Aqua is an 82 storied, mixed-use residential skyscraper under construction in the Lakeshore East development in downtown Chicago. The name “Aqua” is in keeping with the nautical theme most of the buildings in the Lakeshore East development have: The Tides, The Shoreham, The Regatta etc.

Words: Tillana Desai


Aqua is an 82 storied, mixed-use residential skyscraper under construction in the Lakeshore East development in downtown Chicago. The name “Aqua” is in keeping with the nautical theme most of the buildings in the Lakeshore East development have: The Tides, The Shoreham, The Regatta etc.


Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi

One of the tallest buildings in Abu Dhabi, the structure has been certified as the ‘world’s furthest leaning man-made tower’ by the Guinness Book of World Records.


CCTV Headquarters, Beijing

The CCTV Headquarters is a skyscraper in Beijing’s Central Business District. The headquarters of China
Central Television stands at a height of 234 m (768 ft).


Parliament Palace, Romania

This is the second largest administrative building in the world. It was built in Bucharest, the capital, during the Soviet era in the mid-1980s. Besides the parliament, it also houses the Bucharest International Conference Centre and Romania’s Museum of Modern Art.



Though lighthouses are on the decline in the shipping business, thanks to technological developments, they continue to attract a lot of interest from tourists around the globe

Words: Revati Rajwade

The sea appeared menacing with its monstrous waves lashing at everything that came its way. It engulfed the mammoth rock formation which smashed the unsuspecting ships trying to surpass the darkness of the night.

Along the coast, a lone towering structure stood tall amidst this dreadful environment with a light flickering at its topmost end. It was the only help for those at sea and proved to be a solid guiding factor. Such was the picture of a lighthouse in my mind, as painted through Enid Blyton’s novel ‘Five Go to the Demons Rocks’.

Throughout my childhood I was consumed by the thrill and adventure which I had associated with lighthouses owing to the escapades of The Famous Five. The rocky path to the lighthouse, the mysterious levels in its interiors and the treasures they unearthed were extremely exciting.

Hence, my euphoria while climbing the spiralling staircase of the lighthouse at Kovalam beach, Kerala was unparalleled. The 35m tall red and white tower atop the palm-covered Kurumkal hill was a spectacular sight. Officially known as the Vizhinjam lighthouse, it is now a major tourist destination. But once upon a time it was one of the important lighthouses dotting India’s coastline. However, that is when I realised that there is a lot more to a lighthouse than mere fantasies which used to surround it.

The guide at Kovalam introduced me to the basic fact that a lighthouse is always located at a dangerous place with respect to navigation since its two main purposes are to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas.

Just as traffic signs on the roads or traffic policemen guide vehicular traffic, lighthouses are built to guide sea travellers. The hairpin bends when roads are carved through mountains are one of the most dangerous zones of road travel.

Similarly, rocky patches in the sea can prove to be detrimental to a ship or even icebergs as in the infamous case of the Titanic. Hence, the importance of lighthouses requires no justification.
The tall structure consists of a sturdy foundation, the central slender body and a head. The most important part of the lighthouse is the topmost zone which houses a system containing lamps and lenses that throw light which can be seen easily in the darkness.

The presence of a lighthouse itself warns travellers of the probable presence of dangers along the coastlines or dangerous reefs. However, along with this, these structures also mark the safe zones for ships to enter into a harbour or port or any place where the ship can be safely anchored.


In olden days, sea trade was the only mode of transport across continents since air transport was not widely used. With the passage of time, the dependency on lighthouses has declined considerably owing to the invention of more progressive navigational systems like the electronic ones.

Many of the existing lighthouses are now more famous as tourist destinations than serving their primary purpose. Also, in many cases the expenses incurred for maintenance of lighthouses have turned out to be more than its practical usage.

However, this does not mean that they have become obsolete since their role in facilitating seamless sea travel since centuries cannot be challenged.


The birthplace of lighthouses was Egypt and this is where the tallest lighthouse of that era was built; it soared 900 feet above sea level. It guided thousands of ships for over 1,500 years. In the beginning, their light source was usually from wood pyres or burning coal since those were the commonly used raw materials for generating fire.

