Friday, 11 May 2018

What is a green building?

This day and age, you hear everyone talking about going green. Whether you want to admit it or not, at some point everyone will have to follow with the green movement. This is because at the rate we are going, the earth is simply not sustainable. That means that over the years, we will begin to run out of certain natural resources that are needed in order for us to survive. That is alarming to some people, which is why there are so many people that focus on green building. But, what exactly is green building? Lets take a closer look at what it is, why you should consider it, and what the goals of a green building are. You are sure to find that it is something that you should take part in.

Defining a green building

First, we will take a look at what a green building is. Some people may think of a green, or sustainable building as just a building that doesn’t really have as bad of an impact on the environment as another ‘average’ building. Other people may find it to be the type of building, and the actual surroundings of the building.
Defining a green buildingThe ideal green building would be a building project that would allow you to preserve most of the natural environment around the project site, while still being able to produce a building that is going to serve a purpose.The construction and operation will promote a healthy environment for all involved, and it will not disrupt the land, water, resources and energy in and around the building. This is the actual definition of a green building.
The U.S. EPA says “Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building.”

Why go green?

Now, let us take a look at why it is so important to go green. Most people will find when going green that they are able to reduce their carbon footprint and actually lend a helping hand to the environment. You can go green in a variety of different ways, but builders and construction workers must do their part as well. If you haven’t begun going green, then you will find that there are a variety of different things that you can do to help you get started. You don’t have to jump in head first, and you can actually take some baby steps along the way. Green buildings are designed in such a way to reduce overall impact on environment and human health by:
  1. Reducing trash, pollution and degradation of environment.
  2. Efficiently using energy, water and other resources.
  3. Protecting occupant health and improving productivity. 

Does going green really cost more?

Some people feel that they just can’t go green because it will cost them more money, but that is really a common misconception. While it may cost you a bit more to get started when you are going green, because green materials and products can be more costly, you really have to consider the type of savings that you will be able to reap. You will be able to save on energy costs, because going green also means conserving energy. You should really look at the green building as more of an investment than anything else. An investment that will be able to save you money, as well as an investment that will be able to help the environment! It is a win-win situation for everyone!
Read about SunPower’s “Beneficial by Design” philosophy

Benefits of green building

With new technologies constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener structures, the benefits of green building can range from environmental to economic to social. By adopting greener practices, we can take maximum advantage of environmental and economic performance. Green construction methods when integrated while design and construction provide most significant benefits. Benefits of green building include:
Environmental benefits:
  • Reduce wastage of water
  • Conserve natural resources
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Protect biodiversity and ecosystems
Economic benefits:
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Improve occupant productivity
  • Create market for green product and services
Social benefits:
  • Improve quality of life
  • Minimize strain on local infrastructure
  • Improve occupant health and comfort

The goals of green building

Now, we should consider the goals of green building. Of course, one of the main goals is to make the earth more sustainable, but it really does go deeper than that. When you decide to go green, your goal will be to actually help to sustain the environment without disrupting the natural habitats around it. When you start a building project, and you disrupt the natural habitats around it, you can actually make an impact in the wildlife and environment that will be much like a butterfly effect. Even the smallest changes that you can make will help to promote a better planet earth, and a better place for us all to live- not just us humans, but also the plants and wildlife that take up their residence here on earth as well.
As you can see, green building is something that everyone should really jump on to. If you don’t plan to rebuild your home, then you may just want to make a few green changes within your home to ensure that you are able to get the goals that you want out of it. You can cut down on your energy usage, save money, and make a big impact on the environment. You will find that it isn’t as hard as people make it out to be, and you will feel better about yourself when you go green too!

Remembering Laurie Baker, the pioneer British architect who made India his home

Laurie Baker was a British-born Indian architect widely recognised as one of the pioneers of sustainable architecture and organic architecture.

In 1943, a young, war-weary British architect arrived in Bombay to board a ship back to England to recuperate. But to his dismay, he found his trip delayed by three months, leaving him stuck in India. It was a twist of fate that would go on to have unlikely and equally inspiring consequences. In the years that followed, he would make India his home, study traditional Indian architecture, and combine it with modern principles and technology to become one of the pioneers of what we now know as sustainable architecture and organic architecture.

But Laurie Baker was a humanitarian before anything else, and one with a deep-seated social consciousness at that. His buildings reflect a deep spirit of altruism and respect for nature. His approach was simple and frugal, much like his lifestyle – his ‘office’ consisted of a stack of old envelopes and Christmas cards tucked into his shirt pocket. And yet, he showed us that beauty can be found in simplicity, perhaps even more so than in grandiosity.

