our own spectrum of green and chart strategies around the same. It has to be a contextual resolution rather than a global statement. Universal-global norms have been one of the major factors in aggravating the problems. For example, even for the basic essential tasks there are such diverse norms existing in the world that universalising them with the higher denominator as the benchmark will only remain unduly wasteful. For example, an average consumption of water in USA is 600 litres per person per day, in Europe it is 250 litres, 135 litres is the Indian average while in Africa they manage with as little as 30 litres per day. India has 8 vehicles per thousand as compared to nearly 800 of America. Ninety percent of world’s cars are owned by sixteen richest nations accounting for only one fifth of world population. No wonder, Christopher Alexander in his studies found nearly sixty percent of downtown Los angles land devoted to car. Need India follow the suit? India ironically ranks fifth in the energy requirements. Of which buildings account for nearly forty percent. (Residences 23.4% and Commercial buildings 6.6%). Industries follow next with 36.5% and agriculture 30.7%. As a development agent dealing with the building industry it makes us quite responsible for our decision making.

In a daytime use building nearly ninety two percent of energy is spent in cooling (60%) and day lighting (32%). The same figures for residential buildings are 64%. This makes it quite logical for us to prioritize cooling and day lighting to be the preoccupation of the sustainable designs. How does our decision matter in these aspects?  For example a building type can be a critical decision for its energy demands. A multi owner high-rise residential building has energy demands of (59.8KWH/sq. M) one and half times that of the single owner low rise building (40 KWH/sq. M), owing largely to the elevators and the energy intensive services. Entertainment centres guzzle three and a half times (135 KWH/ sq. M) while hotels and data centres are ten times intensive. But topping all the list are the recently found shopping malls pegging energy needs at 565 KWH/sq. M. Needless is the debate whether after all these if they even measure up to the plurality and vitality of the traditional street bazaars. Air conditioners take up nearly half of the energy demands consuming at 1000 watt unit rate versus a fan which is only 80 watts. Need we chart an agenda for twenty percent reduction of air conditioning load or to resolve to find comfort without one? It is also a fallacy to think that modern times imply more comfort. Electricity has been invented and applied since over two centuries but the energy consumption of entire year of 1950, even after 150 years of its invention, is equivalent of today’s consumption of six weeks only. And yet it remains inaccessible to over 40% of world’s population.  Where has it got consumed and what are its alternatives? Entire estimated stock of fossil fuel of the world is equivalent of eleven days of solar energy. Moreover one kilowatt of solar panel saves one ton of carbon dioxide. In last fifty years world’s population has doubled and that along with the enhanced consumerism has put strain on the resources. Not to mention the severities of alarming pollution levels. In this reality of world and times of inundated construction can we pull ourselves back to question the taken for granted conclusions?

It still makes sense to apply commonsense and conventional wisdom in resolving architecture. As architects we are called to take six basic decisions and the sum total of which is architecture.

  1. Sitting and location: This has severe implication through orientation, exposure and impact of natural forces. In western hot arid zones of India orienting building with its longer faces to North-South compared to East-West can reduce solar radiation and exposure and thereby the energy demands to nearly half.
  2. Form and Mass: This has potential for confronting natural forces as well as to benefit from mutual shading and scaling. As a thumb rule exposure levels and thereby energy demands can be reduced in a building in hot-arid zone up to ten percent by optimising on volumes of the building in areas such as passages, verandas, toilets, alcoves etc. Something like split levels. By adding a floor with reduced radiation from the top it gets reduced to about twenty percent. It is nearly halved by attaching the building from sides as well as stacking floors above.
  3. Space organisation: This governs the extroverted(ness) or introverted(ness), compactness or fragmentation, along with directionality and exposure value of the architecture. For example traditional buildings from hot arid regions have been compact, stacked and attached in their form, and have been interspersed with multiple yet small scale courtyards to reduce heat gain. As against Bungalows of the hot-humid zones have been extroverted with veranda like living spaces in the periphery to increase its transparency to breeze.
  4. Elements of Space making: This forms the essential syntax of the architecture and thereby it’s interactivity with external conditions. For example pavilion like structure with prominence of inclined roof form versus lightness-often absence- of wall is the syntax of hot-humid climate. Conversely predominance of wall and subjugation of roof is the grammar of hot-arid climate zone.
  5. Material and Construction techniques: This is vital in setting forth the chemistry of building with external elements through its thermal coefficient, material properties and dynamics of its physics. If sunburnt clay block is taken as a unit of energy demand of material, cement is nearly ten times energy intensive, steel thirty times, PVC 120 times and aluminium 160 times.
  6. Finishes and surface articulation: Although seemingly micro, the skin rendering turns out to be the first aspect of building to negotiate with environmental conditions. As the first line soldier it takes most of the brunt of the vagaries of nature. Dark versus white or very light colour rendering with glossier surface can create up to five degree temperature difference within through its high reflectance value.

Any building, good or bad, demands the architectural decision on these six aspects. If only we understand the wider implications of these decisions we would be able to make informed choices and arrive at the resolutions basically sustaining. While smallest details can matter and advanced technology can help further in achieving efficiency of environment management these device or technology based solutions come later after the basic architectural resolutions. For example if heat gain through clear glass opening is seen as 100% the double glazing can help reduce it by about ten to twenty percent. The tainted glass can reduce by about forty percent. As against external awning or a meter wide eaves band can reduce it easily by over sixty percent. Thus technology does not absolve us, as doctor of vital forces, from our primary responsibility of managing the basic architectural resolution in consonance with the forces of nature and the local context.