With the advent of a new era of technology, a Swiss scientist revolutionised illumination by creating a method which generated smokeless flames. With the passage of time, in 1822 the first modern lighthouse lens was invented by a Frenchman.

The following year, a Fresnel lens was invented which could capture more oblique light from a source. This resulted in the generation of a stronger light which was subsequently visible over greater distances in the sea. This particular system is used in several lighthouses till date.

It is apparent that the modern era of lighthouses began as the world entered the 18th century. The primary factor behind this was the practical need of lighthouses since trade by the sea routes had increased manifold.

New inventions could provide an answer to this growing need. Radical improvement in structural engineering resulted in creating stronger lighthouses in more challenging site conditions.

A lighthouse named Winstanley at Eddystone Rocks in the UK marked the beginning in a new phase in its development.

The rocks were responsible for numerous shipwrecks and were considered a terror by marine travellers.

The first lighthouse was an octagonal wooden structure and proved to be a milestone as it was the first in the world to have been built in the sea. The new lighthouse was built in granite following the profile of an oak tree. A key contribution of the engineer was that he extensively used hydraulic lime, a form of concrete that set under water. A fixing detail for granite blocks using dovetail joints and marble dowels had also been developed by him.

Another famous lighthouse is the world’s oldest surviving one, built on Bell Rock, Scotland, 18 km from the shoreline. It has been in use since 1811. The challenges faced in building this 35 m tall lighthouse were tremendous. It is described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

The story of its construction is indeed eventful. In 1807, a group of men were to be at sea for 2 months. In those days pick axes were used to cut the blocks which were to be used for foundations. This laborious and time consuming work ran throughout the week. Within 2 years, a large part of the tower had been completed. The following year, work was finally completed.
In sheer contrast to the Bell Rock Lighthouse is the modern Jeddah Lighthouse designed by a firm called UAP for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.


It stands at a pinnacle along the Red Sea and can even be seen from across the sea from Egypt and Sudan. It has received international acclaim owing to its magnificent form. The tower comprises hexagonal punctures on its surface creating a dynamic pattern for a 60 m height of its total length.

This is an epitome of development and puts the construction capabilities of the country on a pedestal. The tower is made from individual pre-cast concrete blocks which create the hexagons on the facade. In this way, the methods of construction of lighthouses have undergone a sea change since its inception.

With every new record, man has surpassed the previous lapses in technology and presented the world with structures which would go down in history.

Tallest lighthouse in the world: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 436 feet (133 m) – Built in 1990

Most famous lighthouse: Statue of Liberty, New York city (early in its existence, it was a lighthouse).

Revati is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession and a writer by passion. She can be reached at:


Our regular architecture feature focuses on the importance of dams around the globe

Words: Revati Rajwade

Tehri Hydro power complex


If one goes through the pages of history, it is apparent that dams have always been misinterpreted, literally and figuratively. The Nigerian proverb ‘In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams’ and the worldwide protests against dams provides evidence regarding this fact.

However, in spite of this, throughout history man has been building dams for various reasons, such as to prevent floods, generate electricity or for water supply. Starting thousands of years ago in the Middle East as small walls, today dams are immensely huge power generation facilities that fulfill a number of tasks and take years to build.

In some cases they have had an adverse effect on the environment and inhabitants owing to which they are often met with skepticism.

But in the larger scheme of things, they are extremely beneficial to mankind.

Dams can be classified either on the basis of their function or their structure and design.

On the basis of function there are storage dams, diversion dams, detention dams, debris dams and coffer dams, which are indeed self-explanatory.


The following are the classifications on the basis of their structure and design:

• Gravity Dams
• Earth Dams
• Rockfill Dams
• Arch Dams
• Buttress Dams
• Steel Dams
• Timber Dams.

In a gravity dam, by using concrete, the weight of the dam is actually able to resist the horizontal thrust of water pushing against it. Gravity essentially holds the dam down to the ground, stopping water from toppling it over.

An earth dam is made of soil built up by compacting successive layers of earth, using the most impervious materials to form a core and placing more permeable substances on the upstream and downstream sides.