The making of the architect

Laurence Wilfred ‘Laurie’ Baker was born to a devout Methodist family in Birmingham, England, in 1917. As a child, he would accompany his parents and two siblings to cathedrals and old buildings across Europe, trips that sparked his interest in architecture. He found religion in his teens and decided to become a Quaker, a pivotal moment in his life and work. At 20, he graduated with a degree in architecture from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, just two years before the onset of World War II.
When the war came, Baker became a conscientious objector, choosing instead to aid the war effort through more peaceful means. To this end, he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit, a volunteer ambulance service established by members of the Quaker society. After some time tending to naval casualties on the south coast of England, he was sent to China as a trained anaesthetist to treat civilian casualties. While there, he found himself treating civilians inflicted with leprosy, then a fatal and widely misunderstood disease.
After nearly four years in China, the war had taken its toll on him. And so, he was soon ordered back home to recuperate. En route to England, he stopped at Bombay, where he found his journey home delayed by three months. During this time, Baker attended Mahatma Gandhi’s talks and prayer meetings, and eventually struck up a friendship with him.
“It was also through the influence of Mahatma Gandhi that I learnt that the real people you should be building for, and who are in need, are the ‘ordinary’ people — those living in villages and in the congested areas of our cities,” Baker would later say of their friendship.
“One of the things he said has influenced my thinking — that the ideal house in the ideal village will be built using material that is found within a five-mile radius of the house.”
This idea would form the core of Baker's architecture in the years to come.
Baker had expressed his desire to settle down and work here, but the then prevailing hostility to the British in India left him unsure. Again, it was Gandhi who supported him, assuring him that although British rule had to end, India would always have a place for concerned individuals.

Work in India

Following a brief period home, Baker returned to India in 1945 on the calling of the World Leprosy Mission, to create better facilities for lepers in the country. Initially based out of Faizabad in the then United Provinces, Baker found the British lifestyle in India too opulent for his taste and values. Instead, he stayed with an Indian doctor friend, P.J. Chandy, and his family. Here, he fell in love with Chandy’s sister, Elizabeth. After some opposition from both their families, the two married in 1948.
On their honeymoon trip, the couple set out to the hilly district of Pithoragarh in present-day Uttarakhand. On discovering that Elizabeth was a doctor, several tribals from the area came to them for medical help. Seeing the dearth of medical facilities there, Baker and Elizabeth decided to settle down in Pithoragarh and tend to ailing locals.
And so, Baker set out to build a home and a hospital. But he soon found that his English education had not trained him to handle the architectural challenges of the subcontinent. Vernacular methods, he realised, provided the only means to tackle the challenges posed by the monsoons and termites. Thus, laterite, cow dung, and mud walls replaced conventional cement and steel, but he continued to combine traditional methods with modern principles whenever necessary.
Using local material and labour helped lower costs and also revive the local economy. Gradually, schools and chapels followed, but hospitals in particular always demanded Baker’s attention. Medical professionals were only just beginning to understand the role of a patient’s environment on the healing process, a field that Baker knew well.
Sixteen years after they had arrived at Pithoragarh, the war with China broke out. The Bakers, now with three children, were forced to move south to the hilly village of Vagamon in Kerala. In 1969, they moved to Thiruvananthapuram, where Baker worked for the remainder of his life. The city houses some of his most iconic buildings, including the Indian Coffee House, the Centre for Development Studies, the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies, and the Chitralekha Film Studio.

Baker’s architectural style and legacy

Having witnessed much scarcity during his experiences in India and China, Baker harboured a strong distaste for pomp and wastefulness. To most people, the term ‘low-cost’ is synonymous with ‘low-quality’, an idea that Baker vehemently disagreed with.
“We’ve got to stop thinking big and go back to the idea that small is beautiful,” he once rightly said. It doesn’t take the eye of an architect to recognise the sheer beauty of Baker’s buildings, be it the spiralling edifice of the India Coffee House or his picturesque hill-top house, which he called The Hamlet.
A typical Baker building consisted of exposed and intricately perforated curved brick walls and traditional sloping roofs. His buildings were always designed in such a way as to cause minimal, if at all any, damage to nature, and to use as much natural lighting and ventilation as possible. He often rummaged salvage heaps for anything he could use in his buildings, however unconventional. One building, for instance, contains a window grill created out of a used car clutch plate and a bicycle. He even used coloured glass from used liquor bottles to create intricate patterns of light on the walls.
From left to right: The Indian Coffee House building, Thiruvananthapuram; Baker's house, The Hamlet; Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram (Image credit: Creative
Baker had a penchant for on-site improvisation, and always kept his clients’ best interests at heart. In a recent article in The Hindu, Baker’s grandson, Vineet Radhakrishnan, wrote, “Often, he picked up his clients and would be furiously drawing up four different options for a living room layout or be trying to explain some nuance, for instance, that the kitchen door and window latches needed to be lower because the client’s wife wasn’t very tall, or he’d be explaining how he had noticed, while at the site, how the wonderful sunrise could be seen if he put in a window at a certain angle on the upper floor.”
His concern for the welfare of others extended beyond social class. “There was absolutely no pretence to his ideas. His architecture was the same whether he was building for a poor man or a rich man. He didn’t behave one way in public and then come home and become a different person,” writes Vineet. Baker even built numerous houses for labourers, fishermen, and tribals for free, and those who knew him affectionately called him ‘daddy’.
But his low-cost approach to building, in a profession that thrives on monetary investment, meant that he did not always have the support he needed. On this, Vineet says, “Praise did not affect him, and neither did the setbacks. He bore all the failures and pain, every time a client cheated him or attempted to malign his reputation. Threats and physical attack were borne stoically without complaint. The many lucrative projects he refused in many ways are more telling than the ones he did.”
Despite staying on the fringes of his profession for decades and barely documenting any of his work, Baker was widely lauded for his efforts. He won many awards and recognitions over the years, including an MBE from Buckingham Palace and a Padma Shri from the Government of India. In 1988, Baker received Indian citizenship, the only honour he actively sought. In 2006, he was nominated for the Pritzker Prize, considered to be the Nobel Prize of Architecture.
Baker’s practices have had a monumental influence on several renowned architects, including Gautam Bhatia, Jaigopal Rao, Benny Kuriakose, and Gerard da Cunha, the last citing him as “the most important person in my life”.
Laurie Baker passed away on April 1, 2007, aged 90. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, their three children, and three grandchildren.
(Bgssap is republishing the article for academic purpose)

