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Path to Sustainability

“Sustainability has no bench marks. It is the need of the day to design responsive built environment which knits and fits with nature. The more we respect nature, more humane the environment becomes. “

Understanding this rationale, Ar. Rajiv Khanna expresses his views on this simple yet crucial aspect of design!

More than 50% of the world’s population is living in cities which is food for thought. There is a need to re-densify and re-define them in order to create better infrastructure such that it proves advantageous to people as individuals as also provides for the social, economic and environmental development of the society. The ever increasing urbanization and the consequent increase in demand for resources are leading to serious issues of sustainability. Society tends to take a backseat when people strive merely for individual benefits; the overall growth gets hampered.

Cities and townships are being constructed to facilitate the influx of and the day-to-day requirements of people. Continued exploitation of the environment is showing consequences now. The need to not only safeguard nature but also try to replenish it has become a necessity today. While the infrastructure is being expanded and new technologies being incorporated to make everyday life easy, it is time we introspect on the ignored issues - Are we really making our livelihood easier? Are we in the process of complicating it by adding layers of infrastructure without focusing on the overall design? Is the harm being caused to our environment, reversible?

While on one hand India has a vision to create 100 Smart Cities using smarter technology to create intelligent buildings and systems, on the other hand we are unabashedly destroying the environment.

Buildings are responsible for a large portion of our emissions, and designing green buildings which rest lightly on the ground, is no rocket science. Firstly, the primary criteria for construction & architectural design are the use of a process creating zero waste. Secondly, the building must be able to adapt to changes and mature along with its occupants. Thirdly, as a product of the first two criteria, the building must have the ability to be disassembled in part or in whole to be re-assembled, reused, or re-manufactured. Inter weaving the above three criteria, a sustainable yet economically viable design can be achieved.

What we need to do, is to amalgamate technology and sustainability to generate overall benefit to the people and the global environment, as a whole. Instead of focusing on just the engineering and technological solutions, emphasis needs to be given to social dynamics of urban life, such that concentration is on global environmental aspects.

Going back in time, we can sight various examples wherein environment was respected and conscientiously appreciated by our ancestors. Step wells or ‘baolis’ were created at appropriate locations in accordance with the topography, slope and depressions of the Indian terrain.

In modern times, cities like San Francisco and Vancouver are the leading green cities of the world. They are known to encompass people and the natural environment in the most value-based evolutionary manner. With mandatory composting, garbage segregation, green dining, development of public parks, dedicated bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways, these cities have ensured wider participation of citizens in the implementation of sustainability while cultivating a healthy lifestyle and active living. San Francisco currently recycles 78% of its waste.

As Architects, designers and developers, we need to adopt and create passive strategies such that all large scale buildings follow mandatory construction techniques that cause minimum pollution and other damages to the environment while conserving non-renewable energy resources.

Citing Chandigarh as an example of an ideally planned city, we can illustrate how cities can function better with enhanced planning and relative architecture. Instead of being blindly influenced by the architecture of the western world for mere cosmetic treatments, we should understand and adopt the values of our vernacular architecture that originated from the diverse and rich topography, climate and environment, unique to each place in India.

Working on the same lines, Studio KIA’s current ongoing project is an expansive township “Crescent Parc” in Gurgaon. Sprawling over nearly 49 acres with an additional 17 acres alongside, this development is a mini township in itself with over 4500 dwelling units. The vision is to treat the township as a town itself and engulf the town with green areas while restoring and preserving the already existing green areas. Studio KIA addresses the need of each individual to establish unique environments which serve as bespoke backdrops for the daily lives of its inhabitants.

We need to sensitize ourselves to the adverse effects on ecosystems and take a conscious organized approach towards rebuilding and resurrecting our cities to create sustainable and habitable environments with effective design solutions. For this purpose, we need to prioritize net-zero and net-positive buildings and cities. Each building relies on exceptional energy conservation to meet all of its heating, cooling and energy needs such that their annual usage of energy is equal to the net renewable energy they produce on site. These buildings are not only energy conserving but also store and purify water along with rain water/storm water harvesting. Additionally they carry out solid waste management and reduce, recycle and reuse the waste to save resources and the environment. The agenda today is to conserve energy resources.

Also, urbanization does not mean just constructing high-rises, it includes creating and designing cities with green societies, well-planned neighborhoods, net zero buildings and intelligent architecture.

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