Thursday, January 16, 2003
The concrete jungle that the once lush green city of Bangalore is fast turning into, also boasts of an innovative building complex designed to derive maximum benefits from nature’s basic elements and minimise the demands on conventional energy sources. This alluring building complex, that marks a novel paradigm in the creation of an energy-efficient, eco-friendly office space, houses the southern regional centre of the New Delhi-based Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), an autonomous, non-profit organisation actively pursuing research into the areas of energy, environment, biotechnology, forestry and a whole range of sustainable development issues.
Located in the quiet, sylvan surroundings of Domlur layout, this seemingly “out of the world” building complex spread over an area of 25,000 sq ft and inaugurated in January 2002, is claimed to be the only one of its kind in the entire South India. The philosophic motivation behind the unique design concept of the building is that if schools and colleges aspire to be ideal home away from home, why should an office lag behind? Especially when the office is home to a workforce of dedicated professionals belonging to India’s leading think tank on energy, environment and sustainable development. The optimally creative design of this complex exemplifies a judicious blend of technology and tradition. It symbolises TERI’s commitment to sustainable development in all its manifestations.
The energy efficient architecture balances all aspects of energy use in a building’s lighting, space conditioning and ventilation by providing an optimized mix of passive solar design strategies, energy efficient equipment and renewable sources of energy besides the use of materials with low embodied energy. It meets all the requirements of thermal, visual and aural comforts and conveys a dexterous interplay of the five basic natural elements -- sun, air, earth, water and sky -- in soothing proportions. The office spaces in the complex have been delineated into “caves” to “commons”. The caves relate to the intimate small space provided for individual work groups, while the ‘commons’ relate to atria, courts, nodes and corridors for wider interaction. The green spaces inside the office complex simulate nature and create a soothing environment.
Abundance of wind and light is the most striking feature of this office complex. Daylight streams through huge skylighting right through to the heart of the building to enrich the vibrancy of the “commons”. The fenestrations have been designed in such a way that the requirements of artificial lighting is minimal during the daytime by creating atrium spaces with skylights. Intelligent systems like energy efficient lamps, luminaries and control stragals further reduce lighting loads in the building.
The design and construction of the building posed a challenge since a foul smelling sewer ran alongside the southern part of the site. This direction also happened to be the primary wind direction. So the structure was designed to make room for a continuous re-use wind circulation system to ensure healthy conditions within the building. The building was designed to open towards the north to take advantage of glare free sunlight. On the southern side is an absorbent double wall which provides insulation from the southern sun and heats up the air within. The wall’s sections allow the hot air to rise and pull in fresh air from the north. The sections are ventilated and air flows freely from the ground floor to the terrace.
A 5-kw peak solar photovoltaic system provides hot water for use in the kitchen and other utilities. Also coming up is a solar roof where a series of photovoltaic panels integrate into the roof to capture the sun’s energy and store it in a bank of batteries, the main source of power at night.
The ground cover disturbed during the construction has been used for the creation of a beautiful terrace garden, providing insulation for the building and reducing the solar gain. Efficient water management being one of the thrust areas of TER’s research. So a scheme of rain water harvesting has been implemented in the building. Water from various levels of the terrace is directed towards a central collection pond. The water collected is treated according to the level of requirement but is generally used for various maintenance purposes.
To make the building sustainable in all respects, the planners have left scope for improvement and improvisation. According to Dr R K Pachauri, Director General of TERI, with its state of the art facilities assembled in an aesthetically pleasing manner, this complex should serve as an example for planners, builders and architects.
As part of its environmental services, TERI’s southern regional office has prepared a comprehensive “action plan” to curb rising levels of pollution due to vehicular traffic in Bangalore. It has suggested a package of mitigation measures to check pollution in the city region.