Friday, 16 March 2018

Design Process: The Power of Drawing in Architecture

Design Process: The Power of Drawing in Architecture

Summary: In the profession of architecture, drawing is essential to the process of design. From diagrammatical to highly technical, hand drawing brings value to every architectural project by allowing us to quickly explore ideas and convey intent. The development of a parti, the analysis of a site, the organization of spaces, even the exploration of construction details are all efficiently produced in the line work of a sketch.

Article by Wendy Martinez, AIA
My personal admiration for hand drawing and sketching is what initially attracted me to architecture. During my formal education, design stole my heart and took center stage. Drawing had become more of a tool to explore my design ideas and express proposed solutions. What I eventually recognized was that the advancement in my drawing technique was being appreciated by those around me. This stirred more incentive to experiment with different styles and different mediums and to learn from others that shared the discipline. When it was time to advance into the architectural professional, the sketches in my portfolio opened the first door.
“Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.” ~Michelangelo
I imagine that the personal context from which one reads this Michelangelo quote influences their perception of its definition, as it does for me. Drawing is a tool for thought, for creativity, for invention. It is a method for problem solving – exploring and documenting the evolution of an idea. Drawing can capture time and record a memory. It is visual communication: a medium for expression. For those who draw, it teaches us to see, to observe – educating our visual sense through the exploration of form, light, texture, distance and perspective.
In the profession of architecture, drawing is essential to the process which leads the development of a design. Various types of drawings are produced – diagrammatical at the initiation of a project and highly technical in the end. During this process the exploration of design ideas are studied, shared and presented, and varying levels of information must be communicated. Hand drawing, while challenged by the technological ability to produce similar images, brings value to every project. I would argue that the effectiveness of a sketch is incomparable when one considers its efficiency, and perhaps even its beauty.
Used as a method for problem solving, a hand sketch can explore numerous possibilities quickly. The development of a parti, the analysis of a site, the organization of spaces within a building, even the exploration of construction details are all efficiently produced in the line work of a sketch.

Project Parti

The development of a parti – the concept of an architectural design – is often obtained through numerous diagrams that analyze form, space, orientation, context, and more. Typically loose in style, these drawings initiate an often complex design with an abstract suggestion.

Site Analysis & Planning

The analysis of a project’s site is often documented with overlaid diagram sketches illustrating wind directions, solar paths, topography and terrain, vegetation and landscape, infrastructure, contextual relationships, directional views and more. This visual information begins to define a buildable area and orientation for building placement. Site planning sketches follow this exercise and quickly explore various development concepts within the defined area.

Space Planning

Programmatic diagrams and space planning exercises are studied with loose bubble sketches that represent spacial relationships and hierarchies, exiting and circulation patterns, and vertical stacking. This method allows a designer to illustrate a project’s program in 2-dimensional schemes, quickly calling attention to successful solutions. These bubble sketches develop early suggestions of a floor plan.

Building Design

Conceptual building sections are explored with sketches that consider floor-to-floor heights, structural depths, vertical circulation, and potential daylighting strategies. Building elevation sketches record initial ideas of style, proportion, exterior materials, and color. In combination, these illustrations provide useful analysis for consideration in the design of the building’s mass, roof design, exterior fenestration and more.


Hand sketches are efficient for problem solving construction details. A number of illustrations can be produced quickly, incorporating varying ideas that reach a single solution.The evolution of the process provides documented analyses which can then be compared to identify the best solution.
I feel lucky in that I have been encouraged to continue the practice of hand drawing in my role as an architect. It has provided me a consistent balance of the artistic expression that led me to the profession and has presented many opportunities over the years. It has brought smiles to faces and brought joy to my work. Reflecting again on Michelangelo’s words above, my “treasure” is the combination of these benefits.