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Interviewed by Saakshi Gupta Satav: June 2020

Ar. Anubha Ashtikar has more than 9 years of work experience in the building and development sector as an Architect and 6 years of experience in Sustainable development and building energy efficiency. She is a graduate from the National Institute of Technology, Raipur, and Post Graduate from Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad (CEPT) in ‘Sustainable Architecture’.

She is currently working as Senior Sustainability Expert with Integrative Design Solution Pvt Ltd, Delhi. She was earlier handling 15 states and UTs as a Project Lead for Energy Conservation cells, under AlILSG, Delhi. She also has her own consulting firm for Sustainable Architecture and Energy efficiency in buildings, in Raipur as Elemensis design studio.

She is an active member of the societies like ISHRAE (Women Zonal Chair-East) and President-Elect for Raipur Sub Chapter, FSAI (CWC member) and IIID (Dubai Chapter).

She has been actively spreading awareness amongst the youth on Energy efficiency, Sustainable Development, Role of youth in shaping the society, Women safety in Real and Virtual world, Water conservation through her presentations & lectures in various technical seminars, events, and colleges in India.

How important do you think are eco-friendly and sustainable constructions right now?

With the current world focus on infrastructure development, resource depletion, and hence, derivatively, their wastage has increased exponentially. Although unnoticed by the common folk till now, this depletion is so drastic that commodities like drinking water, which were once taken for granted, have already become a scarcity in some parts of the world. So, infrastructure development, that too development of buildings being one of the gargantuan consumers of natural resources should be designed in such a way to not only optimize the resource consumption but also to focus on recycling, re-usage, and regeneration of resources. If we wish to continue our current living styles and not to deteriorate into some post-apocalyptic world, we need to integrate sustainable development into our lives instantly.

Can you please explain energy-efficient homes and offices for people unknown to the concept?

The simplest definition of efficiency is optimal usage. And, optimal usage translates into squeezing the most out of something without destroying or even damaging it. So, energy efficiency in its most basic definition is the optimization of consumption of energy, a negation of wastage, and the conservation of resources utilized to produce energy.

It can be defined as the reduction in consumption of energy within a building, without reducing the comfort levels of the individuals occupying the said building. A simple phenomenon like the introduction of daylight into the building, reduction of heat gain in the building, reuse of the water within the building complex, the introduction of the renewable sources of energy into the building, although appearing to be minor, turn out to be game-changers in the long run.

There is always been a notion that sustainable materials are financially more pressing than the usual ones, is it a myth or how far is it true?

Sustainable materials are somewhat more expensive initially, that too in some instances. But, this is statement has been read out of context and has always been only half portrayed. The truth is, that sustainable materials may be expensive initially but tend to reduce the cost of usage of various resources over a long duration of time. To further drive home this, one can take an example of energy-efficient electrical devices that are initially costlier than the non-energy saving devices but reduce electricity consumption, hence saving on the bill paid on the electricity consumed over the years. Also, as these devices/measures have a long life, the savings/earnings/returns are in exponential multiples of the extra amount spent at the onset of the project.

Thus, these should be projected as an investment and not an expenditure just like insurance policies bought by the common folk for various projects.

Will the integrated development of smart city technology and ecological innovations, renewable energy sources, etc. beneficial at large? What are your views on the effect of sustainable construction on global warming?

A)  Integration of Smart City Development and Ecological Innovations Smart Cities’ development is an ambitious and highly fruitful scheme of the Government of India targeting to develop 100 cities pan India to showcase globally the image of the transition of the country from a third world developing economy to a first world developed economy. The laying stone of the foundation of the smart city project is sustainable development and hence, integration of ecological innovations is not only desirable but also quintessential. This development encompasses energy efficiency solutions, water management, waste disposal, renewable energy integration and proposes a thorough framework to integrate all the aforesaid conventions with the planning of a city and develop an unprecedented model of urban planning.

B) Sustainable construction and global warming is a consequence of short-sighted depletion of resources, deforestation, and excessive pollution. Sustainable development is everything opposite to the aforementioned causes of global warming and hence it is easy to deduce that global warming is bound to reduce with the increase in sustainable development all over the world. To emphasize this further a comparison of global warming causes and sustainable development criteria negating the cause is irreplaceable. For global warming consequential of deforestation, sustainable development provides for the development of local environments, encourages roof and indoor gardens, and emphasizes on the use of alternate materials as a replacement of wood. For global warming caused due to wastage of resources, sustainable development provides and focuses upon optimization of usage of resources, reuse of resources, encourages innovations to reduce consumption, and supports research for alternates. As a counter of pollution led global warming, sustainable development incorporates changes in practices of developments, encompasses the development of pollution/contamination standards, promotes the stringent implementation of rules/regulations/policies, and concentrates upon the usage of pollution curbing devices/techniques. From this comparison, it is evident that as sustainable development catches pace, global warming will lose steam and may even come to a standstill in not so far a future.

What is the current government role and contributions to encourage the use of energy-efficient buildings?

Governments, both central and state have understood the vitality of sustainable development and are tirelessly toiling to achieve the vision of sustainable development as a habit in society. The governments are working on the principle of simultaneous please and penalize policy by providing incentives to overachievers and penalizing the violators. The Energy Conservation Act (2001), the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), Ujala scheme, are some of the commendable initiatives taken up by the central government(s) over the years. While state governments have taken their initiatives by providing incentives to consumers to encourage sustainable development. This zeal and enthusiasm of the governments have percolated to the last levels with the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) making their own rules/regulations/policies to adopt sustainable development. A minute example of this is the compulsion of inclusion of rainwater harvesting systems/ techniques in all new buildings by all the Urban Local Bodies.

How and what can we do at our own homes to make them more energy-efficient and eco-friendly?

We can adopt many simple and effortless practices to achieve better energy efficiency and eco-friendly environment at our homes. We can start from the fundamental turn off, when not in use mentality. It can be for energy, water, devices, generators, etc. Next, we can gradually and eventually replace current household items/devices with more energy-efficient ones and can try to include energy efficiency of an electrical/electronic device as a desirable feature whenever looking to replace or buy something in the future. Designers should opt for passive design strategies and try to reduce the heat in grace inside the building as much as possible. A well ventilated and naturally day lit buildings designed with the use of locally available and eco-friendly building materials can be claimed as sustainable and efficient design buildings.

What is the ‘Green Building concept’, has the Indian construction market started using it?

Green Building Concept In the simplest of terms, a green building is an environmentally friendly building that preserves more than it damages. Also, a green building does not focus on just one characteristic of the environment but, rather seeks overall preservation and conservation of nature. Use in Indian Construction Market: Yes, the Indian Construction market has not only started using it, but it is becoming a standard norm at quite a rapid pace. Both the client and the constructor are trying that a structure should be developed as an eco-friendly one. The phenomenon has caught up and gelled so well in the Indian scenario, that there are already bodies (both government and private) making standards for sustainable construction and trying to implement policies accordingly.

Which is better: a recycled material or a natural material?

It is a varied opinion in the current trend but progressively the focus is shifting towards usage of recycled materials. Collective, cumulative, societal experience of the years has taught that the availability of any natural resource, however abundant it may be, is limited, whereas there is no limitation of usage for a material recycled time and again. This physical evidence and the growing scarcity of the resources point to recycled material is better.

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