Green Building Design - My Experience

Opinions Dated:  Feb. 13, 2015
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I have been asked to share my experience of designing a green industrial building. My first project for Green building design was with a Hosiery Garment Export Facility in South India. Though I knew the basic principles of a Green Building, designing one to meet the high standards, I had more to learn in this project from the Green Building Consultants from Chennai. I was Co-ordinating with them in every phase of design. This semi - industrial building had its own norms to make it Green. Natural lighting was most important and so was low consumption of electricity and good comfort to the inmates. Normally these hosiery units would be 4 - floored buildings with vertical circulation. Each floor designated a department. But to attain natural uniform daylight for the entire interior becomes next to impossible with vertical buildings. So we went in for a sprawling single floor building and since there could not be any pillars obstructing inside, I resorted to large span steel fabricated roofing.


This roof would allow numerous skylights to illuminate the halls uniformly. But this posed two problems. Heat transmitted through the metal sheet roof. Insulation under the roof was not allowed because all insulating sheets and materials are not “ Green” - they have one or another form of petroleum based chemicals which are not green.

The first problem - skylights - was solved by importing skylight panels from Australia. These skylights are triple layer poly carbonate sheets sandwiched as a panel with air gaps in between the layers filled with some inert gas (to avoid condensations in the night). These skylights do not let in heat but only light (about 15 percent of the heat, however, is let through).

The second problem - heat transmission through the metal roof - was solved by painting specially formulated paints (available in 6 colors) that would resist heat transmission. And because there is no insulation below the roof and hence no false ceiling to conceal the insulation (which would also conceal the fabrication) - all the fabrication would be exposed from the halls. So to make the fabrication elegant, even though it was more expensive, I went in for slender trusses - sheet metal fabricated trusses & purlins which looked elegant and painted them with bright colours.

And the norms called for physical comfort to the workers by way of inside temperature. Air-Conditioning again would call for high consumption of Electric Power which would go against “Green” and Green air-conditioning though available is frightfully expensive. So we provided air humidifiers hung from the roof. These are very special humidifiers, again imported from Australia.

Other Criteria were 60 percent of the site to be left as open space with gardens with Eco-friendly plants. And I gave them a nice garden. And any vehicle inside the compound shall only be electric vehicles. So provisions for electric charging was done. All comforts for physically challenged were provided. With all these. I have given them nice buildings and interiors.

Now comes an interesting story here !! The biggest joke in this project was concealment of the facts by the clients that the building received Platinum Rating in LEED. And also the fact it received the award by IGBC (in one of their conventions in Chennai) as one of the 10 best Green Buildings in Semi - Industrial category in Tamilnadu.

I came to know about the LEED rating through an architect in IGBC with whom I co-ordinated periodically giving him facts that he required. I came to know about the award through one of my Architect friends who was present in the conference.

They had called out the clients name and my name also mentioning that I was the architect and had called my name 3 times. My friends were surprised by my absence!  I never knew!! Clients did not bother to inform me ! NOT ALL TEN FINGERS ARE ALIKE -  so a lesson learned in my life ! And I refused their next project last year.

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