We, humans, are always fascinated with modifying our environment for our comfort, convenience, and advancement. Hence we love to build. However, a built space impacts its environment starting from the creation itself. Its impact continues through its lifespan and goes on even after its destruction. The construction industry is responsible for up to 50% of climate change, 40% of energy usage globally, and 50% of landfill waste. Can intelligent building design minimize the impact of Architecture on the Environment?
This is the challenge we took upon us at The ArchBOX Studio while designing the Kwench Package Drinking Water Plant at Karjat. Located at the banks of the Ulhas river, the source of water for the Plant is from within the site itself. Hence, while designing, we made sure that the Plant does not impact the purity and sustainability of the groundwater.
Our client approached us with the thought of building the Plant in RCC. Now, concrete most often ends up in landfills or rubble at the end of its lifespan. Moreover, a considerable amount of Plywood is required for formwork. Not to forget the time and effort. Hence, we offered a PEB (Pre Engineered Building) as a solution to reduce the impact of architecture on the environment. This way the construction timeline and cost, both were brought down by 60%.
Sheet metal is the major component of a PEB structure. For longer life and less maintenance, we opted for Galvalume Sheets. Also, during rains, the elements from the paint of the sheets can percolate into the groundwater. Thus polluting it. Hence, Lead-free and heavy metal-free paint was set as a criterion while selecting the Sheet Metal manufacturer. Not the cost.
Sandwich Puff Panel is commonly used in PEB construction for thermal comfort. However, post thermal analysis at ArchBOX, we realized that it is only the Roof that is taking most of the Heat Gain against the Walls. With Insulation only being designed for the Roof, the PEB construction cost itself was further reduced by 40%
The Plant was strategically located to minimize the roadwork on the site. The requirements for a cul de sac access for loading unloading truck is the basis for the placement of the Plant.
The Plant is linear and placed along the North-South Axis to minimize heat gain. Low-e glass is used for the continuous fixed windows on the East and West faces of the building. North offers the least heat gain. Here, a large glazed facade is designed with regular tempered glass. This glazing, along with the large loading-unloading openings allows ample skylight at the front. No openings are provided on the South face of the Plant.
Polycarbonate Skylights at the roof are the main source of natural illumination for the Plant. At ArchBOX, we designed the surface area of these Skylights such that it maximizes illumination while minimizing heat gain.
Full-length fixed louvered windows at the top of East and West walls naturally extract the hot air on the top with cross-ventilation.
All these measures considerably reduce the requirements of energy for lighting & ventilating to operate the Plant.
The Plant extracts water for packaging from the site itself. This may lower the water table in long run. Hence, the RO discharge of the Plant, and rainwater are pumped back into the ground using the Rainwater Harvesting system.
To further ensure the purity of the groundwater, STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) is installed on the site. Thus reducing the impact of waste on the environment through the lifespan of the Plant.
With the Kwench Plant being built mostly in Steel and Glass, it does have the potential for easy recycling. However, a lot needs to be done to design for deconstruction. Then only we can truly reduce the impact of architecture on the environment.
Modern Architecture is extensively focused on manmade construction materials. Architects by default design with steel, glass, and concrete in mind. It is time for us to relook at naturally available and sustainable materials.
With better technology, Architects are unlocking the limits of wood construction for high-rise buildings. One tonne of CO2 is removed by the tree from the atmosphere for making one cubic meter of wood. Wood is ready to use with minimal post-processing required. No recycling plants are needed to dispose of it. We need to cultivate forests extensively for construction purposes. Wood can be the go-to material for minimizing the impact of architecture on the environment.