Category Archives: Architecture & Interior

Greenwashing in Construction Industry

With India Poised to create “Smart Cities”, a lot of movement is seen at the grassroots level which must be understood and reformed. These are most prevalent in the Peri-Urban and “New Urban” Space where the focus should be the most.

The construction industry is plagued with greenwashing, this is evident all over the world. Let us understand this with a few examples.

Say, a person goes to visit residential or commercial premise which claims that it has designed the building as per green standards.The marketing person over there usually shows them a brochure which has some of the salient features based on the Green Building Certification program they have claimed to have adhered to. An average person, however,does not understand what are the defining features which would make a building ” Green”. Thus takes it all at face value.

Typical green building brochure has the data which talks about energy efficient water fixtures, energy efficient electrical systems and smart waste disposal systems. While the systems which are shown are actually a part and parcel of a green building, they are not necessarily an indicator of the building being actually “green” in the true sense of the term.

To understand greenwash one must have the basic understanding of the term ” Green”. It has nothing to do with the colour spectrum in general. It is a simplistic term that has been coined to indicate that project has adhered to the norms required under Environment – Health and Safety guidelines. Each Nation has their own guidelines for EHS.

If one follows F.E.W ( Food – Security; Energy – Efficiency; Water – Sufficiency; Waste – Management) best practices, the Environment ensures that the Nation is safe from many Health hazards, which plague modern society due to Climate change.

India for one has some of the most stringent norms for environment protection, energy efficiency and water & waste management. And it is not a cake walk for those who are not disciplined enough to follow them correct.

Real estate in India not exactly recognised as yet industrial sector on its own. This allows for many players, who do not have either the skill-set nor the discipline that is required in the construction and building industry. Transparency in real estate is yet to be above suspicion in India.

Now, this brings into play a situation; wherein the pretenders try to copy whatever is trending in the market. For most of these “hobby” Builders, who have come into the market to make a quick buck “greenwashing” is the best way forward to add a premium to their projects.

So they hire Green Building Consultants to provide them with the basic design compliances while on the construction compliances they cut corner. It begins with the material management. More often than not they procure products which do not really conform to the standards that need to have adhered. They would usually go about in a very sly manner. If you would scrutinise the product, the product itself would be green compliant. However and Designs simulations the specifications that the consultant would have given will not be followed. Further, these developers know that it is extremely hard to have some of the points to be proven false.

For example under the Sustainable site compliance, it is necessary to save the topsoil if it is fertile; have a sediment as well as an air-pollution management plan. And a reforestation and forest protection plan. Rare would be a case where trees would be saved, if at all. It is also not uncommon to do under-reporting so that a bare minimum are replanted. Because, as per Green Norms, every tree that needs to be cut, three trees must be planted.

Sometimes due to project design constraint it is not possible to replant all the trees as per rule on site. But there are options available where one can plant a tree somewhere else to compensate for the ones that were murdered ( I use this word because trees, as we all know, are living beings. They just don’t have a vocal cord and limb ) to make way for “human”(?) development.

As none of the Certification programs ask for mandatory third party Monitoring – Verification – Reporting but, in self-assessment and checks by the party which has applied for certification. It is not abnormal to find projects that don’t plant trees on site but also not bother to spend for NGO’s who do so. Further, they plant some Shrubs and pass it off as Tree. Mostly this happens because not many know the difference between a shrub & tree. But another point that most don’t see is that it is difficult to grow Trees on a concrete podium ! Tree have roots which go deep down on earth, unlike shrubs.

It also points to a very curious fact, that the podium and beneath it are a few thousand tonnes of concrete, spread from end to end of the plot. Leaving not even an inch of soil anywhere. So how then are they certified green ? They are complete anti-thesis to the act of sustainable site, a very mandatory point. For no amount of artificial water-harvesting process can ape the actual water retention and percolation process of mother nature. And while on the rain water or ground water harvesting; very few if at all, hire someone who is a professional Hydrologist. Therefore the attempt on any watershed program is more often than not, flawed right from the beginning of the project.

Further, the rating systems; in order to gain popularity & market reach came up with the idea of “Pre-Certifying” a project. Under this, the developer through his chosen Green Building Consultant would promise to comply with all the best practices. Based on design intent and simulation report thereof. Any building can achieve a good rating under the pre-certification program.

And the feather in the cap comes from some of the “Green consultants”, they are a group usually found in every Certification program Chapter member. These super intelligent beings can actually get a project get “Platinum” or “5-Star” certified, even if they have been hired post ground-breaking of the project and even to the extent when the project has reached podium level of construction. For, they have mastered the art of “product based” compliance certification giving design basis a near miss.
They are something like some of our famous “Vaastu” consultants who have a solution for everything.

Thus these people follow the classic Pre-Certification route. Get an “intent” letter in place and lo & behold, the developer now has a Green building, which perhaps is greener than the genuine developer who having understood the constraints and costs may in all his honestly achieve a “Silver” Certificate.

Now having established the methods of green-wash we need to answer the moot point? Is green wash as big a villain as it is being painted to be? The answer is both a Yes and a No.

Yes – because in the short term we are getting the sub-standard buildings which are getting passed off as Better Building Design / Energy Efficient Buildings. As the natural lifespan of buildings is over 50+ years, so with time we will have a huge inventory of non-performing buildings in a resource deficit world. Stringent laws which have to come into force sooner than later as we having passed 407 PPM this June and 2016 having been officially recognised by WMO as the hottest the planet has ever recorded; the pressure is building on all signatory nations of CoP-21 Paris Agreement to implement their NDC’s faster.

