by Amit Singhal, Director, GPM Architects and Planners
The unprecedented impact of the pandemic on all industries has shifted our approach towards creating designs that are resilient and meaningful for the future. Particularly in the retail sector, sustainability concerns are taking predominance and the need for safer public spaces is changing its face towards an ingenious blend of traditional design principles with modern technology. As we have become more aware of our surroundings, physical commercial spaces need to step up and offer an optimized shopping experience to engage with the users.
Our approach towards the design of commercial spaces needs to go beyond the box-type monotony of modern buildings and provide a solution that is sustainable and connected to nature, while offering ample opportunities for engagement. One of the models to explore is the open-to- sky High-street ‘haat’ experience, as it offers the best of both worlds – access to multiple retail stores and safe open spaces for customers to engage with. The interesting aspect of this model is that it has all the facilities under one roof, along with multiple galleries, piazzas and landscaped courtyards that reinforce the users’ connection with nature.
This approach has been successfully implemented in one of our projects – the ‘Sapphire’ at Gurugram. Re-defining the open market typology in a neighbourhood format, the Sapphire is a shopping complex with multiple retails, daily shopping and food options spread over three floors. Moving away from the traditional mall morphology, it is conceptualised with connected shopping streets and open courtyards to promote maximum engagement and enhance the user experience, while also making it a safer option for shoppers.
While the consumer experience plays a major role in commercial spaces, an integrated design approach that considers the rules of environmental sustainability is equally necessary. The move towards sustainable architecture starts from protecting the environment and preserving it for future generations. Thus, the blueprint of future retail spaces needs to incorporate climate-responsive strategies that improve the indoor air quality and microclimate by introducing greens inside the building, using renewable energy resources and local materials for construction. Numerous passive technologies can be adopted to ensure that such buildings are environmentally friendly and sustainable to the core. Some of them are:
- Effective ventilation systems for efficient heating and cooling
- Passive solar design features that utilise the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces. Responsible factors include shape and form of buildings, the orientation of facades, and building design that helps in reducing the heat gain by thermal insulation of roofs and walls
- Energy-efficient lighting and smart appliances
- Water-saving plumbing fixtures
- Alternate sources of power such as solar and wind power
- Usage of non-synthetic, non-toxic, locally available materials which are generally composed of renewable resources and are environmentally responsible
- Efficient use of space
- Use of mist or water bodies to control the indoor microclimate and,
- Use of shading devices to reduce the temperature.
Keeping these strategies in mind, the upcoming Mahagun Marina Walk in Greater Noida, incorporates rich vegetation and water bodies into the building, enhancing the microclimate with passive cooling, improved air quality, building energy efficiency, and the psychological benefits for its users. The design intent is to build a complex that blurs the line between interiors and exteriors, and facilities a relaxing and engaging environment by proposing a smooth interaction with nature. Besides this, internal finishes have been proposed to use low volatile materials and AAC block walls for space segregation.Also, solar panels on the rooftop are installed to suffice the essential energy requirements.
As commercial spaces become the focus of our future developments, it is necessary to create environmentally conscious designs that minimize the negative impact of buildings and enhance their energy efficiency. There is a need for adopting a sustainable approach to retail design that ensures efficient use of our resources and does not damage the environment either in the present or in the future.