Every day, the future of India becomes increasingly green. By 2018, the green building industry is expected to see a growth of 20%. By 2019, the green building material market is projected to reach $234 billion. With the ongoing efforts of the past decade, the country has demonstrated its commitment to eco-friendly, sustainable practices. But environmentally conscious architecture is not new to the Asian subcontinent. Over the past century, India has been home to a number of forward thinking architects who, at their time, pushed the boundaries of integrating nature into the man-made. These pioneers may have had different styles, different philosophies, and perhaps even different goals, but one thing is certain: their works were the nation’s first steps towards becoming the green-development centre they are today.

Laurence Wilfred “Laurie” Baker (1917-2007)

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Laurence “Laurie” Baker forever advocated a return to traditional building methods. He was known for his low-cost, energy efficient style that made use of locally sourced materials. His designs incorporated many of what are now considered modern practices, such as rainwater harvesting and low-cost construction, as early as the late 60s. This architect’s honest use of materials, his belief in simplicity in design and his organic, eco-friendly architecture earned him the nickname of the “Gandhi of Architecture”.

Laurie’s most defining feature was his masterful brickwork. His work made extensive use of Jali, traditional slotted panels or walls that passively cool a building while maintaining necessary privacy. Widespread use of rat trap bonds in his masonry passively insulated his structures. He often designed circular buildings, which encompass more area with less materials. Regularly in his projects he would seek to reduce material usage, simultaneously reducing costs and environmental impact.

Indeed, Laurence Wilfred Baker’s work was environmentally conscious for almost four decades before the Indian Green Building Council was formed.

Nari Gandhi (1934-1993)

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Before green development was in vogue, organic architecture carried the torch for ecolo
gically-consciousgrowth. Born in 1934, Nari Gandhi was a pioneer of Indian organic architecture. His work strived to have as little impact as possible on the environment in which it was created. Gandhi believed in using locally sourced materials and in using the landscape as a canvas, adapting the building to its surroundings and instead of the other way around.

His work showed a profound respect for its surroundings, a sentiment at the core of modern green building efforts. Mr. Nari would rarely sketch his designs. Instead, he would work closely with the constructors on-site to determine the most efficient, environmentally responsible paths to take. As a matter of fact, projects constructed by this organic pioneer would oft make way via windows for existing trees to remain, rather than cutting them down.

Hafeez Contractor (1950 – Present)

hafeez-contractorModern iconic Indian architect Hafeez Contractor holds a view that is larger in scope. The award-winning developer has been notably quoted saying that “green buildings are a joke”. But this stance is almost always taken out of context. In an interview with Modern Green Structure Architecture he had the opportunity to explain his statement: “Green construction is of no value when just to win gold or platinum rating.”

“I think that green or sustainable construction means not just to use energy efficient building materials and products,” he explains, “emphasis should [also] be on judicious use of land, to save it as much as possible.”

Indeed, Mr Contractor is not opposed to the idea of sustainable development. On the contrary, he believes current certification is not comprehensive enough in its criteria. He expanded: “Optimum use of land is Green and Sustainable to me and I must say that Architect should design for today, keeping future in mind.”

Known as “The man who draws India”, Hafeez now continues the lineage of architects who paint the landscape of India’s cities. His extensive portfolio boasts multiple Platinum level LEED certifications, and a monumental list of awards, and a legacy, quite literally, set in stone.

Conclusion

In the 15 years since the Indian Green Building Council was first founded, India’s green building market has grown at unpredicted rates. Like the rest of the world, the country is working to reduce it’s impact to the environment. Last year it ranked third, only behind China and Canada, in the USGBC’s Top 10 Countries for Green Buildings Outside the U.S. list.

The country’s not-so-distant future is one of recognition and recognition for it’s greening efforts. Although no Indian city made the list in the recent White Paper Top 10 Cities for Green Buildings by Asian-based consulting firm Solidiance, it was in no way for lack of merit. Indian culture is deeply rooted in sustainability. The country is poised to blossom into an environmental hub of international acclaim and recognition in the not-so-distant future.

For India, environmentally-focused development is not new. Integrating into the surroundings has been a mantra of many of the nation’s developers for decades. Green building technology is only the next step for a nation which has reliably understood harmony in building for almost a century. (AGB – RA)

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