Navigating Carbon Challenges: Green Design for Modern Buildings in India

Author – Qutub Mandviwala

Design forms the fundamental basis for environmentally conscious building practices in India. What design components can be integrated into contemporary architecture to address the carbon crisis?


The process of building construction contributes to carbon emissions across various stages:

  1. Embodied Carbon: This pertains to the carbon dioxide equivalent emitted during the construction phase, including the installation, replacement, or deconstruction of building materials.
  2. Operational Carbon: This denotes the carbon footprint generated by a building during its usage, stemming from activities like lighting, power consumption, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and other infrastructure operations.

A highly effective strategy for cultivating a more inclusive environment involves employing adaptable and sustainable planning layouts that can be easily adjusted to accommodate future building requirements. Such spaces not only offer versatility for diverse functions but also establish a flexible environment capable of adapting to evolving weather conditions and temperature fluctuations.

Here are some strategies for incorporating environmentally friendly practices:

  1. Reuse of Existing Structures: Opt for renovating and repurposing existing buildings instead of constructing new ones. Renovation and reuse projects typically result in 50-75% lower embodied carbon emissions compared to new construction. Reusing building materials and pre-fabricated components reduces the overall embodied energy of the structure.
  2. Fly Ash Bricks: Consider using fly ash bricks as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional clay bricks. These bricks utilize waste materials, require less energy during production, and are energy-efficient, recyclable, cost-effective, and durable.
  3. Minimize Carbon-Intensive Materials: Reduce or avoid the use of materials with high carbon footprints, such as aluminum, plastics, and foam insulation.
  4. Opt for Low-Carbon Alternatives: Choose wood over steel and concrete, or wood paneling over vinyl, to decrease embodied carbon in projects.
  5. Utilize Carbon-Sequestering Materials: Incorporate agricultural products that sequester carbon, making a significant impact on a project’s embodied carbon.
  6. Limit the Use of Finish Materials: Employ structural materials as finish materials to decrease embodied carbon. For instance, polished concrete slabs can replace carpet or tile flooring.

Passive design is a pivotal aspect of environmentally conscious design, encompassing various techniques and strategies suitable for buildings in diverse climates worldwide. This approach involves energy-efficient modes of heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting.

  1. Optimal Orientation: Analyze sun-path charts and wind direction to determine the most favorable orientation for a building.
  2. Effective Facades: Employ horizontal and vertical shading devices like louvers, overhangs, and movable shades that adjust with solar angles. This directly influences facade thermal properties, aiding cooling in summers and heating in winters.
  3. Strategic Shading Devices: Well-designed sun control and shading mechanisms significantly reduce heat gain and cooling demands. Recessed windows, balconies, and jaali facades minimize direct sunlight entry.
  4. Natural Ventilation: Implement large openings, central courtyards, and cross ventilation. Jaalis utilize the Venturi effect to efficiently cool indoor spaces while keeping heat out.
  5. Microclimate Considerations: Account for the microclimate formed by surrounding physical elements, including vegetation, soil properties, water bodies, shading from adjacent buildings, and regional exposure to particle pollution.

In summary, envelope-based passive measures play a pivotal role in decarbonizing buildings by diminishing the need for active heating, cooling, and lighting. Skillfully integrating these sustainable design strategies is essential for creating energy-efficient and environmentally friendly structures.