Think Turf's Chandigarh edition witnessed a deep discussion on sustainable and efficient design
Architect & Interiors India magazine in collaboration with Voltas India brings together maestros from the architecture and design fraternity to discuss the dynamic trends, evolving technology and innovations in enabling smarter, secure and future-bound spaces in a knowledge-sharing platform, “Think Turf” Smart Living Forum. Within the forum, they share their insights and experiences regarding the key challenges and opportunities faced within the architecture and design community. Following Surat, Chennai, Kochi and Pune, among other cities, the latest edition of the forum was held at Chandigarh.
The event commenced with a welcome address given by Bibhor Srivastava, group publishing director at ITP Media (India). He acknowledged the support of the partnering air-conditioning brand Voltas in successfully setting up the forum and then introduced and invited keynote speaker Akshay Kaul, principal ecological planner, landscape architect and founder at Akshay Kaul and Associates, onto the stage to deliver the keynote address.
Kaul began by sharing his concept, saying, “Every project we do, starts with a drop of water which falls onto the site. We want to put that one drop of water back into the soil and that journey of water is our journey of landscape.” He then went on to share snapshots of the various projects from his portfolio, among which were, Raas Kangra at Kangra, Himachal Pradesh; Aru Village in Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir; ongoing project South Asian University in the heart of New Delhi, which was India’s commitment to the UN; and Govardhan Eco Village in Maharashtra.
Kaul talked about ecological restoration through water, soil erosion, creating green spaces and the need for avian life in our ecosystem. “Our whole aim is to reconnect fragmented systems of water and recharge into the ground in many different ways,” he said.
According to the veteran landscape architect, a typical scenario of any particular project is that, “The building structure is designed by an architect, MEP will then bring down the water, PMC along with the construction team will bulldoze the site, and by the time this is done what’s left of the site is dead and devastated soil. A landscape architect must then work with that and try to restore the greenery and aesthetic of the entire project. To counter this, we created a new process where we did not use any concrete in stabilising the land. As soon as you put concrete, the age of that project starts to deteriorate, but when live material such as vegetation is used, the more you put into it, the more will it start to mature and become more robust. So that’s the contradiction between working with concrete and working with live materials like plants.”
He then explained the technique of bioengineering to the members of the audience, which was carried out at his ongoing Devanya Hills project in Bhimtal, Uttarakhand.
Kaul then shared a few of the public projects with which he has been associated, like his partnering with Delhi Jal Board on how to reconnect and reclaim buried and discharged drainage patterns and systems leading to river restoration and river-edge restoration of the Jhelum river passing through Kashmir.
“We do projects all over the country that have basis in ecological restoration. Landscape design for us is a derivative of the ecological process and so is the aesthetics,” Kaul concluded.
Kaul specialises in the field of ecological planning, landscape and sustainable architecture, with over 25 years of experience in India and the USA. He returned to India from the USA in 1995 to set up his practice in Delhi. His is one of the only landscape architecture firms in India that has been doing sustainable landscape for over 20 years in India. His areas of specialisation also include rainwater harvesting and waste water management and its integration in landscape design as a design feature.
Following the keynote address, Naveen Sharma, zonal head at Voltas India, felicitated Kaul for his insightful presentation.
To commence with the panel discussion of the evening, Srivastava invited architect Sangeet Sharma of SD Sharma & Associates on stage to serve as the moderator. Sharma then introduced and invited the panelists onto the stage for the discussion.
To kickstart the deliberation, Sharma asked Sidhartha Wig of The Element what his opinion was on the GRIHA rating systems. “The concept of green, or as we call it sustainable, was introduced to me in college and came to me very naturally. It just made so much sense, not only because it was appropriate or the need of the hour, but it also appealed to me in a very fundamental way. As time progresses, I am getting convinced that rating is not the way forward. A rating is often used as a means for people to get cookie points. I am a firm believer that we can build greener buildings without getting into the rating system at all,” he said.
Sangeet Sharma then questioned Shelja Gupta of Bhoomi on the same subject. According to Shelja, “Developers just began aggressive development all over the place without thinking of the sustainability aspect of their projects. So for me getting a green-rated building acts as an incentive for developers to actually take steps in the direction of sustainable building and it also adds as a USP for them to sell. Having said that, dating back to the early ages, buildings have always been sustainable without a rating system in place."
Savneet Kaur of Imarat Design was asked to elaborate on her forte of sustainable building. “When I started designing all those years ago, what was environmentally sensitive was the sensible thing to do and green did not even feature in our education or the buildings that we were designing, but somewhere down the line, I moved to a smaller town because I wanted to start from where I could make a difference, where people do not know the concept of an architect. I realised we need to relearn from the bygone generations about sustainable building and gradually moved to more eco-friendly materials, designing what is ecologically sensitive and relevant to that particular area, in order to make a difference to a majority of our country,” she said.
Sharma asked Wig to respond whether true or false on the statement, “Every sustainable building is not green, but every green building is necessarily sustainable”. In response, Wig said, “The standard of what a green building should do today needs to be questioned. We need to up the ante in order to come up with buildings that are actually performing better than we expect them to. However, green is much more than just a colour, and sustainable is also much more than what the word means itself. We just need to increase our understanding of the two.”
At the end of the panel discussion, the panelists were felicitated by Naveen Sharma, zonal head, Voltas India, and marketing manager at Voltas, Jatin Panchal, for the riveting discussion.
Naveen Sharma then went on to share the partner presentation. He highlighted the journey, global presence and product offerings of the popular air-conditioning brand. He also showcased a few snapshots of some of their iconic projects and accolades that adorn Voltas’ hall of fame.
In conclusion, Bibhor Srivastava thanked the delegates and speakers for taking the time to be a part of the forum and the bar and buffet was declared open and the attendees were invited to network over drinks and dinner.