I believe sustainability is inherent to the Indian way of life. It has been embedded in our DNA with the principle of the three R’s- reduce, reuse, recycle governing our lifestyles, sometimes even unconsciously. And all of us have been scolded, at one time or the other, for leaving a room without switching off the lights and fan. Our traditional buildings too, have always worked with these elements – their layouts maximised interior cooling and structures conserved natural resources. In design and architecture today however, as with most things, a certification is needed to validate a building’s success on the eco-conservation scale.
I’ll clarify here, I’m all for certification, such as the popular ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ (LEED) – it levels the field in which my colleagues and I compete, and creates a commonly-shared set of standards to work towards.
But green design is a mindset, not just a catch-phrase; one, that I believe, we have hard-wired into us. Green design requires us to put our inherent spirit of sustainability into action, and conscientiously consider the environments we build. To its credit, the LEED certification has made business-owners realize financial benefits from green design over a sustained period of time. Being LEED certified draws in buyers, allows for price-premiums, generates tremendous goodwill and legitimizes green design on a grand scale.
Author and Educator Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets improved” and so, when my firm received the commission to revamp the office of V-Trans, a leading Indian player in cargo and logistics management, we presented a proposal that included our ideas for sustainability that would get them a LEED certification.
We had to transform the 10,500-sq. ft., three-storey, stand-alone building into a swank new corporate headquarters for the 58-year old firm. Since the space was owned and not leased by V-Trans, we could lay out the benefits of sustainable practices over the entire life cycle of the premises, which made it comparatively easy to rationalize the marginally increased capital and operating expenditure they would incur. We had to educate them about sustainability in general, then make the business case for it.
Though we pitched them the design-build as per the parameters for a Gold Certification, we knew internally that we would be aiming to achieve the 80+ points needed for a Platinum certificate. And we did. I guess you could say, we pleasantly surprised them by under-committing and over-delivering.
The listing above is to give you a broad idea of all the aspects the LEED certification covers. The fine detailing that went into achieving and crossing the final-quarter mark on the 100-point scale was intimidating and my team and I exercised our full range of ideas and resources to deliver the LEED Platinum office.
For us, the experience refocused our attention on the life-cycle evaluation of a space. It made us think afresh about long-term energy efficiencies, and the occupants’ productivity and health. We relearnt the danger careless consumption of finite resources can pose and the project put us in the mind-frame to evaluate even our most basic design and build decisions for their environmental impact – an exercise that has since seeped into the way we plan all our other projects – with or without a certificate at the end of it.
So, in a sense, it took an agency from the U.S. to help us realize the values we have always had ingrained in us. We were put back in touch with our inherent Indian leaning for sustainability and for that, we are grateful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on sustainability, and how you’ve been able to affect eco-improvements in your spaces.