India: How Can One Go Vertical and Be Sustainable in Bangalore?

BANGALORE: “Bangalore is more open and green compared to other Indian cities. You can breathe here easily.” That’s Edward Schwarz’s first impression of the Garden City. He’s the general manager of Switzerland-based Holcim Foundation, a global forum for promoting sustainable construction. Schwarz, who was on his maiden visit to Bangalore recently, told TOI that sustainability for a fast-growing city makes more sense to living and the economy as well. Excerpts:

Sustainability in construction has different definitions and understanding.

True. For some, the meaning of sustainability might be just fitting into the landscape. For others, it is using eco-friendly materials, less energy or waste reduction. Everybody is right. But what we need is a holistic approach comprising economic, environmental and social impacts. The present generation should meet its needs without limiting opportunities for the future (generation).

There is a general belief that going sustainable will cost more.

Often, expenses are generally used as an excuse. The main investment you need is the brain. Today, modern techniques have made sustainable buildings cheaper. In some cases, even though the initial investment is more, what you gain in the long run is huge. In fact, sustainability models should be something which can be multiplied easily or made so that it can be copied at any place. This can be achieved with proper use of available technology.

What about the role of architecture?

Going sustainable for me also means a building should be visually sustainable. A hospital (be it government or private) shouldn’t look scary for visitors. A village primary healthcare centre in Dharmapuri of Tamil Nadu has been rebuilt with sophisticated detailing by using recycled materials. The structure, which got an award from our foundation, has a space for creating awareness programmes.

How can one go vertical and be sustainable in Bangalore?

Vertical growth has its advantages as it doesn’t need a lot of land. It makes the city more formal. But having done that, if people have to cover long distances to work, there will be difficulties. We have to create spaces for people to work-live-recreate. Even if you are building low-cost housing for the poor on these lines, there should be incentives in the form of a school nearby. You cannot build some high-rises and ask people to move where they don’t feel at home!

What about the legal framework?

Setting norms for buildings to go green is excellent to measure sustainability. But when the competition is restricted to just ratings, there is no quality. For example, a developer can build a glass high-rise and just provide grass roofing and a bicycle stand on the ground floor, to get some points. Should we call it a green building?

Source: The Times of India

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