India already has their Nationally Determined Contributions for Abatement of Climate Change in place. Four more National Action Plans are being added to the earlier Eight National Action Plan on Climate Change, declared by the then PM in 2010.

Currently, eight ‘missions’ are operational, each of which is a sectoral response to the impacts of climate change. Three of them — on solar energy, afforestation and energy efficiency — seek to slow down the growth of India’s emissions. Another three — on agriculture, water and Himalayan ecosystems — are about initiating measures to adapt to the effects of climate change. The remaining two — on sustainable habitat and strategic knowledge — are service missions and seek to create more knowledge on useful climate responses.

National Action Plan on Solar, Energy Efficiency and Afforestation “Green India” are a sectoral response to the impacts of Climate change. To this Wind & Waste -to- Energy will be added.

The other National Action Plan where on Water, Agriculture & Himalayan Eco-system, to this the new Costal Regulation Zone and National Health Mission is being added. These will essentially be measures for adapting to effects of Climate change.

From a layman perspective, it is hard to recognise the tremendous changes it will bring to the Building and Construction Industry. But if one reads the intent behind each it is not really hard to see what is coming like a juggernaut towards the Real Estate sector.

Those who are smart enough will adapt and adopt. And in this game, the pretenders of today who are greenwashing, having made a false “good” reputation of being responsible developers of Climate Resilient Building would design their next projects with truthful intent.

For, it is not the certification which is big,it is the actual performance of the building. Thus a falsely claimed 5-Star/Platinum rated building would perform poorly than a genuine Silver/3-Star rated building. The buyers would be able to discern this sooner than later and thus it is the market force which will wash away the “green washing” of buildings.


Green Business Idea – A sustainable guide for Retail to win against E-retail in India.

A long time ago, people in want of grocery or clothing used to go to a designated date in an open ground where merchants gathered – it was termed as “Haat”.

Image of Dilli Haat – New Delhi

While the name “Dilli Haat”, is derived from the same concept; its open nearly every-day thus “shops” as we know them evolved over time.

Even today, in the dusty by-lanes of sleepy mofussil towns & villages, where cultures haven’t changed much since the East India Company days; the shops close for the afternoon siesta and are open but just about 2 hours post sundown. These shops are usually day-lit and most having been designed in vernacular style don’t usually require a fan. Although you would now-a-days invariably find one hanging from the central beam. Immobile as there is usually no electricity to run it. More so in peak summer afternoons.

As all the power that is being generated by the creaking Coal fired Thermal plants in India can’t cope of with the demand the swanky malls require to keep their air-conditioners humming. And the spot lights which is tactically angled with precision to highlight the wares in the hundreds of designer shops within the malls.

But as the saying goes, Time is constantly changing and for all that glitter and glamour the large retails brought in, along with the ease of shopping. It left in its wake a huge carbon foot-print. With the angst of Climate Change being felt around the World the buyers to have begun to discern. Helped by the ease of shopping online and keeping one self far away from the madding crowd has certainly helped boost the E-Retail.

And with some serious high net worth individuals with great social standing and industrial acumen investing in some of the stellar performers, E-Retail is here to stay.

This gives some serious competition to the standard brick and mortar companies. This Diwali there were complaints galore, spread over every newspaper worth its name.

And just as the Newspapers, not very long ago felt the threat of extinction from Televised News; till they evolved and adapted, whilst some perished no doubt. The Brick & Mortar Retail can become competitive if they too wake up and think differently.

Example of Mall Interior. Courtesy -tomsherrillillustrations

All they need to do is build an Energy Efficient Building (EEB) or those who only take up space within a building work towards Energy Efficiency Measures (EEM). EEM’s can be applied to existing buildings and if the management wants it, can register themselves with LEED or IGBC certification. And get a Green Building Certificate. Thus becoming world renowned.

It is a simple Green Business Idea, which would once more prove that Sustainability is the Key. And while the economic pundits, may read you many passages in sustainability, its Ecology which is the master of the game. Thus the more natural the design and function the more sustainable the Retail space will be.

There are various ways to deal with it. In the first instance, the Retail chain could hire professional Interior Designer or Architects who have been long practicing sustainable design. These people would perhaps not have the past experience in designing retail; not because they could not but because they chose not to. As modern retail, focuses more on other aspects, rather than true sustainable architectural design.

This does not deride the ones who do. But the designers, while having wanted to make a form which would follow function in its true sense; are often forced to work on perceptions which have been engrained in the client’s physique.

One just needs to visit one mall and hop to the next. They all look and feel the same. This over time becomes norm in design. Although the better managed, while being energy guzzlers are efficient in many ways, the copy cats typically cut corners and make a mess of things.

The Retail stores work with very thin margin of profits.

Now with the roaring success of E-retail, there is simply no more lee-way with the retail stores to cut corners and yet maintain their competitive edge.

But by designing sensibly or demanding a sensible and energy efficient design of the rental space, they can turn the tide to their favour.

There are many ways to achieve these, both for new as well as retro-fits.

It can be achieved by having a better lighting approach. If one could work with day-light and maximize its usage during the morning business hours then the following difference would be felt. We all know that light produces heat and it is this heat which the air conditioners first need to cool before the space gets conditioned to the desired coolth. That means the air-conditioners need to work more to get the same amount of cooling which translates to higher energy bills. Add to that the operation and maintenance cost of the lights and the compressor/filters of the air conditioner which is running extra.