A rockfill dam is built of rock fragments and boulders of large size. An impervious membrane is placed on the rockfill on the upstream side to reduce the seepage through the dam.

An arch dam is curved in plan, with its convexity towards the upstream side. It transfers the water pressure and other forces mainly to the abutments by arch action.

In a timber dam, as the name suggests, the load-carrying structural elements are made of wood, primarily coniferous varieties such as pine and fir.


Buttress dams are further divided into three types – deck, multiple-arch and massive-head. The architecture and engineering of each of these types of dams is different from the other and requires analysis prior to designing. It is essential to construct a type suitable to the existing site conditions.

As it is already known, dams are undoubtedly a feat of engineering and have aided mankind in several missions towards progress. The massive challenges faced during construction and the design detailing required for it is unparalleled.

One of the best examples of this is the Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi river near Tehri in Uttarakhand. With a height of 855 feet, the dam is the fifth tallest in the world and the tallest in India. It is a multi-purpose rock and earth-fill embankment dam which withholds a reservoir for irrigation, municipal water supply and the generation of 1,000 MW of hydroelectricity.

The Tehri Hydro Power Complex (2400 MW), comprises many components including the Tehri Dam & Hydro Power Plant, Koteshwar Hydro Electric Project and Tehri Pumped Storage Plant. The complex provides irrigation to an area of 270,000 hectares, irrigation stabilisation to 600,000 hectares and a supply of 270 million gallons of drinking water per day to the industrialised areas of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The 1800 ft long expanse of the dam is majestic and what makes it extraordinary is that it is located in the Central Himalayan Seismic Gap, a major geologic fault zone. Hence, there have always been concerns regarding the dam’s geological stability.


However, this geology has been taken into account; it is a rock and earth filled dam which enables it to withstand an earthquake of 8.4 magnitude. Also like other dams, in case of breakage, the Tehri has been constructed such that it will not collapse suddenly.

The highlight of this project is the successful rehabilitation which is considered Asia’s most comprehensive and successful programnme. The dam has led to the relocation of more than 100,000 people from the area. A well-planned modern town called New Tehri nestles at a height of 1,550 m overlooking the dam.

The other renowned example in the world is the Hoover dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado river, on the border between two states. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam. Construction began in early 1931 when such a large concrete structure had never been built before. Some of the techniques were unknown and untested.

Construction within the strict timeframe proved an immense challenge, as the workers had to tread into carbon monoxide-choked tunnels and dangled from heights of 800 ft to clear canyon walls. Capable of irrigating 2 million acres, the 17 turbines of the Hoover dam generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.

The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders in 1994.

Tehri Dam


This is one of the dams in the world where minor detailing has been given equal importance as the mega structure. The facade had been planned out along with the structural details. However, the initial plans for the facade of the dam, the power plant, the outlet tunnels and ornaments clashed with the modern look of an arch dam.


Hence, Los Angeles-based architect Gordon B. Kaufmann was brought in to design the exteriors. Kaufmann streamlined the design and applied an elegant Art Deco style to the entire project.

He designed sculptured turrets rising seamlessly from the dam face and clock faces on the intake towers set for the time in Nevada and Arizona — the two states are in different time zones.

The interiors were given equal importance as the façade; an artist was also hired for the internal walls and flooring design. The entire scheme revolved around Native American culture and to impart knowledge about the construction, machinery of the operation had also been incorporated.

Further to the two examples cited above, there are several such constructions across the world which have radically changed its surrounding areas and filled them with electricity and year-round supply of water. These are a few of the essentials of life; it is of prime importance that the world sheds its inhibitions about dams and embrace their true power.


Largest Arch Dam in Asia: Idukki dam, Periyar, Kerala
Largest Dam in the world: Three Gorges, Yangtze, China
Tallest embankment dam in the world: 300 m high Nurek in Tajikistan
Costliest dam in the world: Grand Inga, Congo
Country with the highest number of dams: China


Revati is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession and a writer by passion. She can be reached at:


‘It is the architect’s moral responsibility to be sensitive towards the environment’

Architect Lester Rozario owns the award-winning studio of architects in Bangalore, Kamat&Rozario Architecture.

