The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its latest press release, said a global goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is the minimum requirement to limit the increase in temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius. One of the biggest contributors to global emissions is building operations, which accounts for about 28%, and construction-related industries (cement, glass, etc.) add another 10%. Factories and power plants contribute a significant portion of these greenhouse gas emissions.

Studies suggest that construction sector emissions could be reduced in India by 270 million tonnes between 2016 and 2060. This is a wake-up call for architects and designers. Urgent reassessment is needed to determine how the design, construction and operation of buildings can be improved to limit environmental impact while improving performance.

Designing for the climate

Sustainable buildings fundamentally consume less energy during construction and operation and have a longer lifespan than conventional buildings. These buildings typically use simple design principles that respond to their climate and context. Chief among these is building layout and configuration, which can help reduce electricity consumption by limiting heat penetration (known as solar heat gain) and improving heat circulation. the air through natural ventilation. For example, the size and orientation of windows can determine the amount of daylight and the intake of fresh air into the building. Large windows to the north, skylights (such as open courtyards or aangans that let in daylight), and skylights maximize the entry of daylight, reducing dependence on artificial lighting. Likewise, strategically designed windows that catch the wind can also improve cross-ventilation, reducing reliance on air conditioning.

We can also take advantage of frugal, centuries-old building practices to control internal temperatures and minimize construction costs. Thick walls work best in hot, dry areas because they prevent heat from entering the building, unlike thin walls. Inset windows with jaalis (screens) and chajjas (eaves), commonly used in traditional architecture, can provide shade and promote cooling. In humid regions, buildings can be designed to be ‘porous’, using lightweight materials, perforations and large openings to let in cool breezes that improve the level of comfort inside. Adopting these simple and cost effective design strategies can go a long way in reducing energy bills as well as harmful emissions.

A New Breath: Creative Reuse of Buildings and Materials

Environmental and economic constraints are making new construction increasingly unsustainable in the world we inhabit today. Bangalore, for example, alone produces nearly 3,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste every day, much of which ends up in undesignated landfills, leading to unprecedented levels of waste and pollution.

It is usually cheaper and faster to repurpose an existing building for new functions than to erect new infrastructure from scratch. Across India, countless factories and power stations lie vacant or disused, with much of their original infrastructure still intact. These dilapidated buildings have the potential to be creatively adapted to accommodate contemporary use. Careful planning and concerted efforts in their revitalization and restoration can provide substantial returns on investment and contribute to cost and energy savings. These existing facilities can be retrofitted to accommodate modern machinery, maximize production efficiency and meet employee needs.

Even with new construction, there are ways to reduce environmental impact and improve building performance. Facilities could be designed using modular structural components that can be easily disassembled and reassembled to perform evolving functions. This approach is geared towards the idea of ​​the circular economy, a model of production and consumption that aims to keep waste to a minimum through the reuse and recycling of materials. As demolishing existing infrastructure and building new can no longer continue without taking into account the energy and environmental impact of buildings, the opportunities offered by the principles of the circular economy deserve a thorough and urgent application.

Explore flexibility, adaptability and modularity

Today’s industrial facilities must also adapt to the ever-changing demands of the information age, with disruptive technologies continuously impacting production systems, manufacturing processes and supply chains. ‘supply. The building plan and layout must support the seamless production, processing and administrative functions of a facility to create a highly efficient system. For example, an open plan with reconfigurable flexible partitions allows multiple functions to be performed, either simultaneously or over the course of a day, month or year. This ability to adapt to changing uses extends the life of the building, reduces waste and translates into economic and environmental savings.

Socially inclusive design
Conventional factories conjure up images of appalling working conditions with workers working in dimly lit environments without basic safety rules. The design can significantly improve the nature of the comfort, safety, health and well-being of factory workers.

In addition to the economic and environmental aspects of sustainability, designing a facility that addresses the physical and psychological well-being of its occupants is paramount for the times in which we live. A non-hierarchical planning approach that allows all levels of management and plant workers to come together by creating congregational spaces promotes a healthy and inclusive work environment. The ancillary provisions for rest, relaxation, catering, etc., become prerequisites that generate this idea of ​​social sustainability that is not very characteristic of these types of buildings.

Globally, many sectors and organizations are embracing the tools necessary to keep our economic engines running while setting emissions targets that will limit warming to 1.5°C. The central role of architecture and urban planning in this endeavor cannot be overstated – and now is the time to act.

(Writer is Principal at Studio Lotus)