Friday May 25, 2018

Decoded: Making housing eco-friendly

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New Delhi: Why not build houses the environmentally friendly way? That is a question an increasing number of people across the developing world – environmentalists, town planners, architects and others – have been asking of late.

For those in the business of building houses, the question is more pertinent and the one they have been asking of themselves as well as of others. Understandably so, because the ramifications of what we build and what materials we use are far-reaching and long-term, as it affects the energy consumption of a building.

“I think when designing we should not lose the context and purpose of our existence. We are all designing as if there is no tomorrow and consuming as if ours is the last generation on the planet,” Delhi-based architect Akshay Kaul rued while speaking to a media channel.

Kaul’s observation came in the context of increasing use of glass in the buildings, especially the facades, in India over the last two decades.

“Glass came in fashion in colder European countries as it allowed more sunlight and helped keep buildings warm. In warmer countries such as India, excessive use of glass increases energy demand of the building as it radiates a lot of heat,” K.T. Ravindran, dean of the School of Planning and Architecture here, told the media outlet.

“Glass affects a building’s environment as well as the environment outside by radiating heat,” said Ravindran, former chairman of the Delhi Urban Art Commission, adding: “People are doing it because they think it is in vogue.”

The observation is echoed by Kaul, who specialises in the field of ecological planning and sustainable architecture and has more than 20 years’ experience in India and the US.

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“Most buildings in India were green almost until two or three decades ago. The trend changed as we started imitating buildings from the West, which had facades essentially of glass,” said Kaul.

“It is like first creating a furnace and then cooling a building – in the process sending heat out once again and using energy in the form of electricity to cool the building.

“The electricity comes from either drowning villages or towns and dislocating people or submerging arable land or depleting natural resources,” Kaul emphasised.

The green building movement has taken off in the past 10 years. According to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(r)), which certifies green building standards, over 3.6 billion square feet or 69,000 buildings have so far been certified in 150 countries.

By definition, the design of green buildings minimizes impact on the environment by reducing the use of energy and water. Environmental disturbance is also limited during the building process and by the choice of the building site.

Kaul is however not completely against the use of glass in making a building green.

“The problem is not glass but how much glass. Glass unfortunately means a lot of glare and heat in our climatic context,” he added.

Manish Bagga, senior architect at Gurgaon’s Arcop Associates, agreed.

“You cannot do without glass. You can’t have a totally opaque building. Instead, the amount of heat coming in can be regulated through judicious use – the right combination of glass and opaque masonry,” Bagga said.

Another option, according to him, is to use low emissivity or Low-E glass which is expensive but pays in the long run as it does not allow in heat.

“Avoid glass in south and west direction as the sunlight is intense when the sun is in the southern and western direction. Use it in the eastern direction as sunlight is mild in the morning,” Bagga explained.

Insulation on the rooftop with material such as expanded polyethylene can prevent a building from heating up.

According to Ravindran, one of the leading voices in the country on urban design, a badly planned structure not only drains its own energy resources but also affects the surrounding environment.

On the other hand, several studies have found that better indoor environmental quality translates into occupants’ better physical and mental health.

(IANS)

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Ecological Harmony as Understood by India Sages

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”.

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Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience.

By Salil Gewali, Shillong

The initiative often taken by a bureaucrat, Deputy Commissioner of Garo Hills (Meghalaya) to prohibit the use of bottled water is an outcome of a great awakening indeed. A long journey of 1000 miles starts with one small step. Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical. A proper understanding of the ecology that we are part of and the degradation that is happening to it, should make us “aware” of the contribution that we make towards its overall degeneration. If we dig deeper we can well realize that due to our own acts of commission we are being caught off balance!

Of course there are endless causes for environmental degradation, but the major causes is large scale deforestation, commercial mining (for our state I call it senseless-mining), rapid industrialization and urbanization. One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience. So when we try to understand who is responsible for the environmental degradation, it would be a good thing to turn inwards and rectify things at our end as well.

Mostly we tend to argue, as “what a big deal about one plastic bag today” or “it is one plastic spoon, what harm would it cause?”.  At an individual level, it does not seem to make much difference but the challenge here is that there are too many people who think “it is just this one thing today”. For example, there could be instances wherein when stuck in a traffic jam, one might have felt out of sheer frustration “Why does everyone have to take out a vehicle? “. This is a thought process that most of us have, where the cause of the problem is largely shifted to others while completely failing to realize that we are also to blame for the problem. A little introspection, that could be a question to the self “why did I take out a vehicle?”

According to some sources, nearly 12 million tones of plastic are consumed every year in India. There are certain uses of plastic that are unavoidable, but something like a plastic bag has alternatives and we could do well by avoiding it. Equally harmful, sometimes more dangerous, are the pouched-items which decorate these days each individual grocery/pan/ shop. Countless fancy items, plastic toys, chips and cookies all are attractively packed in the plastic itself. Too regrettably, we easy-going-parents, instead of buying nutritious “grains/chanas/badam” and dry fruits for our kids, we rush to buy cheesy and fizzy chips, while we gorge ourselves with pouchy Rajnigandha, varieties of addictive gutka and zarda for our freshmen which were till recently wrapped in hard plastic paper. The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant. This all shows how the government itself is blind and deaf to the thunder of obnoxious decadence!  Look at how we all, and the government system, are culpable for contaminating the Mother Earth and also the environment of our inner physical being.  One wonders when we shall resolve to change our lifestyle, our practice, our greed-guided consumerism which are only standing out as the formidable threat to the whole ecosystem!

India’s Literature: The Western Thinkers Spellbound by India’s Literary Wisdom

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”. The latter two are far more significant, inherently with us, and subtly enduring which we “carry” along even after the death. Very interestingly, this vast discipline had been studied with one-pointed determination in India since past 7000 years back (even more).  Indeed, this knowledge has extensively been adopted by the Western knowledge seekers. The ‘Laws of KARMA’ give a partial insight into this “universally holistic study”. In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation. They realized that each being, after having taken the birth on this planet, must endeavor to bring the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions in “complete HARMONY” and “sail through” the worldly sufferings. The first step is to control the MIND and turn it into a “slave”, not like with us now — being the “slave” of our mind which is normally chaotically littered with material desires, and as result, the vision remain unclear. It only forms the “opinion”, often considers as “true”, based on personal likes and dislikes which need not be flawlessly right.

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Once the MIND is controlled it obviously helps open the doorway to see the ultimate TRUTH as it is and also helps feel the ultimate bliss. This discipline of the Vedanta alone can make one capable to realize that all individual objects in the universe are “non-separable”, they are intrinsically interconnected, ecologically interdependent and supremely divine. The material manifestation is only the physical projection of the ALL-KNOWING-ENERGY. 

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant.

This grand KNOWLEDGE of SUPREME ECOLOGY of INDIA intensely inspired Erwin Schrodinger, best known as the father of Quantum Mechanics, he proclaimed: “Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS and there is no MULTIPLICITY of selves.” This knowledge of Vedanta of the East helped the Nobel laureate Schrodinger in conceptualizing his “Schrodinger Wave Equation” based on the “Dynamic Unity of all Entities” in the universe.