Construction practices and environmental sustainability have long been viewed as contradictory to each other. The construction industry is single-handedly responsible for 39% of the world’s carbon emissions, says the World Green Building Council.
Thankfully, the world of design and construction is slowly re-routing itself onto a greener, more responsible path. Despite conflicting goals and complicated requirements, more and more architects are experimenting with practices and materials that are more environment-friendly.
Here are five such revolutionary architecture firms that could possibly be carving the future of sustainable architecture in India.
Dustudio is a collaborative, inter-disciplinary, architectural design practice based in Auroville. The practice is heavily inspired by the ancient Indian school of thinking and wisdom.
Auroville has always been synonymous with green architecture. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an Auroville-based architectural studio makes it to the top spots of inspiring sustainable design practices in the country.
Led by Dharmesh Jadeja – an architect who believes in expanding his approach beyond mainstream architecture encompassing residential, hospitality, and urban design, into architecture for the masses. His practice frequently collaborates with institutions and NGOs for heritage conservation projects, affordable rural housing programs, and so on.
The work of Dustudio aims to create a strong link between the past, present, and future of building traditions in the Indian context, using the existing traditional knowledge base as well as innovating within the framework of its social relevance, environmental impact, economic viability, and culturally rooted aesthetics.
Kamath Design Studio
Kamath Design Studio was established in 1981 by Revathi Sekhar Kamath and Vasant V. Kamath. Based out of Delhi, the duo have maintained their studio on the pillars of ecological and socially sustainable design in India for the past thirty years.
The creator of the tallest stainless steel structure in India – Revathi Sekhar Kamath – is a very well-known proponent of earth architecture. Known as the pioneer of mud architecture, she started her career in 1978 with the architectural firm Stein, Doshi, and Bhalla.
Her firm, Kamath Design Studio has done pioneering work in the use of sustainable materials and construction techniques to evolve an architectural paradigm that is a contemporary integration of the indigenous, modern, and post-modern.
Project in Focus:
The Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary by Kamath Design Studio is one of their most celebrated works so far. The thought-provoking architectural approach and details have received much recognition from far and wide, and continue to stand as one of the most remarkable samples of adaptive re-use and rehabilitation in the country to date.
- Built for the Climate: Building response suited to the Savannah-type grassland climate of the project location involves opening up of building physicalities. Formerly closed buildings have become open and porous with airy chambers. Stonework jaalis are used both for localised aesthetics and as vents to ensure pressure equalisation during frequent dust storms.
- Ecological Balance: To counter prior encroachment and lack of freshwater availability, leading to a violent reaction by native animals and birds, including the endangered black buck, the project focuses on striking an ecological balance through ecological master planning of the entire sanctuary. A highway running adjacent to the sanctuary is being shifted, along with the salt pans that led to increased soil acidity over time.
- Generation of sustainable livelihoods: Participatory processes in place to convert disparate and disjoint extant buildings into cohesive facilities with multi-faceted programs, including an Interpretation Centre, Tourism-related facilities and accommodation, community welfare and vocational training centres, etc. for more livelihood generation. 70% of the project fees was spent towards payments to local craftsmen and builders.
- Local Sustainable Practices Adopted: Existing boundary hedges between sanctuary and adjoining inhabited areas being replaced with traditional ‘dola’ or berm with thorny bushes to prevent antelopes from being attacked by predators. Circular rooms with thatched roofs called ‘jhumpa‘, a traditional desert typology, are used with triangulated steel frames
- Local Materials: Minutely detailed brickwork is used to form intricate corbels under sandstone lintels; grass and soil are used for thatched roofs.
Made in Earth
Made in Earth is a Bengaluru- and Mysuru-based architectural studio and construction practice that promotes conscious architectural practices with a minimal negative impact on the environment throughout the building process.
“We work with local, natural building materials and techniques, with a taste for experimentation. We especially use Earth to create distinctly contemporary expressions… We believe in an architecture that is simple and sensible; created with an understanding of the soil on which it exists; with an exploration of the materials from its place; and in collaboration with the skills and the imagination of its people,” states their website.
Project in Focus:
This experience centre built for Natura, a Bangalore-based developer putting sustainability at the heart of their projects, is one of the firm’s landmark projects. Surrounded by lush greenery and built using natural and recyclable materials, the centre is a mix of exhibition and office spaces to welcome future clients, investors and visitors.