An interview with the prominent architect. Excerpts


Layout plan - Lemirado restaurant

\Kr-1eKamat & Rozario-Part ACurrent ProjectsVikram Chavlaf

Could you run us through your architectural career in terms of your interest, your qualifications, work experience and the setting up of your firm?

It’s not that I always wanted to be an architect and frankly never thought that I would become one till I landed up in architecture school.

As a child I had the qualities of a handyman, always fixing things, understanding how things worked and putting junk to better use.

This I think was something that was unknowingly a spark in the right direction.

As far as qualifications go, I am a gold medalist from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Karnataka. I worked for some time with a few architects before setting up my own practice with SmrutiKamat.

Which are the major markets that you practice in?

Our practice and projects are based in India as of now.

We are active in the fields of architecture, interiors and furniture design

What are the challenges that an architect faces in India?

The commercial market is singularly profit-driven and if you can address environmental issues within those parameters then its works.

When it comes to the home owner – yes there is more sensitivity towards the environment, but we have a long way to go.

Restaurant with communal table


Light fitting using scrap truck clutch plates


Do you feel architects must be responsible towards the environment even if it adversely impacts the project?

Yes, I feel quite strongly that it is the architect’s moral responsibility to be more sensitive towards the environment. He needs to firstly educate the client on the impact of certain decisions such as using local materials rather than stuff that is hauled from half way around the world.

The monetary and environmental benefits of using something that is greener and cleaner in comparison to something that may on the surface look more appealing.

Is there growing awareness among corporates to follow norms and try to stick to world-class projects?

Yes, but the reasons for doing so are misplaced. Since larger MNC’s have certain standards that they adhere to, a number of builders try to put those in place to attract them. But this is only done superficially and not born out of the need to follow norms. Of course there are exceptions to the rule.

What is your advice for upcoming architects in India?

Always follow your instinct.

Urban Garden on a tiny 1200 sqft plot


Reception and Meeting Rooms-Corporate Office


Rapid-fire questions

Can you give us your date of birth?

21st May

What are your favourite monuments – in India and abroad?

In India, I find Mandu quite fascinating especially the JahazMahal complex and abroad my favourites would have to be SagradaFamilia in Barcelona.

If you had an opportunity to redesign an architectural marvel, what would it be and why?

It’s important to see and understand an architectural marvel in its context and how it addressed the issue/programme that made it a marvel in the first place. There will always be a few details that you think that may have done better. I think it’s more important to learn from them.

Who is your role model?

There are many different things to learn from the many people that I admire. There are many different aspects that I admire about people from different walks of life. I don’t have one single role model.

What is the most memorable day in your life so far?

There have been a few and it’s hard to single one out of them.

Can you tell us about the project that has been the closest to your heart?

The next one. Each project is an opportunity to experiment and create something beautiful and interesting. To create something that is fitting to its context, which addresses the brief. Hoping that the next one will be it!

What has been your biggest achievement professionally and the most proud moment?

Every project is an opportunity to create something that has not been done before, don’t waste it.

Your favourite holiday destination?

I love to travel and again feel that there is so much that I have not seen and experienced. Till now there are two. In India, the best has been Spiti valley. The untouched landscapes and the wonderfully friendly people made that trip through the valley very memorable.

The other one would have to be Rome. The beautiful architecture, food and again wonderfully warm people made it a place that I would keep going back to.

House Exterior with the first floor suspended from the ceiling



The creative design facet of constructions plays a pivotal role in their rise to fame. In the first of this four-part series, we explore the architectural aspects of renowned engineering feats in relation with the structural elements. We look at pedestrian bridges which showcase incredible design elements

Words: Revati Rajwade

1.Zubizuri bridge - Spain_1

There are some constructions which possess the extraordinary quality of generating admiration as soon as a person sets eyes upon them. More often than not, man has shown affinity towards magnanimity and hence, this is the foremost criteria, which tends to create awe and inspiration.

