Any home owner who wants to design/remodel their space might have heard the terms “sustainable architecture” or “green architecture”. What is it and why it’s important? To give you a simplified idea, sustainable architecture advocates the design methods that conserves water, efficient energy usage and to live one with nature. There is an on-going research throughout the world regarding this and architects have come up with many great methods to replace conservative methods with environmental friendly designs. To make it super simple, let me give you a simple, easy to understand examples of how the conservative designing methods can be replaced with sustainable design.
1. Energy efficient design
In a sub-continent climate like in India, the climate gets really hot and humid and there seems to be no way to keep things cool in summer without an air conditioner. Using air conditioners has risen exponentially, which creates a huge demand for power generation and a key reason for global warming. Now to construct new power stations to meet this huge demand, the construction cost/energy usage/water usage increases per power station and it again impacts the environment. So it goes on and on like a chain reaction, you get the point right?
You might think that in ancient times how people kept their homes cool despite of very warm temperature. Apart from sprinkling waters to the floors and roofs which the Egyptians did, there were some simple ideas that got forgotten or replaced with new methods now.
a. Usage of lime instead of cement:
Pre-cement era, people were using limestone for the same purpose of cement. Using limestone they’ve built bridges, dams and what not. Limestone is a porous material and allows the ventilation of heat radiation but gets blocked using concrete cement. The concrete cement is non-porous and it cannot absorb the heat radiation. It typically radiates the heat radiation from the ceiling to the floor hence making the entire room/building hot. But usage of limestone keeps the heat away and cools the room which helps in reduction of energy usage (Fan, AC).
b. Smart natural light usage:
Using the natural light for the home lighting is always downplayed but it is the most important aspect of energy saving methods. Creating smart ventilation that can create a natural air flow within a room/building can save your electricity bills. If done right, the day lighting is more than enough for lighting the home without using electrical lights and the cross ventilation is more than enough to create a cool air breeze across your room/home, create cool air pockets, vertical vents to get the hot air out to minimize the fan and air conditioner usage. Of course there are pre requisites for creating perfect cross ventilations but it can be worked upon depending upon the actual home conditions. But hey, something is better than nothing right?
c. Using natural materials instead of processed:
You might have heard of terracotta or athangudi tiles. Do you know what makes them an excellent flooring option? If you have been to a mud house or seen mud pot, no matter what the temperature is outside, the mud flooring and walls keep the room cool. Since the main ingredient of these tiles is clay, it helps in keeping the floor/wall cool. Using of wooden/bamboo materials also helps to regulate the temperature and humidity inside which can greatly reduce your energy consumption. Also usage of natural materials creates a natural harmony and gives you the soothing calm feeling.
2. Conserving and recycling water usage.
Conserving water is a global phenomenon now. A recent scientific study states that in 2040, 70% of the world’s fresh water reserves will be depleted and there will be a huge demand for the same. So conserving water usage is need of the hour now. Instead of using free flowing taps, using the tap that creates a water bubble in such a force that the usage of water is reduced to over 50% can be used. Recycling our domestic waste water is a wonderful way to conserve water usage. It requires a water treatment plant which will clean/regulate and distribute the water to the gardens/swimming pools etc.
3. To live one with nature.
Nature and the living beings are here to co-exist, but the reality is different. We destroy forests, commercialize/industrialize lands (Which is inevitable) which disturbs the eco system and hence results in global warming, natural disasters etc. When raising a foundation for a building in sloped/tapered land, is it mandatory to plough the land and level it using human labour and machines? I think not. It can be avoided in 90% cases by adapting to the slope and can create a foundation which accommodates the slope. Instead of ploughing/removing trees to build a house, it can be designed in such a way that the building should accommodate the existing trees.
These are very few and simplified concepts of sustainable architecture. It is a vast topic and requires a great understanding to implement. The prime time is now for an environmental friendly design that can save the future tomorrow.