There are ways and means to provide sunlight to every square foot of basement, 3 stories below. So providing the lighting into the stores and even blending with the desired interiors is not so serious a challenge for those who know how.

The woe gets multiplied in towns and cities where a diesel generator feeds the required electricity. The average unit bill shoots to ₹16/unit when we generate electricity from captive generators running on diesel.

We can today not only infuse sunlight to take care of the lighting needs but also almost eliminate the use of diesel in generators by using alternative technology to fuel it. In-fact the fuel can be produced on the spot out of thin air, the technology is in progress while fuel cells are already becoming a practice.

The Earth and Sun are the final source of energy. And its abundance is infinite. One can in a green-field or existing retail property use Geo-thermal technology to power their air-conditioners and top it with Solar PV to completely disconnect form the grid, in certain cases.

Very few understand that one of the prime expenses in a retail food chain is the gas they use to prepare their food. This too can be completely eliminated or limited to negligible cost if one follows true EEM’s.

When we mention food, we must also mention the highly depleted resource, water. Something any retail would require, to use in cleaning of the show-window or preparing food to simple drinking.

Application of rain-water harvesting can help. But by using expert hydrologist as a consultant, instead of hiring a bore-well drilling company. As they can advise on how to eliminate the cost of drilling deep when water can be had at half the depth. The water source can become near perennial with one good seasonal rain, if proper rain water harvesting technique is applied. This combined with sensible storage and use of Solar Pumps can save huge operational costs.

And while it’s true that high-end technology adds to higher cost. But by designing and building wise this cost can be made viable. In fact a Green Building can at times provide a 20-20-20 saving. That is up to 20% in construction cost, operational cost and earning through voluntary carbon credits by reducing the Green House Gas emission is possible.

Today one can create a 5000 feet square, ground + 1 storied building in 12days and start inhabiting it. A huge cost is saved in the interest of the term-loan, which makes it a sensible decision to take. While at the same time the product that is used to build it eliminates or reduces traditional high-carbon emitting materials thus follows the true Clean Development Mechanism. This is so applauded at the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change. (UNFCCC)

One could also make one of the walls in translucent concrete, to let diffuse sunlight and eliminate dark passages, which thus reduces use of artificial lights. These measures pay back in record time. Thus making the effort viable.

There are also options available to have RESCO’s, renewable energy service companies who work with a select few sustainable design firm, who on being hired, invests in the capital cost of Solar PV, thus eliminating any initial capital expenditure. With the option to pay-back in a 20 year period.

These design firms are presently exploring options to find investors who would fund the complete plethora of EEM’s – Geothermal, Low E-Glazing, LED & Air-Conditioners too. This system already works in the USA.

In fact some have tied up with Avante-grade entrepreneurs in India, who have manufactured products such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, ceiling fans and tube-lights which run with a mere 2 Kilo-Watt of Direct Current (DC) instead of A/c thus complement their efforts on a RESCO model of design.

So with Solar PV on roof-top a small retail shop can become completely self-sufficient in energy. Even with a CAPEX cost the fast pay-back period these product have, the company would have zero energy cost in 5-7 years!

The most important take away from the above is that each individual becomes a stake holder in making India a business power house while keeping sustainability of the eco-system and thus by default ones’ own self and prosper.

It’s time for Retail to adopt and adapt to Green Business Ideas!

Sandeep Goswami


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PM Modi’s 100 New Cities – will they be cause for celebration or mourning?

Through the following paragraphs, I would make a humble attempt for the average person to understand and take forward the ideas which ultimately shapes their lives.

I am an admirer of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The first time I had the opportunity to be present at a meet at the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, for the Vibrant Gujrat project, I was sure he would be the Prime Minister.

And every time I zip through the New Free way from South Mumbai towards Pune, I feel glad that we had the Mr. Manmohan Singh as our PM. Who brought us economic prosperity!

The bloom turned to gloom later!

And while the present Government has won a thumping victory based on the “development agenda”. The development seems to be no different than a mindless race towards accumulating riches. We hope for saving the wealth of the Country.

As a Nation and a Citizen we have the right to develop and prosper. Nature is bountiful and Human, God’s greatest creation from time immemorial has learnt to use the resources for its growth.

But when our mother breast feeds us, nourishes and cares for us. Makes us strong and able adults. Do we throttle her, maul and maim ? As a thanks for her good deed?

Then why do we do so with Mother to all of us. The sustainer of Life. Our Mother Earth?

Pune Landslide Disaster Causes. Graphic Courtesy: Times of India

What would have been the last thoughts of those who were buried alive at Rudra Prayag and recently close to home near Pune? As mud slowly forced down the lungs of the wretched innocent?

A child whose only wish perhaps was to grow up and mend the thatch of his leaking home – not of buying the 60th floor of a high-rise, built using materials ripped and pillaged from the very surrounding the disaster happened ?

When one does not use the river sand to re-lay another fine Italian marble in his posh home…he saves young engineering students from being washed away due to the acts of the unscrupulous sand-mafia!

When one is happy to reuse and retrofit his old wooden floor & furniture, instead of seeking a new look in the study…she helps save the old parents praying for the well being of their children at the feet of Shiva!

Whenever we stop paving over the farm-lands and refuse to buy a “Non-Agricultural” plot, we stop the vulnerable Sahyadri, the Vindhyachal, the Nilgiri from dying.

And in its death throes kill civilization!

To protect Humanity…we need to build Green. And when we say Green, it must not be a green wash. (Govt’s devpt’projects to blame for tragedy: Experts).

And by building Green..we shall abate Global Warming & Climate Change.