Dams, lighthouses, tunnels, bridges and various other such constructions which span across huge dimensions have taken the world by surprise since their inception. The engineering of such structures is a daunting task and is rightfully given its credit by attributing these to technical feats.

However, the architectural aspect of these constructions is sidelined and seldom rises to the forefront

Engineering involves the working, construction, durability and several such other aspects of a proposal. However, as German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) had famously said: “Architecture begins where engineering ends.”

It is indeed the skillful amalgamation of architecture and engineering which results in some of the best constructions which adorn the world. The two, when implemented in tandem can unravel the hidden possibilities of the ‘to be built’ environment.

An excellent example of this would be the structures of Santiago Calatrava – a structural engineer and an architect. The very fact that Calatrava is an engineer as well as an architect enables him to transform his concept driven dynamic forms into reality with finesse.


The design for his Zubizuri bridge in Bilbao, Spain is a striking form coupled with neat engineering. The design began in 1990 but execution started 4 years later. Like all of Calatrava’s structures which receive inspiration from nature or the human body, this bridge too has a connection with nature as the basic composition of steel and glass represents a skeletal frame.

Since the bridge spans across a river, the chosen symbolism of a fish was well-received by the public. The walkway of the bridge represents the backbone of a fish with its narrow stainless steel ribs supporting translucent glass panels. The thought process and concept behind the project is thus instrumental in placing it in the right context.

The curved walkway design is supported with suspension cables from an inclined arc which majestically rises to 15.3 m above the pedestrian movement. This rise was made possible owing to the use of 50 mm diameter tubes for the arc.

Steps and ramps lead people to the bridge from both the sides. The walkway is raised 8.5 m above the water and its width varies between 6.5 and 7.5m. The 75m span of the bridge is flanked by 39 steel cables on each side at an interval of 1.8m. The dominating structural element – the bow – is inclined at an angle of 80° to the horizontal.

In plan, this arc rhythmically travels from the lower left corner to the upper right corner.


Structural Engineer and Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Location: Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain
Year of design: 1990
Years of construction: 1994 – 1997
Height: 15 m
Width of walkway : 6.5 m – 7.5 m
Span of the bridge: 75 m

The steel cables and the glass pathway result in a sharp contrast of materials. The various materials have been provided a finish and colour such that they appear holistic.The main structural steel arch has been painted white like the rest of the structure.

2. The majestic arch of Zubizuri Bridge

However, in the modern setting, design does not end at these aspects. The lighting element is an important factor which highlights the outline and proves to be a landmark in the city.

Thus, in each of the lower ribs of the bridge one lighting device has been placed after due consultation with a lighting expert. The illuminated composition is indeed a spectacle.

An apt description of the bridge by author Philip Jodidio states: “As in many other designs by Santiago Calatrava, an apparent disequilibrium or rather a sense of frozen movement is heightened by the lightness of the structure.”


A stark contrast to the simplistic Zubizuri bridge is the Tabiat bridge in Tehran designed by Iranian architect Leila Araghian which is famous for its complexity. The structural engineer Maffeis has brought the multi layered design to its logical conclusion.

It is located in the northern area of Tehran known as Abbas Abad, which houses several libraries and museums. This is an example of a design where the concept journey’s its way through the entire arduous design process to reach the final destination, unscathed.

3. Tabait Bridge- Tehran

“From the very beginning the concept was to have a spatial structure large enough to create an architectural space, while at the same time acting as the structure,” explained Araghian, who was just 26 years old when she designed the bridge. “It is intended to be a place to linger rather than just one to pass through and to act as an extension of the parks which lie on either side of the bridge.”

Usually the virgin idea is compromised owing to several factors like functionality, cost and structural requirements but such is not the case here. The bridge is an assortment of different pathways which encourages pedestrians to meander on it, thus creating interest and offering a new dimension to the mundane activity of crossing a busy road.

The aim is to encourage people to stay and ponder and not merely pass. The bridge lies across the Modares Expressway and the design was conceived by the architect for a competition. On winning it, Araghian’s studio Diba Tensile Architecture completed the 270-metre-long bridge in 5 years.

Since its completion in 2014, it has been the largest pedestrian bridge in Iran.