So the debate is not about shying away from the technological advancements but rather  to let it play as second fiddle and not to hide architectural fallacies behind the facades of energy intensive technologies. Through history we have known of full wall openings or undeterred views but we resolved them either as perforated Jaaliwalls in Rajput or Islamic phase or as stained glass openings in colonial phase. Both discouraged ingress of heat and yet provided extended views from inside out while protected outsider’s peek within. Smaller apertures of Jaalicreated microclimate features to induce velocity of air and cooling of air particle through Ventury and Bernoulli’s principle respectively. There is no logic for omission of overhangs for curtain glazed western or Southern facades in present day buildings, in our extreme hot climate condition. We seem to have left our bearings somewhere…

Here is a quick overview of the range of architectural resolutions and approaches as explored in our architecture.

Manavsadhna Activity Centre 

  • The building uses fly ash bricks, dump fill site waste residue bricks, stabilised soil blocks, wood crate panels, glass bottles and waste filled plastic bottles etc. for walling options
    The building uses fly ash bricks, dump fill site waste residue bricks, stabilised soil blocks, wood crate panels, glass bottles and waste filled plastic bottles etc. for walling options
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Manavsadhna Activity Centre <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Manavsadhna Activity Centre 
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.

Manavsadhna Activity Centre is the very different interpretation of sustainability. A community centre in a squatter settlement, it uses the building components recycled from the domestic and municipal waste. The entire building is the demonstrative application of waste recycled products indigenously developed. Recycling the waste answers the call of environment through reduced pollution, empowers and employs the poor through value addition processes, and helps towards affordable and durable housing as these products are cheaper and more performing than the present options. The building uses fly ash bricks, dump fill site waste residue bricks, stabilised soil blocks, wood crate panels, glass bottles and waste filled plastic bottles etc. for walling options. It uses cement bonded sheets with clay tiles, stone slabs, glass-plastic bottle filled filler slabs etc. for the roofing, wrapping waste reinforced F.R.P., oil tin container panelling, wood crate panelling etc. for the doors and windows and in parts waste-fly ash-china mosaic tiles and blocks for flooring. These become live demonstrations for the urban poor to emulate in their homes.

Environmental Sanitation Institute

  • Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Environmental Sanitation Institute, rural taluk of Sughad, Gandhinagar
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.

Environmental Sanitation Institute is a combination of solar passive as well as solar active strategies. Located in the rural taluk of Sughad in Gandhinagar, the design attempts to retain the rustic ambience of the place. Informal space organization, low skylines, ground hugging profiles replete with plinths and courts, simple material and technology and the imageabilty of distinct parts of the otherwise contiguous built-form through the roof are some of the design features in this attempt. Soil management through cut and fill approach, land as reproductive resource through cultivation, breaking the mass into chequered board pattern of the built and un built to optimise outdoors as active extension of indoors, north-eastern orientation for daytime use spaces while South-western orientation for the night time use spaces, mutual shading through taller masses in south and west, projecting profiles of upper floors and roofs for sun shading, ventilated cavity wall construction for active insulation, ferrocement shell roofs for optimisation of structural stresses and reduced material consumption, vaulted roof forms for volume optimisation within, over two million litres of rain water harvesting in cistern, percolating well as well as an open pond, recycling of waste through natural plant based root zone system, generation of methane gas through bio-gas digesters attached to the toilet waste, use of low water sanitary pans, fertilising of the compost, saving of finishing material and maintenance through exposed brick external surfaces, frameless fenestrations, louvered-glazed and perforated window combinations for light-view and ventilation, interactive courtyard and terraces for outdoor use, solar active applications as water heater, solar cooking (100persons), solar photovoltaic panels producing electricity are some of the nuances applied at the institute that provides training in the areas of alternative low cost solutions for rural sanitation.

Gandhi-nu-Gam: Ludiya,  Kutchchh

  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert  <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert <br> photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    photographs: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
  • Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert
    Bhunga: Celebrating life amidst adversities of desert

The devastating earthquake measuring 6.9 at Richter scale struck the state of Gujarat in India on 26th January 2001, leaving more than 20,000 persons dead and millions homeless.  The worst hit was the region of Kutch. Virtually the desert, it has limited natural resources for basic sustenance.  However, people are full of resilience and sustain through handicraft and skills. The hamlets have circular adobe dwellings with a conical thatch roof, which are richly embellished with clay and mirror work relief.  Thus, it is a complete milieu where art, culture and architecture are symbiotically interwoven and cannot be separated.  It was therefore important to recognize that any redevelopment effort should be holistic and should not disrupt the established chain of sustenance.  Continuum of long set traditions yet introduction of the element of “new” for progressive change was the need of the situation.

Gandhi nu gam was developed entirely through user participation where inhabitants were involved in all key aspects of development such as selection of site, layout plan with location of plot and choice of neighbours, self help house construction, provision of amenities and services. A holistic development where not only shelter system but also economic activities, service infrastructure. and support amenities provision, craft development and natural resource management were included to make the living environment complete and sustainable.  A total of 455 Bhungas – circular traditional dwellings in earthquake resistant adobe block construction, Schools, Health centre, Grass bank, Shrines, House to house sanitation blocks, solar lighting, Rain water harvesting ponds, Check-dams are built. Craft and agriculture has also been rejuvenated. Thus the rehabilitation has been sustainable from the point of view of its socio-cultural appropriateness, environmental management, Earthquake resistance, Economic opportunities and support amenities provision.

Thus Green comes in various shades. It is a phenomenon and not a formula. It is a concept more than a configuration.  As architects we alter the landscape forever and as responsible professional we need to understand and own its consequence. Green has to be our resolve rather than mere rendering.

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