For no panegyric text, no law ever made…has denied prosperity!

But all seem to have but advocates prosperity for everyone.

Sabka Saath….Sabka Vikas!

Inclusive growth does not mean a Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai-Bahai-Jew & Parsi! As we like to be identified as instead of Humans. ( perhaps due to the continued erosion of Humanity?)

But also those we foolishly call beasts! And with every animal we save, in the process a tree, a shrub…an ant and a moth survives!  For they all work together to make this Planet a better World to live in!

Something we knew before we “modernized ourselves”. For where else but in India we recognize the efforts of an ANT and build a temple to honour it.The ant hill Shiva- linga at Erumbeeswarar Temple. (this yet again underscores the important of remembering ones’ culture Disconnect from ones culture is the root cause of Global Warming )

Therefore if we need to build the 100 cities, which I strongly advocate that we do. We must build sustainably.

We must preserve the green that is the cover of mother Earth. Green is the colour of the plants which bear fruit, gives us air to breath and in the bosom of the forest which provides natures bounty, gave birth to Man!

Green Building is not a fashion statement. It’s our birthright!

It is a choice between life and death! And today and evermore we must choose to Live & Let Live.

Dangers of unsustainable development. Courtesy: Times of India

And to do that we have to change our mindset. Thus let us begin from understanding the basics, without which we will never be able to build sustainably. And create the Climate Resilient Cities, which we need so much.

To begin with, how many of us can actually recognise the trees or name the flowers other than the bunch of flowers we buy at exorbitant prices in high end boutique shops? Which are discarded as soon as the “air kiss” gets over !

Wrapped in cellophane that too …

How many of us remember when was the last time our children or we could recognise at first glance – a tree or shrub which produces the grains we eat or the fruits that are now more often put in beauty products than on a food plate ?

When we get disconnected from nature and what is natural, it is little wonder that we forget the age-old wisdom of putting importance to Roti – Kapada – Makaan !

The wise choice of sequencing  Food – Cloth – Shelter , in that order transcends both the Oriental & the Occidental World. It is of little consequence as to which civilization first mooted the idea…for if during the time of the Mahabaharata, we called ourselves “Aryans” and if they originated in Europe, then it proves beyond doubt that the world as a whole were far more intelligent and in sync with nature than we can aspire to be.

Thus when we build the 100 cities we must insure that the city grows its own food. It can be done by using the fertile soil of the building foot-print and placing every last bit of it on the roof-top or terraces, or better still make terminal market complexes which can be over the railway tracts or bus depots. Perhaps a combination of all would be the best formula.

And the best part is it would not make a farmer landless…

To grow food we require water. In fact all great Civilization and City Kingdoms grew near the banks of river or ocean. When we start to bottle water in plastic packs or it gushes out at the twirl of the tap..the disconnect from reality begins to manifest upon us. It is further compounded by the foolish yet well meaning laws that as water is the basis of life it must be either provided free or at a very nominal cost.

But, gone are the days when water used to quench a thirst, bathe a body or sow a seed. Now it is more required to fill a bottle of fizz and wash ones car. Or turn a turbine through a jet stream of steam…raised to its vapour form by ripping out Coal from the bowels of Earth. In an effort to satiate the insatiable thirst for POWER ( ? ), human have forgotten that water is a nourisher of life.

Flooded Mumbai after record-breaking rainfall. Courtesy: Times of India

And when you forget a life force & have a skewed development agenda…she comes back as a Tsunami or Flood wreaking havoc in her wake. Or simply moves away leaving parched turning into desert.To those who live in Mumbai, counting the days to rain is almost an annual ritual.

Because without rain the water bodies which provides the much needed succour simply can’t be replenished. And at the same time the rain brings with it untold misery for the citizens.

So how do we make the New Cities so as to not suffer the same misery which the current cities in India face ?

To begin with we must have stringent development control rules.

While it would take a collective will of the people to re-develop the existing Cities. The mistakes of not catering to the water needs in the new cities must be made into a crime punishable by law.


A fragile & beautiful ecosystem.

Lastly, where do we build our Cities and what material should be used to build them ? I find it amazing when developer after developer without giving a thought to the consequences to the ecosystem design projects in complete contravention to the lay of the land, the contours, the local populace. Every advertisement talks of connect with nature. And how one would live in harmony with it.

Each one of us would love to be in this place. But few amongst us would want to share it with the green glade, the birds & bugs ..the ant and the earthworm..the brush and the tree..the frog and the snake…animals and plants which have co-existed in perfect harmony to help nature sculpt this picture perfect place of tranquillity and peace.

Building around nature.

As I said earlier, human have the right to live a modern life-style, within an Ecologically sensitive area. Provided they follow the law which would make them build right. And most importantly learn to co-habitat with the surrounding.

Very few modern architect or developer would keep the place as it is and work along it to create space for man.They would develop it as it should be according to them. Because it is not easy to live with nature when everyday of our concious life, the commerce crazy community craving for riches vie for your attention on everything that is unsustainable in the long run..

An untrained and gullible mass considers the life-style preached by these false messiah as gospel.

Thus if we indeed need to build those 100 cities our Prime Minister has mooted let them be the dream cities which would stay behind as his legacy. Of having balanced growth of India with Sustainable Development of this planet.

Laws need to be mooted which prevent development of Urban spaces in present agricultural land. Prevent expansion of existing city sprawl into the life saving mangroves. And to achieve that the first thing which the Prime Minister must build, much in the lines of IIT’s in each state, are a University of Developers.