The structure comprises three levels that follow a curved path and which are connected by various ramps and stairs. The bridge has a mammoth steel truss structure that marks the bridge a place in the skyline.

4.Levels of walkways of Tabait Bridge

Columns have multi-branches as they have been inspired from the dense foliage in the parks alongside. The bridge is a result of a total of 2,000 tonnes of steel and 10,000 cubic metres of concrete. The width of the pathway varies from 6 to 13 meters where spaces with greater width have seating spaces for people to enjoy the space.

The several levels of the bridge have wooden finished walkways which meander as an S shape to create a sense of mystery about the destination. “There are multiple routes from one point to the other, encouraging pedestrians to wander and get lost on this bridge,” added Araghian.

The construction was a huge challenge since the bridge lies across a busy highway. Platforms and temporary tunnels had to be built to ensure that the road below was not affected in any way. This is thus truly a feat of engineering as well as architecture.


Architect: Leila Araghian
Structural engineer: Maffeis Engineering
Location: Tehran, Iran
Years of construction: 2010-2014
Width of walkway: 6 m – 13 m
Span of the bridge: 750 m


Revati is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession and a writer by passion. She can be reached


Green architecture is widely misinterpreted and reduced to a practice which merely encourages vertical gardens, planting trees and picturesque landscapes

Words: Revati Rajwade

In his enormously successful book, Design with Nature, published in 1969, Ian McHarg, a Scottish landscape architect and a renowned writer argues: “If one accepts the simple proposition that nature is the arena of life and that a modicum of knowledge of her process is indispensable for survival and rather more for existence, health and delight, it is amazing that how many apparently difficult problems present a ready solution.”

This statement is an apt precursor to understanding the nuances of Green Architecture. The ideals of Green Architecture resonate perfectly with these thoughts and hence it can be said that it is a sustainable method of building where design and construction is carried out with an approach that curtails harmful effects on human well-being and the environment.

The key concepts which govern this sector are energy efficiency, minimising wastage, and usage of locally available materials. However, many a times, the term Green Architecture is widely misinterpreted and is reduced to a practice which merely encourages vertical gardens, planting trees and creating picturesque landscapes.

This is the superficial interpretation of a term which, in reality, encompasses a wide spectrum of sustainable architectural practises. By focusing on the mere component of greenery, a large sector of the population believes that planting several trees on site is ‘green architectural practice’. Our environment has always been in need of plantations but it is essential to be much more sensitive during the construction of new footprints on the face of the Earth.



To comprehend the intricacies of the subject a further elaboration and understanding of the green features is crucial. A built form and its facilities after inhabitation can be sustainable by adopting sensitive changes such as energy-efficient lighting and appliances, water-saving plumbing fixtures, ventilation systems designed for efficient heating and cooling and landscapes planned to maximise passive solar energy.

Promotion of alternate power sources such as solar or wind power, use of recycled architectural salvage and climatically oriented site plan to maximise natural light and wind are some other components which need to be borne in mind while executing a project.

Green architecture comprises several non-glamorous and ‘non-green’ factors such as soil erosion control, ensuring basic facilities for the construction workforce and proper handling of waste materials during construction. Innovation in the design process which would have a positive impact on the environment is of immense value.

Optimisation in structural design results in optimum use of materials which in turn contributes towards sustainability. When the world realised the importance of Green Architectural practices, it led to the birth of a few regulatory bodies which enlisted the features of a green building.
The format introduced was simple.

Built forms were evaluated against the enlisted features and a rating would be awarded. The spread of awareness of architecture that seeks to minimise the negative environmental impact led to people vying for these prestigious ratings.


RoshniUdyavar Yehuda, Head of RachanaSansad’s Institute of Environmental Architecture – Mumbai highlights the other scenario regarding people’s perception about Green Architecture in India. She says: “Most urban homeowners and buyers are unaware about green buildings. Developers consider green buildings as a ‘good deed’ or a stepping-stone for obtaining environmental clearance. Implementation and monitoring is largely lacking. The success of green buildings will depend largely on aware consumers and designers who will take conscious and meticulous steps to design and maintain buildings that deal effectively with energy, transportation, water, waste and other resources, thereby reducing urban pollution and maintaining ecological balance.”

