One afternoon, in the brief patch of sunshine in an otherwise rainy and cloudy day, I came out on the balcony of my organisation Development Alternatives Group for a lengthy phone call with a partner NGO in Telangana and discovered the ‘living ecosystem’ that my building is (the way the DA group calls it).
The entire concept of constructing a building under the umbrella of sustainability was a novel concept to me. It took me a bit of exploring and asking around (and of course secondary research) to wrap my head around the basics of entire concept.
The Development Alternatives Group headquarter, is, what is known as a green building. It is a concept steeped in the theory of sustainable building architecture. It strives to achieve a balance of natural and man-made processes employing environment-friendly energy, material and water-management methods.
The building structure consists of a short span RCC frame with ferro-cement shells and shallow masonry domes, which markedly reduces the usage of steel. The building also uses the soil excavated from the building site, materials recycled from the earlier building structure, as well as fly-ash waste from local thermal plants for masonry infill walls. All these are extremely low energy materials that can be processed into building components locally, thus involving minimum transportation. Alongside, the building also has a passive energy system which minimizes heat absorption. This is done by designing the structure keeping in mind the sunlight trajectory, and clever shading and insulation of the walls. Additionally, the building is adorned with a plant-shroud on its eastern and western fronts and has a rooftop garden.
The campus also has rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging system. Water is recycled for reuse in toilets and for gardening. Water conserving faucets are in place to reduce unnecessary wastage. The indoor air circulation system uses a DA developed “hybrid” air handling unit. This highly efficient hybrid HVAC system incorporates evaporative cooling and refrigerant-based cooling in a new way to reduce energy consumption for air conditioning by 30%.
The campus also promotes and showcases artisan products from all over India. Most of the official materials used are produced at micro-enterprises and all the wood works used are from timber obtained from certified managed plantations.
The entire DA building and campus is indeed an inspiration for sustainable housing in India.