In this university of developers make mandatory attendance of all those who want to put a project. Be it Housing or a Coal mine. Airport or a Dam. And make them learn the laws of nature. The cause and effect of each decision which they would take for the project they would want to promote – 50 years from hence!

Allow them then to alter the situations towards the least harmful. For modern human can’t develop any further today without causing some harm. Such is sadly the truth. And the answer to which perhaps remains with those wiser. And may take this tread of an idea to the Utopian state it should belong.

And to those who having crossed the passage above consider this suggestion a waste…India & the World (25 Examples of Off the Grid Homes + Green Architecture) has already started working towards this idea.

We can build cities which are in sync with nature in a much larger extent than is currently practised.

What we need is a vision which many of us in this country hope this Prime Minister & his Cabinet has. We need not have to build upon fertile soil and forest but spread the Cities to those vast swathe of arid and semi-arid lands.

To areas where uncontrolled mining and logging has decimated the land and laid it bare and waste. To those areas connected by bullet trains and express ways; waterways and air ( at times a gas filled Zeppelin can undo the carbon foot print) and making mandatory for captains of Industry & Commerce to shift at least 6% of their operations to any 3 cities of their liking within the 100 spanning the country. We would attract a sizeable population of skilled citizens to spurt life into the new cities.

And as the roots of civilization begins to take shape, the local populace would benefit.

That is when perhaps we shall have an India shining!




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Future Cities -Its time to build the 1st of 100 promised.

The above example to start my argument has been put to ally the fears of those who still think that to live and work in a sustainable environment we have to go back to the stone age.

The need of the hour is to build projects which produce their own water and energy and this is very much possible. It also would give a positive fillip to the traditional business as the building industry is perhaps the only sector which uses all products and thus all sectors have a chance in participating in the development and growth of India.

There would perhaps also be a meeting of minds between those who think development is an anathema to environment as opposed to those who think “NGO’s are the sleeper cells of foreign power out to destroy India’s growth.” (foreign funding of NGO’s)

Let me first introduce you to what the world is thinking and then we shall proceed to what can be done with the knowledge resource and funds presently available. As most often lofty futuristic ideas fail to take-off and the “artist impression” remain as a poster or a screen-saver in some personal lap-top/office desk.

So let’s begin with what the World is thinking.

Vincent Callebaut’s Lilypad -Proposed as a “Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees”, which can house around 50,000 inhabitants.

Vincent Callebaut will find a place for himself in the year 2100 when half the coastline in the world have disappeared due to increasing sea surface. (more).

If one looks closely the image has a striking similarity to the coastline of Mumbai. Perhaps the town-planners who are thinking of building the ambitious “Shivaji Statue” off the coast could  increase their ambition to adopt such projects within the original concept. Which at once would catapult them to the pages of history for thinking beyond tokenism.

The Harvard Gazette article by staff writer Corydon Ireland, in March 2013 stated –

By the end of this century, sea levels could rise worldwide by 3 feet or more, inundating coastal cities and spurring catastrophic storms roughly every three years.

In Africa, at least 20 cities — including Cairo, Egypt; Cape Town, South Africa; and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo — are especially vulnerable to rising seas. At the top of the list is Lagos, Nigeria, a fast-growing, low-lying coastal city of 13 million. By the year 2100, sea levels there are expected to have risen nearly 4 feet.

Houses and roads in Lagos are built on spongelike terrain that was once sandbars, lagoons, and mangrove swamps. Lagos is also riven with a confluence of inland rivers, adding to its vulnerability to flooding. In 2011, intense rainfall flooded homes, overwhelmed sewers, and turned streets into rivers. Hardest hit in such events are the poor. Slums already hold 70 percent of people in Lagos, a city that draws 3,000 more residents every day.

Many in Mumbai would find resonance to the above stated.

A floating oil platform is tugged from the harbor in the northern Russian port of Murmansk.

Now before we start baulking at the idea of designing ambitious projects such as the one shown above and discard them off-hand we must look around ourselves. Have we not already achieved the skills required for building such projects? If we just look towards Bombay High the off-shore oil rig a few miles off the coast of Mumbai, it is more or less a floating city. People work and live on it. And the engineering marvel has reached such a peak that there are many superb rigs off the coast of Scandinavia in the rough and cold Arctic sea. Like this Russian platform in the image.

How wonderful it would be when we would be able to use this technology not to further destroy the World we live in but to limit loss and damage brought about by Climate Change due to our insatiable thirst of fossil fuel.

For should we choose not to do that Nature, would surely make us pay for our follies. And there must have been a reason for the wise of yore to call nature, “Mother”. For she too at first gently admonishes before punishing for repeated mistakes we make.


Unusually High tide was seen in Mumbai due to the Cyclone Nanauk

This month Nature visited us with a warning sent via Cyclone Nanauk. The unusually high tide, a result of the cyclonic effect; inundated many low-lying parts of Mumbai coast-line.

While there were tourist enjoying the spray of sea-water, the slum dwellers staying in the low-lying shanty towns were left with brakish water in this sweltering summer heat. Bereft of basic drinking water they suffered silently.

Once more highlighting the fact that Climate Change would hurt the poor and the vulnerable the hardest.

It is therefore time we the citizens wake up to the fact that Climate change is a clear and present danger. True natural disasters have been happening without any anthropogenic interventions for millennia and would continue to do so.

All that the scientific evidence has pointed out is that we have with our high fossil fuel dependence accelerated the process.

For those who are still not convinced, need not unnecessary fret. Just get into the bandwagon of “Sustainable growth” as being envisaged by our Prime Minister. It would be a good enough start as any.

For surely everyone wants to live in an integrated city of the future and to build it we need the expertise of all practitioners from all sectors. And if the rules which we think would govern building those cities don’t get diluted and corrupted in the process,we shall truly have a sustainable economy which India could ride upon.


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Green Business Ideas – Using Solar Panels as Glass Facade can reduce Heat Island Effect in Cities and earn LEED credits

glass facade

In the past week I was interviewed by two News media both electronic & print which were very excited about a report by scientists from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) India,  on Glass Façade Buildings in the City of Mumbai, India  and how it is raising the overall temperature by more than 17° C in the surrounding area of the building. Although it could be true, one must explore about how this problem be addressed without making ‘glass’ a bad building material. Things are not always black or white, therefore I would use this as an opportunity to once more showcase how Sustainable Cities  could be planned.

Glass has been a tradition building material for eons now. Colored glass was found from the Babylonian era and some of the most beautiful Churches and Cathedrals draw their prime beauty from the Stained Glass murals. Glass is the only single medium which allows the external environment into the room in a controlled fashion. Which means one can enjoy rain, snow or bellowing wind swaying the tree tops without getting wet or cold and having that curly lock of hair firmly in place.

Yet uncontrolled use of glass can create problems, such as raising the ambient temperature of the city/town and making it warmer. While extensive use of glass in building façade may be considered a good thing to counter the harsh winter experienced in the temperate regions of the World, it is foolish in Hot climes.

The reasons are simple. The word ‘Green House‘ originally meant ( before Global warming became popular) a glass house which kept the temperature warmer than the freezing  European cold and let some plants & vegetables grow. This happens because the heat from the Sunlight gets trapped within the space by the default property of glass.

While this is good for designing a building in say Norway or Alaska, where every drop of Sunlight would bring in the warmth and perhaps help save in reduction of energy consumption required for district heating, the same principle would require enormous amount of  district cooling which otherwise would have been normal in case of a hot and humid city like Mumbai or any other city with similar climatic conditions. And those large  water-cooled Air-conditioning plants placed on the roof tops to cool the buildings do so by pumping cool air inside the buildings while sucking the hot air away and out into the surrounding atmosphere. So a total glass building would not only throw more hot air out into the cityscape it would also use more water to cool itself. Yes, there is air cooled A/c plants too and high-efficiency COP’s have the ‘Green’ label attached but it too consumes energy and heats the sorrounding it however saves on water. Only the most well designed and high-end commercial glass façade buildings conform to all Sustainability criteria. But it does not hold true for all.

Therefore while the building may look swanky and very western, I would caution the tenant in buying space there as their energy bills could shoot up. Moreover by default of design constrains, its cheaper to make the Glass Facade buildings near hermetically sealed. Further no one would want the Air conditioned space to get warm because of a leak in the window casing.

Now the above observations lead to some unique problems for India or for any Emerging Economy in the Third World with similar climatic conditions.

First is the heat & dust. Not only does glass buildings get warmer inside it turns ugly on the outside too because of the perpetual dust. And once the commercial buildings are sold it becomes the building owner association responsibility to take care of maintenance. Maintaining tall glass façade building does not come cheap. It requires a whole new engineering solution, such as façade cleaning lifts and trained people to do it.

Second, we are a ’emerging economy’. Which means only a few rich & super rich have the luxury of having uninterrupted power. Rest are routinely treated with planned load shedding / power cuts and have to generate their own power through fossil fuel smoke belching  Diesel generators. In case of longer duration of power failure, rationing is done to cut cost and even the generators are shut down. And in this case one has no choice but to sit in airless rooms breathing Carbon –Di– Oxide exhaled by the neighboring colleague and hoping to survive the day.

Third, in smaller Tier -II & III towns and even the cheaper business districts within the megalopolis  the buildings only ape the Glass Facade exterior with no  Fire Safety Norms as a priority, and are built by unscrupulous Builder developers who themselves are an ignorant lot along with little or no understanding of EHS ( Environment – Health – Safety ) nor it is understood by the general public. ( the whole of India has only 2-3 dedicated burns center, one in Mumbai. New Delhi has none. However thousands die each year through burn related accidents) . So Glass buildings which are not designed well may lead to catastrophe in case of fire. Further as some are built right upon the road-side in high density areas, during Earthquake or other calamities, it may only compound the problems further with razor-sharp glass falling all over. True the glass have built-in safety feature to shatter into small bits but bad fixing and poor quality glass do not perform as intended.

Business and Scientific report do not go hand in hand. But  Science must be heeded if Business is to thrive. Global warming and its associated risks are too well documented to be ignored.  ( read my article for details:  Climate change – the most significant emerging risks facing the world today ) If the City of Mumbai or any city with similar climatic conditions continues to grow in this fashion and Glass façade buildings become norm and not exception, we are looking at a serious problem.

So we come to the question of what would the Developers and the Public do post reading the NEERI report ? Will tall glass façade building vanish from the cityscape? No chance.

But saving Mumbai ( and other cities ) is a must. Therefore here I will present an alternate thought which the Glass manufactures like ASAI, MODI etc along with the Solar PV manufacturers would I hope discuss over cocktail & dinner and come back with great Eco Ideas which would at least help reduce the problem of Heat Island Effect. And for this we must look at BIPV.

