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Green is cool

Adoption of green building practices will help to arrest the penetration of heat into your building and prevent the conditioned cool air from escaping, says VINEETA BADAWE

A certified green building of Vestas Wind Energy at Sholinganallur designed by the author. Down is the roof top lawn of CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad.

"The only thing wrong with architecture are the architects"- Frank Lloyd Wright.

This is a quote by one of the world's greatest architects and it's probably his salute to the wisdom of the master builders of past centuries. This apparently provocative statement is a profound one too. The master builders of the past knew how to build so that the interiors are kept cool in the tropical heat. And possibly many of the ideas that I put forth in this article are from that era long forgotten.

Green Architecture is made up of various factors:

reduced heat penetration

low energy consumption

minimum disturbance to the environment

effective use of recycled and recyclable materials

use of indigenous materials and systems

conservation of natural resources

It is not possible to tackle all of these at a time in a single article. For a start we will look at the issue of reduced heat penetration into the building through effective and environment-conscious design.

For beauty and elegance

Consider your building as a living organism. It should be allowed to breathe. Which means natural or conditioned air should be allowed to enter and exit.

A building that breathes effectively will function effortlessly and as a bonus, will also possess a beauty and elegance, which nobody can resist.

For people light is essential. But this same light also brings in heat and ultra violet rays, which are unpleasant and harmful.

The heat enters the building typically from roof, walls, fenestrations and base.

Roof: Let us look at the roof first. Heat penetration from the roof can be arrested by a number of simple ways-

* Give additional height to the upper floor. This extra volume will create an air space which will have an insulating effect.

* Sloping roofs for the uppermost floor are a very effective solution ? since the additional volume acts as an insulating layer.

* On the roof, plant a few trees ? plan for a roof garden. If possible maintain a green ground cover on all the exposed roof space. This option is possible only if planned at construction stage.

* Apply a heat reflective paint on the terraces.

* A simple and cheap way is to provide a bamboo frame and tie the thatti to it in multiple layers. It is important that a gap of at least 1' is maintained between the slab and the thatti. This is very simple and effective ? the drawback being that your terrace cannot be used.

* Under the roof slab provide a suspended ceiling. Maintain a gap of at least 1' between the slab and the ceiling. Have a layer of insulation above this false ceiling.

BE ENVIRONMENT CONSCIOUS: Consider your building a living organism. It should be allowed to breathe, say design architects.

* Ideal scenario will be to have both under-deck and over-deck insulation.

* You could also try to cover the terrace by utility structures such as lift machine room, staircase room and slab for clothesline. If these are planned over the bedroom areas, the power consumption for air-conditioning will reduce.

Walls: Before treating the walls study the building's orientation. The walls facing South and Southwest should be treated differently than the walls facing North and Northeast.

* If you are constructing a new building you can use cavity wall construction. Outer wall of 9"+ air cavity of at least 1"+ Inner wall of 41/2". This air cavity can be filled with any of the insulating materials such as glass wool or PUF.

* Walls built with fly ash concrete blocks of minimum 25cm also act as effective blocks against heat penetration.

* If yours is an existing building you can go for interior wall panelling with insulation. It's important that all the unwanted cracks around window frames are sealed.

* You can plan to have thicker walls on the south side or alternately go for wall claddings in any of the natural materials such as stone, wire-cut bricks or recycled wood.

* Avoid metal claddings since they only generate more heat and glare. Metal cannot breathe like any of the natural materials.

* Walls can be protected against heat by buttresses, roof overhangs, louvers, pergolas, trelliswork and ivy ? effective shading devices, adding beauty too. ,

Windows and fenestrations

These are the most sensitive parts of the building and lot of care has to be taken while detailing the windows.

In Mediterranean countries, traditionally the window sizes will reduce on upper levels. This is to lessen the penetration of sunrays on upper floors.

The sunrays are welcome ? they bring in life, light and cheer into our homes and work places. But the accompanying heat and the glare isn't desirable in our climate.

This can be tackled by the right choice of glass. Double glazing (or sandwich panels) is becoming increasingly popular. There are glass types, which increase light penetration, reduce heat intake and effectively arrest the harmful UV rays. Avoid sliding windows ? since they cannot be made fully airtight. Hinged or pivoted type windows are desirable since they are airtight and they provide 100 per cent openable area.

Protect the windows from rain and glare by providing sunshades and roof overhangs at least on the sunny side, if not on all sides.

You can have louvered shutters in addition to glass shutters fixed on the outside. At peak-hot times the louver shutters can be kept closed and glass shutters open. These louvers also look very attractive.

? Use of inner courtyards and running verandahs are time-tested methods of keeping the building cool.

? A water body planned in the inner courtyard will act as a heat sink. Inner courtyards allow us to control the exposure of our walls to the sun ? at the same time allowing light and privacy.

The various methods and solutions listed above help the building in two ways. One, they will arrest the heat from entering the building and two, they will arrest the conditioned cool air from escaping out, thereby reducing the energy consumption.

(The author, a Director in V.V. Architects Pvt. Ltd, has designed the only two certified `Green buildings' in Chennai)

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