One assumes green architecture is a fairly new concept "a building designed to relatively lessen the damage caused to the environment and saving energy, as opposed to the usual concrete structures". But architect Vidur Bhardwaj, managing partner, Design and Development, dismisses the newness associated with green architecture.
"It was started in India approximately 1,000 years ago, and was a way of life," he says, explaining that the havelis of the yesteryears had thick walls, jharokas and jaali windows that cooled the air along with waterbodies in the central courtyard.
"Green architecture has been part of our civilisation that started getting lost in the 1920s. Like most other Indian concepts that have caught on in the West, to be later aped by India, green architecture too is seeing a similar trajectory," he adds.
Even if the trend is being aped, Bhardwaj holds the distinction of designing a green building "the new Wipro Technologies Development Centre in Gurgaon, spread over 1.2 acres for 1,300 occupants, that has been felicitated by the US Green Building Council with a Leeds Certified Platinum rating".
Incorporating the concepts of green architecture from start to finish of the project, with three intensive months of research on green architecture prior to the start of the project, Bhardwaj's design for Wipro's new green building is also the largest platinum-rated green building in Asia.
A green building concept aims at making an eco-friendly, high performance, low wastage and intelligent building, which is sustainable along with having a minimal negative impact on the environment. "It also aims at the conservation of energy and resources at every level," says Bhardwaj, "to even save the top soil and the trees on the project site."
Even Wipro Technologies Development Centre's courtyard design is inspired by the traditional inward looking haveli plan that performs varied functions "designed to form a light well, it acts as a micro-climate generator, thus reducing energy consumption; mutual shading of the courtyard walls keeps them cooler than outside walls; a big water-body and vegetation in the middle of the courtyard reduces its temperature by evaporative cooling".
"Free cooling method or blowing natural air that passes through air filters is used for the building, again saving on electricity by not using air-conditioners," says Bhardwaj.
As a green architecture project requires intensive research, day-to-day parameters and time constraints restrict people from applying the concept, even though they might be interested.
Bhardwaj points to essential elements usually overlooked "Channeling the direction of sunlight and wind, insulating walls, or having the right kind of windows".
Bhardwaj and his team gave the Wipro Technologies Development Centre's green building AAC walls, insulated rooftops and terrace gardens that again reduce the solar gain of the building.
Further, grass concrete pavers on the outside surface of the building area reduce storm water run-off and decrease the heat-island effect caused by asphalt pavers. Also, the terrace gardens at various levels and the grass concrete pavers help to filter sediments and pollutants from storm water before it reaches the rainwater-harvesting pits.
Contrary to the belief that a green building escalates cost of construction, the Wipro green building project proved its feasibility to Wipro Technologies. "The total energy conserved is 46 per cent in terms of electricity saved, whereas the total extra cost was only 6 per cent, which is recoverable in a span of 18 months. That's a big win," says Bhardwaj.
Ironically, since green buildings reduce energy costs in the long run, India has only 30 green buildings out of the millions raised each year. And with the success of the green building designed for Wipro Technologies and the "tremendous response it created," Bhardwaj is busy with two other green projects, one for a corporate and other for the largest developer in the country.
He believes that green architecture has a "big future, once the government (promotes it with incentives, tax exemptions and loans), developers, architects and the people realise the importance of its potential".
After all, "It's all about being conscious about the environment," says Bhardwaj.
Green points at Wipro Technologies Development Centre
82.2% of the total roof area is green, covered with terrace gardens
27% of the external area has concrete grass pavers and 17% is covered with vegetation
100% of the water is recycled
50% of occupants have personalised temperature, light and thermal conditions
75% of the area is daylit
95% of workspaces have direct access to outside view
46% saving in the electricity bill by channeling natural light and air
Wood used in construction of building sourced from shipwrecks from Jamnagar port
Cafeteria furniture hand-picked from chor bazaars (flea markets)
Leftover building material used for landscaping external area
Photocell-based controls automatically dim available light based on daylight, reducing energy wastage