CIS Tower, Manchester

Image via Wikipedia

Building Integrated Photo voltaic (BIPV) has been around for sometime. It produces electricity and can also act as a Glass Facade. (As the image to the right shows, the dark blue glazing with a logo on top )  Now this is an option which has not been explored to its full potential in India and the rest of the World because of the cost verses production of electricity. It is generally understood that BIPV which is still in its nascent stage needs to develop further to truly become the choice for Architects and Builders to consider using it as an alternative to Glazed Building. This can happen only when the cost of the product becomes near equal to that of conventional Double Glazing Unit ( DGU ) which we see all around the city of Mumbai. However we can speed up this process by simply bringing in the economy of scale.

So how does one bring about this economy of scale? Simple, by introducing the Green building concepts which require the use of Solar Power or Green Energy. Both in the TERI – GRIHA  and IGBC -LEED certification process require  to bring energy efficiency of about 14% to the Building Envelope ( skin of the building; the outermost wall /glass surface ) which  at times design constrain and economic factors make  very difficult to deliver. Further Green Building Norms also ask for 10% of the total building energy be drawn from Solar Power. This too, is difficult due to unavailability of required roof-top space in certain cases.


Now BIPV  are SPV  (solar photo voltaic) patches of  modules which is sandwiched  between glass.  It not only produces electricity but also reduces the amount of Sunlight from entering the building which is known as the SHG factor for glass ( Solar Heat Gain). So this can act like ceramic frit-glass, which too is an architectural favorite as it has lower SHG factor  and yet have dual function. Further in the Green Building rating system one looks for high SRI  (surface reflective index) content to reduce the heat island effect. Glass has high SRI index. So it reflects more sunlight away and what could have entered the building unhindered gets caught and converted into energy by the SPV cells. So another LEED credit point, credit interpretation could be sought jointly by the SPV as well as the Glass manufacturers.

Now as more and more buildings all around the world are opting for LEED Certification ( Leadership in Energy and Environment Design ), the above two credit points would fit well into the scheme of things. But this may not be enough to reduce the cost of  BIPV. Therefore we can adapt the idea which I have explained (in the article – Green Business Ideas : Cheap Solar Power is possible  ) earlier to manufacture cheaper BIPV’s  and yet creating space for newer research & development. Therefore what NEERI published as a problem can be solved by scientific ways and high-end engineering which follows the basic principles of Sustainable Building Design. And who knows one day we may have enough BIPV clad Green Buildings just as the above French building ( click on image ) which would help further reduce the enormous Carbon Footprint each City has, to make a safer Earth with better business ideas.


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Technical Manual for Sustainable Site Documentation.


The purpose of sustainable site planning is to integrate design and construction strategies by modifying both site and building to achieve greater human comfort and operational efficiencies. It charts appropriate patterns of use for a site while incorporating construction methods that minimize site disruption and the expenditure of financial and building resources. The process is based upon the premise that any landscape setting can be analyzed and studied as a series of interconnected geological, hydrological, topographic, ecological, climatological, and cultural features and systems. Selecting a building site begins the process of calculating the degree of resource use and the degree of disturbance of existing natural systems that will be required to support a building’s development.


Site assessment is a process that examines the data gathered and identified in the site analysis, assigns specific site factors to hierarchies of importance, and identifies, where possible, interactive relationships.

Data collection:

Technical site data –

Geographical latitude (solar altitude) and microclimate factors, such as wind loads

Affect building layout, including solar orientation and location of entrances, windows.

Topography and adjacent landforms—Influence building proportions, wind loads, drainage strategies, floor elevations, and key gravity-fed sewer-line corridors.

Groundwater and surface runoff characteristics— determine building locations as well as natural channels for diverting storm runoff and locations of runoff detention ponds

Solar access—Determines position of building to take maximum advantage of natural solar resources for passive solar heating, day lighting, and photo voltaic.

Ai r-movement patterns, both annual and diurnal— particularly influence sitting of multiple structures to avoid damming cold moisture-laden air, or blocking favorable cooling breezes during periods of overheating. Properly measured wind loads and pressure differentials are essential for designing interior air-handling systems or use of passive solar cooling strategies.

Soil texture and its load-bearing capacity—Determine building location on the site and the type of footing required. Identify site-grading processes by the soil’s potential for erosion by wind, water, and machine disturbance.

Parcel shape and access—Affect a site’s capacity to accommodate a proposed development, even if its size and environmental\ factors are favorable. Potential access points should not burden lower-density or less compatible adjacent land use. Zoning setbacks and easements can also affect development potential.

 Neighboring developments and proposed future developments—Affect proposed project and may lead to requisite design changes.

Analyze specific characteristics of climate zones: Climate has specific characteristics requiring mitigation, augmentation, and exploitation; there are 5 climatic zones in India.

Analyze the site’s existing air quality: Most state require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) outlining the potential negative impacts of a proposed development and how they might be alleviated. Site planning requires two kinds of air-quality analysis regarding: (1) assessment of the existing air quality of the site to determine the presence of noxious chemicals and suspended particulates, and (2) projection of the negative consequences (if any) of the proposed development on existing air quality. In primarily commercial or industrial areas, poor air quality should be a key factor in determining site suitability and use, especially for such facilities as schools, parks, or housing for seniors. Testing should anticipate seasonal or diurnal wind patterns to make certain that the worst possible case is tested.

Perform soil and groundwater testing: Perform soil tests to identify the presence of chemical residues from past agricultural activities (arsenic, pesticides, and lead); past industrial activities (dumps, heavy metals, carcinogenic compounds and minerals, and hydrocarbons); and any other possible contamination either on or in the vicinity of the subject site.