When asked about the comparison between Indian indigenous architecture and sustainable architecture built in urban areas as per the current norms of IGBC, LEED etc. she says: “Vernacular urban architecture and modern green-certified buildings cannot be compared. They belong to different times and socio-cultural-economic contexts. Both can provide us valuable lessons. Vernacular architecture expresses people’s wisdom over generations and has built-in efficiency of resources.

Green buildings today such as those certified by LEED, IGBC or GRIHA provide technologically advanced solutions such as use of high performance glazing and walling, efficient plumbing and energy efficient equipment (as also application of passive design principles). However, in the latter, unless the users are conscious, environmental benefits can remain only on paper. One of the biggest challenges for sustainability in buildings is to motivate users to bring sustainability in daily living.”


However, in spite of this there are exemplary examples of energy-efficient buildings in India. Suzlon’s corporate headquarters in Pune designed by the renowned architect Christopher Charles Benninger is one such example. Suzlon is a wind energy company and by ensuring that their own building is environmentally sensitive, they have proven their commitment towards their work.

The headquarters is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, with shaded windows, solar water heating, grey water recycling and natural air circulation systems. The complex spreads over 75,000 sq m, which houses 2,300 employees and is entirely powered by green energy generated both on site and by Suzlon’s wind farms.


Another example is the ITC chain of hotels which is a pioneer in the hospitality sector, especially with regards to sustainable buildings. Their ‘ITC Royal Gardenia’ in Bengaluru is a luxury hotel where eco sensitive materials have been used throughout. Rooms are equipped with Eco-responsible toiletries and sanitary fixtures. The room cleaning products are also 100% biodegradable.


The hotel is on the path to achieving almost nil solid waste. The boon of rainwater harvesting can be enjoyed in the lush landscapes of the hotel which are watered via drip irrigation. ITC has incorporated Evergreen Chillers which are the world’s first integrated variable speed, variable flow, water cooled and environment friendly chillers. A Guest digital assistance has been installed in all the rooms, which ensures customised climate controls, thus reducing chances of wastage.

All over the world, the importance of reversing the rampant damage done in the past several decades has come to light. San Francisco can boast of its Rene Cazenave Apartments which have been designed to reduce energy use by 42%. The 75,000 sq. ft building is a supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.

The design team from Saida + Sullivan Design Partners focused on strategies that simultaneously addressed the goals of environmental and social sustainability by reducing long term energy use and costs and creating healthy living environments. They overcame budget constraints to give a high priority to investments in a wide range of sustainable design strategies.

This will prove to be fruitful by mitigating operational and inhabitation costs. Integrated sustainable design strategies adopted here include energy efficient exterior cladding and windows, enhanced air quality ventilation systems and a roof top solar renewable energy canopy with both hot water and photovoltaic panels.Water is carefully managed by a vegetated roof, smart irrigation, a courtyard storm water tank and reclaimed water piping.

Architect Yehuda has specialised in environmental design, practice and education and has worked in rural and urban remediation projects in areas of watershed management, rainwater harvesting, passive solar architecture, waste water treatment, efficient and eco-friendly building materials. She offers the positive results and examples of implementation of green architecture.

“Torrent Research Centre, Ahmedabad, BCIL TZED Bangalore, IGP Complex, Gulbarga are some positive examples of passive design buildings with high levels of energy efficiency,” she points out. “Numerous urban buildings harvest rainwater, recharge groundwater and recycle wastewater reducing the demand for municipal supply. Cement House, Churchgate, Mumbai also stands out as an example of heritage building which has achieved LEED Gold rating and BEE star rating and has significantly reduced energy and environment footprint.”

Thus, the key to architectural sustainability is to work in tandem with, rather than against, nature. In this way mankind can reap all the benefits while avoiding damage to natural systems. This will lead to the true measure of success of Green Architecture which mirrors the view that it is necessary to believe that nature is the true master and should not be defied.

Revati is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession and a writer by passion. She can be reached at: