Photo Courtesy: Ashok B Lall Architects

Architect Ashok B Lall claims the construction of ecologically sustainable IRRAD building in Gurgaon was built at no extra cost and will save 25-30 per cent cost in 5 years. Kunal Majumder reports.

Architect Ashok B Lall’s construction of Institute Of Rural Research And Development (IRRAD) office in Gurgaon has proved that sustainable architecture can not only save the environment but also your money। Built on a cost of Rs 20,000-22,000 per square area, the building is expected to save at least 25-30 per cent less electricity and other costs in 5 years.

“About 90 per cent of any sustainable project requires no extra cost, may be even less. This notion about high cost is complete myth,” claims Lall, who has been in the business of architecture for a quarter of a century.

He feels 80 per cent of sustainable designing is about common sense and rest includes sophisticated technology। “Technology is required only to price down the energy consumed by air conditioners. With intelligent design like the IRRAD building, you can bring down the electricity cost by almost 50 per cent.”

SM Sehgal Foundation, the owners of the building, wanted to create a workspace that had a frugal appearance and spoke about its aim as a rural development NGO। They also wanted to addresses the looming dangers of global warming. “We wanted to use as much natural materials as possible and try to reduce the dependency on energy,” says a spokesperson, SM Sehgal Foundation.

Basics of light and air

Along with his client’s brief, Lall implemented few more principles of sustainable architecture like maximum use of daylight and minimum requirement of air conditioning। Daylight plays a very important role in the IRRAD building. The architect has tried to modulate the use of light through fixed blinds and positioning of the building. All functional spaces have daylight and require artificial lights only on a cloudy day. “Movable blinds are used only in classrooms to darken the room during film projection. Only one window faces west and uses blinds. Otherwise all are daylight modulated,” says Lall. The auditorium has an option of using both day light as well as artificial lighting with help of a simple pulley.

When it comes to air conditioning, the architect has gone completely green. He has used timbre for air conditioning grills instead of aluminium. Lall says he ensured most of the timbre was sourced from managed forest resources. Use of timbre has ensured less energy consumption and is also renewable as a material. Only about 20 per cent of the area has false ceiling as Lall has tried to contain air condition ducts in a certain space.

The building also has natural ventilation facility। This helps in minimising air condition use during pleasant sessions. Apart from the auditorium, most spaces have ceiling fans. “Apart from 60-70 days in the year, there is no requirement of air condition in this building,” claims Lall.

Courtyard has been turned into a semi indoor space with a huge photovoltaic solar roof। The building generates power from 35 kWP photovoltaic solar panels. A concrete jaali has ensured modulation of daylight as well as creates design out of sunrays.

Creating out of waste

He ensured that most of the materials used were sourced locally within 500 kms radius। The materials used required very little processing energy to make it suitable for the building. His team gave preference to bio-mass materials like bamboo, teak wood, timber and rubber wood. “These materials are quickly renewable and hold Carbon Dioxide in themselves. Conversely, we banned use of aluminium in the work because aluminium is a highly energy consuming material,” explains Lall.

Large numbers of stones including granite and sandstone have been used in the project based on their sustainability for particular purposes and locations। Another important principle was to ensure minimal wastage. The design team used stone patterns in various combinations without sticking to traditional geometrical shapes. Lall feels this helped to utilise the leftovers and gave a new design dimension to the project. “The key is No Wastage! Think creative and move beyond the conventional fixed pattern.” Apart from stones, the other waste materials like mirror, broken titles and waste plywood have been used creatively in backdrops of important parts of the building like the reception and the auditorium. Even leftover materials from lifts have been used at the entrance and benches. “If you use your imagination creatively, there is nothing called waste,” explains Lall.

The IRRAD is a self service office with pantry space at each floor. The dustbins in these areas are segregated as biodegradable and non biodegradable. This adds to the larger theme of environmental sustainability.

The bricks of the building are made from earth dug out for the basement. Lall has even left a portion of the wall uncovered to give the visitors an idea about what lies under the shinny surface!