Green Structures

The awareness about effects of green-house gases and carbon footprints, which are prominent by-products of modern living, have given the essential push towards developing technologies that will not only reduce the strain our buildings put on the environmental resources but will also help put our ecosystem closer to its original state. Cities like Portland, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai etc. are promoting construction of architectural solutions which use renewable energy and harvest/ treat water to design buildings with low or zero carbon footprint. There are some excellent prototypes of high efficiency buildings that can co-exist in their environment without impairing it, while providing better quality of life for their residents.
Organizations like IGBC (Indian Green building Council) LEED Rating Systems and TERI”s GRIHA are aimed towards driving making green of buildings. IGBC’s Green SEZ Rating System which is in addition to IGBC Green Homes and IGBC Factory Building are steps in right direction for the sustainable futures of India’s large scale built environment. The development authorities in India like MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) are taking some steps towards their sustainable futures. Their initiative –‘Eco-housing’ is developed to promote environmentally conscious developments in the city.
These initiatives promote green technologies like use of solar power, wind power, green roofs, passive design strategies, energy efficient materials and efficient building systems and studies suggest they have been effectively reducing the carbon footprints of the buildings. The interest in such technologies around the world has led to a lot of research and out of the box design ideas which we must call attention to and may be use according their applicability.
Some of the best known solutions in this area are in solar energy which could be easily used to become part of our daily life. New solar cells are developed which are thin, colored, translucent and flexible have been developed by institutes like ‘Ecole Polytechnique fédéral de Lausanne’. These solar cells are used to make prototypes for innovative functions like solar walls, solar refrigerators and even solar public furniture which can glow at night. Ample availability of sunlight in India and the shortages in our power infrastructure, especially in distribution, make solar energy an attractive option in making our buildings more livable and self-reliant.
“Biomimetic” or “Regenerative” architecture, though at nascent stages, is another very promising idea which essentially aims at making buildings function like ecosystems. Biomimetic Architecture applies insights from nature to the built environment which sometimes translates into mimicking specific functions of organisms or their habitats. In other cases some buildings are conceived as closed-loop ecosystems that, like a forest, draw their energy from the elements and produce zero net waste. Institutes like International Living Building Institute are doing a notable job in this field. Biomimetic Architecture is seen as a significant force that may change the way we see our built environment. The aim of this methodology is to ultimately have a built environment that works not as a foil for nature, but be as seamlessly integrated with it as possible.
The next concept creating waves in green building design is ‘urban farming’, i.e. utilizing unused land in urban areas to grow herb fruits and vegetables for local consumption. Some designers have taken this one step further by using vertical and horizontal surfaces of buildings for urban farming. They are also developing green roofs into urban farms thus reducing heat island effect and also alleviating the food shortage.
Though many of these new concepts are at an experimental stage, they are all products of painstaking research by institutes from around the world. Combined together they do provide a platter full of options for the designers and planners of modern Indian cities. As we proceed to build these structures, many of whom could be our legacy for the centuries to come, we hope we can do so while keeping our societies debt-free from their ecosystem.

Reflect
Creative Commons License photo credit: PMT.CR

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