Footprints E.A.R.T.H. is an Ahmedabad-based firm professional service organization involved in various aspects of sustainable design, spanning environmental studies to alternative technology. Research, applied research and dissemination are the three pillar activities of the organization, with contextual relevance, socio-cultural appropriateness, affordability, sustainability, and humaneness as the primary design concerns.
The organisation is headed by Yatin Pandya, an architect who strongly believes in the all-inclusive approach to architecture. He is actively involved in fields like city planning, urban design, mass housing, architecture, interior design, product design as well as conservation projects.
Pandya has also authored books like “Concepts of Space in Traditional Indian Architecture”, and “Elements of Space Making” which have been published internationally.
Project in Focus: Manavsadhana Activity Centre
The Manavsadhana Activity Centre by Footprints E.A.R.T.H has rightly evolved into a vibrant, inclusive, and diverse hub for the low-income, underdeveloped neighbourhood it was built for. The campus includes daycare facilities, community health services, vocational training, and education centres.
At the same time, it serves as an appropriate example of how collaborative building processes employing local expertise and resources can enhance both community and architecture. The project has been felicitated with numerous national and international awards.
- Local Materials: The building sources materials locally, including recycled domestic and municipal wastes, which helped curb environmental pollution and eliminated transportation-related costs and pollution. The following materials were used in different parts of the campus:
- Walls: cement-bonded fly ash bricks, mould-compressed bricks out of landfill waste, compressed stabilised earth blocks, recycled glass and plastic bottles, vegetable crate wood panelling for internal partitions
- Floors and Roof Slabs: filler slabs using glass and plastic bottles, brick, stone, cement-bonded particle board, clay tiles, light conduit pipe truss with galvanised iron sheet
- Door Panelling: shredded packaging wrapper, paper waste, vegetable crate wood panels, oil tin containers, fly ash, ceramic industry waste
- Multipurpose Design: In the mornings, the multi-purpose activity centre functions as a casual school for young children, offers adult education in the evenings, and operates as a vocational training facility and activity workshop for the production of craft-based goods by women and elderly people during the day.
- Inclusive Focus: A creche was developed on the adjacent site to provide care and attention for slum children, especially when both parents were employed.
- Local Employment Generation: The products created for this initiative were processed using basic hand tools and generated in part with the assistance of local end users.
Auroma is headed by the brother-sister duo of Trupti and Viral Doshi, two passionate creators when it comes to sustainable, eco-friendly building practices. With a strong international exposure and multi-lateral ties with the US and Europe, the firm brings the best international practices to complement its unique approach.
According to Doshi, “Buildings are manuscripts of human evolution – they encapsulate history, represent civilisations, embody the spirit of the age.”
Offering end-to-end sustainable architecture services, the firm bases its work on 12 modules: Design, Climate, Culture, Water, Waste, Green Building Service, Energy, Biodiversity, Interiors, Smart Systems, Master Planning, and Branding.
Project in Focus: Sharanam Rural Development Centre
The firm and its principal architect Trupti Doshi received much appreciation nation over for the Sharanam Rural Development Centre on the outskirts of Pondicherry. She developed the project as Chief Architect of the Sri Aurobindo Society together with Ar. Jateen Lad. The project made Trupti the youngest female architect to have been featured in the United Nations Environment Programme.
- Natural Lighting: Open to sky courtyards, semi-open verandahs and large fenestrations to minimise operational energy consumption over the course of the building’s life and make it more energy efficient.
- Natural Cooling: The positioning of the surrounding landscape allows cooler breeze to enter the building at a lower level while hot air escapes out at a higher level; North-south orientation, funnelling breeze through angled columns, evaporative cooling through water bodies, cavity walls increasing thermal mass, vertical gardens and rooftop gardens, and radiant cooling in pipes under the floor give a comfortable temperature at a fraction of the cost.
- Natural Acoustics: Special acoustical architecture of the vaulted roof allows 300 people to hear speakers clearly without any microphones.
- Natural Materials: Unfired earth is the primary building material, used as rammed earth foundation, compressed stabilised earth block walls, columns, and roofs. Earth is procured from the site’s rainwater reservoir itself, meaning zero transportation costs and minimum carbon footprint.
- Zero Waste Technology: With zero waste principles embodied in the design, the building is fully recyclable. The earthen vaulted roof was built without any formwork and a thickness of 9 cm which greatly reduced cement consumption.
- Natural Landscaping: Over 1000 native trees were planted to replenish any soil depletion due to construction activities, which ultimately led to the creation of a favourable local microclimate, and improved air quality.