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Green Business Ideas : Virtual World Design can save the real world losses.

15 Mar

In today’s News paper I read that a project conceived in 2003 in Mumbai has not been able to take off till date. The funding from World Bank has been suspended. The reasons are several, design issues, red-tape, encroachment etcetera. Going through the archives, I found several similar problems over diverse types of projects. I also recollected that there has been a few projects which we were supposed to do but the developer got cold feet due to lack of credible data, as to whether the project would be a success and what would work in the era post A.D 2008.

Could there be a hidden Green Business Idea in this ? Can one’s problem, be another’s opportunity? Rather could the opportunity of the other solve the problem of the former ? Its time our capitalistic opportunism mentality move towards, what I said in my previous article – Benefit Corporation. Presenting a very radical idea; which if polished to its potential would definitely create a green revolution, warming the hearts of UNFCCC honchos.

Large infrastructural projects, in India typically face problems. From conception to implementation, the variable being so many, the scope for “information asymmetry ” or ” leakage” ( plain speak – scope for corruption and wasteful expenditure ) is very high. To arrest these problems and prevent the situation from arising in the first place, a few diverse tools already existing could perhaps be combined.

Virtual world is nothing new to gamers and professionals using computer simulation as design tool.  And “Second Life”; “SIM City” are iconic. But it is the IT-industry which enabled its creation. What if they all were to combined ? What would be the benefits, lets discuss in brief-

Say for example in SIM city there is a game simulation called;  – Rio de Janeiro, 2047 – Coastal flooding resulted from global warming rages through the city. The mayor must control the problem and rebuild. …  With Climate change a reality, if this becomes the basic tool on which the Builders have to submit their plans for permissions to build; they along with the architects would have a near first hand experience of what  should not be attempted.   Thereby should lets hypothetically say – “Bangkok  floods”  again, the combined economic and human loss will be negligible.

Although, no person in her/his right senses would like to invite any disaster, be it the Tsunami that hit coastal India or Japan…that it will happen again because we are on the path to 3.5° C  global temperature rise, is almost certain; if you go by what the experts say.  Therefore the faster we bring all the ‘stake-holder’ into the  ‘game’ the better it would be for the World at large.

Using AI ( artificial intelligence ) based on data collected on the demography of a place, behaviour of the populace over time on Urban planning can be mapped. While having a 100% accuracy would take time, even with a 40% predictability of how the  populace of certain culture / social background would behave over say a 5 year period, could help immensely both Public and Private entities to take measures. Such measures can reduce the impact to the economy and create better infrastructure which is more able to meet up to the challenges of the future, which could not have been predicted otherwise.

Sure there are many institution and think tanks doing exactly the same. But if we still are facing the problems which they are predicting, what good does that do? By bringing the tool to the desktop of common persons – architects, developers and local administration. Taking their inputs form the data they create, a more inclusive people to people development program can be mooted which over time would be successful.

Now having understood through simulation of what should not be done, to conform with the overall Sustainable Town-planning, the Developer and his architect would face the question on ‘ what would work ‘.  Architects are by class – service providers. And more often than not, they need to depend on the commission they would get from investors – ie; home owners, builders or industrialist who have the money to have something built for them. Therefore it is much easier for them to design what their client want rather than impose her / his ideas. And with huge sums of money riding on the project, investors don’t really like to take chances. Therefore good designs most of the time gets sacrificed to popular perception. This overtime leads to wrong Urban planning.

This can be arrested by applying the “second life” concept. Say the architect creates a design and does a 3-D rendering. Then gives it to some company like Second Life, which has mapped the exact town / location  in virtual reality before-hand and allows it to be ‘built’ there ? The builder /developer pays for it off-course. Then he could pay to the advertisers both electronic and print to ask prospective customers to visit the ‘town and live in the residential building, built there’. A virtual assistant could walk along with the “avatar” of the client within the virtual world and explain all the features. Once the client likes a particular property, booking can be made and legal terms set. And once the real building comes up, everything is exactly like it was experienced in the Virtual World.

Changes to the design, remodelling a particular flat post finishing to suit the taste of a discerning client, who wants something different, all could be done within the walls of virtual reality, at nominal cost and without waste of precious materials in the process. Moreover the developer/ architect can ‘exhibit’ any modern thought,  different from the mundane and check for real response with minimal risk.

Authorities too can maintain a vigil by visiting many a ‘site’ to see if the designs are adhering to norms and guidelines. Imagine the building inspectors – civil, fire and safety, structural and the municipal architect together sitting in municipal  office  which is equipped with simulators. There they all sit in front of a console with wrap-around 3-D simulator glasses and then join up with ‘avatar’ clients or other experts to inspect a ‘site’. The details are loaded up into the computer by the developer who carries them on a portable hard-drive. Every detail from the PHE / MEP to the design norms can be discussed and recorded. Changes suggested and a revisit organised to see that the building has come as per the sanctioned norms.

All this without a single ‘make & break’ routine the building industry routinely follows. Sometime due to changes in market dynamics which necessitates changes to the built space mid-way or due to misinterpretation of certain by-laws enshrined in the building code of the state. One must remember that 40% of GHG is building related and 60% of waste too comes from building related activities. So when almost all parameters of the building is completely understood before hand, chances of error could be minimized to a great extent. Thus creating an Environment which truly aims to be zero-emission.

Before I end, one may ask why I mentioned the IT industry in the beginning of the article.That  is because, all the tools mentioned are already existing but not all common persons / builders can afford or operate such hi-tech solutions.The Indian IT is the best place for out-sourcing. Cheaper and more efficient than most, our boys would never be out of jobs, which ever way the market plays. All that is needed is to adapt and adopt Sustainable living.

 

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