Renowned British Statesman, Winston Churchill, once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.” The thought raised many eyebrows and was even mocked by few at first. Can a building or a structure actually bring a change in our way of living? Though not visibly related, housing patterns and human lifestyle share a closely-knit bond with each other. One of the core elements in construction — architecture — holds within itself a greater power to uplift human lives. A clear reflection to this is the historic remains of Indus Valley Civilization. The artistically planned city layouts based on a street grid of rectilinear buildings at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, two of the world’s most ancient urban settlements, reflects the civilization’s disciplined life.
Architecture in reality is a planned approach to create life spaces that will suit or benefit the respective occupants. The arrangement of rooms, partition walls, doors, windows and location of the structure, rightly determines the level of social interaction among inhabitants. The impact even extends to our spending on fundamentals like electricity, transport utilities, food and lifestyle. The art of architecture is thus an effective mode to communicate the values of life and a sense of place. Architects, on the other hand, play a critical and an unavoidable role in shaping the environment for a ‘Quality Life’.
Closeness to Mother Nature is a critical determinant to lead a ‘Quality Life’. Unfortunately, the rapid advancements in technology and increasing complexities in construction have widened the gap between nature and our living habitats. But, can we achieve a ‘Quality Life’ by being detached from the very roots of our existence?
Thanks to the thoughtful realization of architects, ‘sustainability’ has today emerged as a mantra for effective construction. The five key areas witnessing a responsible change in the approach are – earth, water, air, energy and usage of building materials.
- Landscaping: An important element in the construction process, proper landscaping is critical to alter the microclimate of a structure. Proper landscaping can effectively control the internal and external heat generated within a building. Moreover, it can also advantageously benefit to manage the wind pressures and airflow patterns – i.e. to either direct or divert the wind. Expanding vegetation based landscape is the other critical trend being adopted in the realty sector.
- Natural Ventilation: According to International Energy Agency, buildings account to about 40% of the primary energy consumed. Considering the depleting nature of resources, our current energy consumption pattern calls for an immediate attention. If not addressed immediately, this can also lead our coming generations to a darker future. Increasing the scope of natural ventilation is one such favorable move practiced today. Apart from minimizing the energy usage by less than 60%, natural ventilation in buildings will also improve the air quality for the occupants.
- Water bodies: Water, one among the five core natural elements, is an effective modifier of microclimate. Placement of water bodies, in the form of fountains, artificial waterfalls, ponds or swimming pools, is an attractive and thoughtful practice being incorporated in today’s townships. While absorbing a large amount of heat being evaporated, these water bodies strategically help to maintain cool internal environments.
- Renewable Rewards: According to a report by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), buildings contribute to about one third of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. Residential buildings in particular consume upto 40% of the overall energy. The depleting nature of fossil fuels calls for an immediate action in addressing this concern. Thanks to the advancements in technology, we humans have started to potentially utilize the renewable energy resources. While solar remains as a favorite in the metros and urban areas, wind has become the vital energy resource for the inhabitants from remote locations. Solar panels, solar powered water heaters and even HVACs are few among the eco-friendly products widely embraced by the realty sector.
- Building Materials: Choice of the materials that go into construction is as important as the process itself. The usage of efficient building materials, especially the ones with recyclable properties, can be rightly called as the most thoughtful approach. For instance, asphalt shingles, which might contain about 35% of asphalt cement, can be effectively used as a key paving material. A perfect choice of recyclable construction material also results in reducing the total quantity of the waste stream and thereby makes the building more eco-friendly.
While sustainability remains as a buzz word for the construction industry, planning socially responsible living spaces has become the moolah mantra for today’s architects. Responsible architecture can be thus defined on two core pillars – a) sustainable designs that can eliminate or minimize negative impacts on environment and b) creating life spaces that connects inhabitants to natural environment.