Smart cities are obviously going to be designed as green because they will be new cities

Smart cities are obviously going to be designed as green because they will be new cities

We should start looking at not only fundamentals of Indian culture and how it has influenced the architecture movement of the past Zubin Cooper, CEO, Bentel Associates Realty Design Consultants Pvt. Ltd

When it comes to sustainability people often tend to confuse smart buildings with green buildings, what is your take on the same?

A smart building can be and should be a green building. Essentially a smart city takes its precedence from a flawless infrastructure at a technical level, in terms of IT and how it engages with the local infrastructure. I believe smart cities are greener in nature but it also includes fibre optics, IT, IoT, high speed transportation etc. A green building specifically addresses the building’s energy footprint and minimizes its impact on the environment.

What according to you is a green building and what are the benefits of having a green building?

A green building is a building that significantly reduces the energy consumption and the carbon footprint on any site. A green building also tends to lasts longer because it is designed using natural materials. It has a positive impact on the economy of the adjoining community since it is devised using local materials or materials which are procured locally.

When it comes to architecture and urban planning in the current time period, what should be the focus areas?

We should start looking at not only the fundamentals of Indian culture and how it has influenced the architecture movement of the past; we should also be looking at ways of addressing the unplanned development in certain cities. The level of density has increased and we possibly cannot fall back on what was once a very strong infrastructure. It can’t happen anymore. There has to be a responsibility. I feel very strongly for that, excess of greed or excess of wealth won’t make a building green. A green building is immediately not green when it goes over certain heights and that is something our skyline is littered with. 

The west has started having a good deal of influence on Indian architecture, considering that the seasons and climates are different, how efficient are they when it comes to the green aspect.

This is a very big question; there are loads of questions in this question. To simplify it, I think the contemporary architecture influenced the east because post war it had lost its direction in terms of where it is going aesthetically. Whether it is good or bad for India is arguable. But I think pure contemporary architecture is being challenged in India. At Bentle we always look at ways of integrating eastern flavours, decorative features, and using them in a contemporary way. 

When it comes to architecture and design, who are your role models?

I would have to say Corbusier and what he did to Chandigarh was very refreshing very innovative for its time. Another architect I have always been fascinated by is Charles Correa. I think Charles Correa is one of the most prolific planners and architects that India has had in the last century. I say so because he has touched upon rural and the urban settings of the nation. His planned villages were ahead of time and mandated the inclusion of court yards and communal areas so that people had dedicated spaces to keep their cattle and a space to socialise.

When it comes to green buildings, can you site some projects which come to your mind where design has acted as a front runner in facilitating the green building rating, getting the proper rating?

One of our projects Thane One - Corporate IT Park is an environmentally conscious complex with a green ambience built to LEED PLATINUM standards. I think the core reason for that success was that the foot print of the building was respected. The shrubs were cleared and trees were planted for any tree that had to be uprooted at the site. Care was taken not to uproot any mature trees. The design of the building was carved out to create open spaces. The open spaces in the upper floor were designed to make way for shade and greenery besides acting as a focal point for social amenities for everyone in the building.

In case of buildings, 20 to 30 years old how can one make them green?

If the integrity of the structure is fine then the first thing to be looked at is the cladding of the building. If the cladding can be taken off quiet safely, and replaced with a good cladding keeping in mind the aspect of thermal mass, it would serve the purpose. Efforts should be taken to incorporate both active and passive means to make the building green. Harnessing the wind too is a great idea, micro wind turbines, can be installed on the top of buildings. Likewise the use of solar panels can add to the factor of self sufficiency. Treating grey water is another step. With proper treatment grey water can be put to good use. Treated grey water can be used to irrigate both food and non food producing plants. Re-using water will not diminish the quality of life; instead it will reduce the need for fresh water. Saving on fresh water use can significantly reduce household water bills; it also has a broader community benefit in reducing the demand on public water supply. Reusing grey water will reduce the amount of wastewater entering sewers or on-site treatment systems. Again, this can benefit the individual household, and the broader community.

What’s the importance of design and urban planning in a sustainable environment?

Urban planning in itself is a multi faceted discipline which takes into account numerous parameters which include social, economic and political certainties. All these factors are taken into consideration to find the best possible solution which will work in different situations. In the Indian context it requires a good deal of R&D since India is a country within a country, culture within a culture, ethnicities within the ethnicities, cast within cast , languages within languages. It’s a wonderful mosaic but along with there has to be an understanding of how it is going to move on.

The skyline in India is changing thanks to the burgeoning population and influx in the urban areas, what are the best practices you believe should be adopted to ensure these structures will be sustainable and stand the test of time?

India has to start thinking of developing responsibly and intelligently. Density, at whatever scale can only be created and sustained if it’s supported by basic infrastructure. We have to start designing for tomorrow with a vision for India’s growth today. Mumbai’s haphazard development is a result of a lack of government vision in creating a sustainable “development plan” for the city. Beautiful urban spaces, however well thought-out or designed can only be appreciated if they are easy places to get to, are quiet, clean and available to all! India is well poised to learn from the mistakes of the past, and some of China’s mistakes of now: with the right investment, leadership and will, I am confident it will be a country that continues to improve the quality of life for all its inhabitants.

Do you feel mixed-use projects are important to India’s urban development?

Absolutely! Good examples are present everywhere in India’s Tier 1 cities, as exemplified in its colonial past. Such developments create opportunity for people to live, work and play within easy walking distance. What could be more desirable than walking to work, and after work popping into the supermarket to buy groceries, or meeting with friends in the evening to go and watch a film in the local mall or grab a drink in the new trendy micro-brewery in the area. Such developments, supported by state of the art infrastructure will greatly improve the quality of life of the Indian middle class. 

What are some of the significant trends or topics of interest you’re seeing in the design and development industry?

In a nutshell, a move to mixed use high density type of developments. But sadly the right supporting infrastructure is still lacking and way behind. Creating the European open street structure and culture is definitely something we will see more of in and around our cities as they grow.

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