Test soil suitability for backfills, slope structures, infiltration: The native soil should be tested to determine bearing, compactability, and infiltration rates, and, in turn, structural suitability and the best method for mechanical compaction (i.e., clay soils require non-vibrating compaction and non-erosive angles of repose for cut-and-fill slopes).

Evaluate site ecosystem for existence of wetlands and endangered species: Preservation and restoration strategies require thorough economic analysis, specialized expertise, and sound baseline data gathered through both remote and on-site sensing methods.

Examine existing vegetation to inventory significant plant populations: This will enable the developer or owner to later specify vegetation that is susceptible to damage during construction, so that protective measures can be developed and implemented.

Map all natural hazard potentials (such as winds, floods, and mudslides):Eberhard Bosslet - Since 1983 - works with rui... Historic flood data, wind-damage data, and subsidence data should be mapped along with current annual wind and precipitation data.

Diagram existing pedestrian and vehicular movement and parking to identify Patterns: Existing traffic and parking patterns in areas which are adjacent to or near the site may need consideration in relation to proposed building design and site circulation patterns.

Review the potential of utilizing existing local transportation resources: Explore the sharing of existing transportation facilities and other resources, such as parking and shuttles, with existing institutions. This can lead to greater site efficiencies.

Identify construction restraints and requirements: Special construction methods may be required because of local soil condition, geology, earth-moving constraints, and other site-specific factors and constraints.

Infrastructural data

Analyze site for existing utility and transportation infrastructure and capacity: Existing infrastructure should be analyzed for integration into the building and facilities.

Historical Data

Review architectural style of the area for incorporation into building: If desirable, the architectural style that is historically predominant in an area can be reflected in the building and landscape design, enhancing community integration.

DATA ASSESSMENT  Illustration of a level spreader installation ...

Identify topographic and hydrological impacts of proposed design and building use: Measure cut-and-fill potential and assess potential for erosion, siltation, and groundwater pollution.

Develop general area takeoff and overall building footprint compatibility with site: For example, measure total site coverage of impermeable surfaces to determine thresholds of run-off pollution potential (i.e., over 20 percent impermeable coverage of gross site requires mitigation to clean storm water before it enters drainage system off-site). Footprint should also maximize site efficiencies with regard to required road, utility, and service access.

Identify alternative site design concepts to minimize resource costs and disruption: Develop several alternatives to explore optimal pattern with regard to factors such as grading and tree-clearing consequences and resulting infrastructure costs.

Review financial implications of site development, building, and projected maintenance costs: Total cost of the project must factor in ongoing costs associated with the site design, development, and operations, as well as hidden embodied energy costs associated with specific materials.

DeveloUS Air Quality Index Map-1/23/2009p matrix of use and site compatibility index: Each site may be assessed to reveal its development compatibility index with regard to a specific type of development. This index may reveal a pattern of incompatibilities thereby specific appropriate mitigation measures are undertaken.

Courtesy: Nicholas T. Dines, author.


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GRIHA: the Indian answer to Climate change.

India has in its Parliament declared that 25% of GHG will be reduced by the efforts of the Government by year 2020. The Government of India under the under the Leadership vision of the PM set about its task of formulating Eight action plans to combat Climate change. The National Missions are to be institutionalized by the respective Ministries and will be organized through inter-sectoral groups. The National Action Plan for Climate Change  ( NAPCC )are;

National Solar Mission,
National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency,
National Mission on Sustainable Habitat,
National Water Mission,
National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system,
National Mission for a Green India,
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture and
National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

On this page we shall discuss the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat.

The Government of India, entrusted the formulation of a  National rating system to The Energy and Resources Institute {TERI} a research and policy organization, which does original work and provides professional support in areas of energy, environment, forestry, biotechnology and the conservation of natural resources to government departments, institutions and corporate organisations world wide.

Under the able leadership of TERI’s Director General,the brilliant and famous PADMA BHUSAN  Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri; who, having immense experience in various field like Economics, Agriculture, Renewable Energy and currently Chairman of IPCC ( Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was established by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988 ) and supported by a stupendous dedicated team at its’ Sustainable Habitat Division, head by divisional Director Ms.Milli Mazumdar studied all the rating systems in the world currently in practice and then decided to establish a rating system so brilliant that even a simple citizen of Rural or Tier -III town can have his building rated and certified, built on the experience of local Masons.

This simplicity and grass root upward approach  of  Sustainable Building Certification was aptly named – GRIHA ( Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment ). Today GRIHA is promoted by  Association for Development and Research for Sustainable Habitats ( ADaRSH ) under the secretariat of MNRE.  GRIHA is in compliance with Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), National building Code (NBC), Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines and thus compliments the National Action Plan perfectly.

The Government of India to is promoting GRIHA by making it mandatory for all Central Government & Public Sector Unit projects to follow GRIHA and achieve 3- star rating minimum. In the 12th JNNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission,  a massive city modernisation scheme launched by Government of India; it would be mandatory to achieve GRIHA rating. The Reserve Bank of India ( RBI ) through its wholly owned subsidiary the National Housing Bank  ( NHB ), is contemplating an instrument by which 0.25% of interest subsidy would be given by all Banks, to loan taken for projects undergoing GRIHA compliance. The State Bank of India  in already providing this rebate. The Ministry of Environment and Forest ( MoEF ) has announced that it would come out with a ruling whereby EIA will not be mandatory for projects under GRIHA rating.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy ( MNRE )  too has its own bouquet of sops for project going for GRIHA rating.


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