Redefining 'green ' buildings and a need to reflect on our urban lifestyles..
Over the last two decades, we have left our ecological footprints everywhere, with little or no environmental accountability. The green development sector seems to only cynically address the different rating systems for energy, land water and waste management, building materials and climatic design to improve their marketability it’s time we looked at our lifestyles, based on compensation and consumption.
do we need to have a 3,000 sq ft home for a family of four because we can afford it? Do we need these humongous foyers with accent lighting in our offices and recreational spaces ? Yes, it does make a huge difference to change our bulbs to CFLs and harvest the roof rainwater runoff, but what about re-evaluating what we really need? Green rating usually evaluate the end-of-the-line product rather than questioning the need for it.
Are ‘green’ points given to an architect, builder or client build-up space ? if you provide your client with an office space that has more multifunctional floor space, with efficient circulation and provisions for an thus leading to a 20 percent reduction in the built-up area, are you rewarded ? No, the fee or profit in this line of work is tied to how much more you build, not the other way around. The net profit in conventional economics tiled to consumption and not to conservation. So, where is the green in all of this ?
The dilemma of the design and planning profession is that we are rewarded for our consumption while trying to inject bits of conservation with band aids as energy- efficient fixtures and a few recycling techniques. We will not achieve any discernible results if we do not change the basic paradigm of what is the meaning of quality of life.
At a recent workshop of green homes, after discussions on what should be the rating system allocated to various aspects of the built environment , there was a jubilant ceremony on the increase in square footage of residential development in the country that was vying for green rating systems. The air in the room was like an auction house, the bigger the project, the more the success of the green rating exercise in the country ! Size is what really matters, and scaling back on how much we need is not part of the green rating.
Is it not time were looked at how the development sector and the connected service providers function ? Should we not reward architects and developers who are innovative in their ability to provide for our needs with less? Instead of a direct correlation between the size of the build up area to the fee charged, rather we should reward efficiency by providing reduced back built areas without compromising on functionally . Before providing for green building materials, energy efficient lights, waste recycling and the rest of the package deal, we need to look at out lifestyle and question what constitutes our quality of like, in real terms.
The media is often responsible in promoting this confusion. You have entire articles in news magazines devoted to global warming, extinction and depletion of natural resources. But then the last pages of the same magazine exult in covering the interiors of billion-dollar celebrity homes, luxury cars, artifacts and fashion accessories that are must- haves for this season, if your life is to be worth living.
The ethics of our choices are in question here in this century , neither has out eight percent GDP in the last three years brought any gifts in terms of the larger development of the country. We still live in cities where garbage piles up every where you look and there is growing angst among the young that doesn’t seem to go away in spite of living in designer homes that have mood-sensitive colour palettes in their interiors.