The potential of Baker’s work over the years of his stay in Kerala, tending to the people's design needs, regardless of their financial situation, was noticed everywhere. Everyone wanted a ‘Baker House’ to their name.

In 1972, the Chief Minister of Kerala, Achuta Menon, in collaboration with the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development(COSTFORD), published a handy step-by-step guide for laypeople. 

Menon’s idea for the book is to make it simple enough that even she will be able to understand it regardless of not having a background in building construction. 

Laurie Baker’s Low-Cost Building Principles in His Manual

In the book 'Laurie Baker - Life, Works, and Writings' by Gautham Bhatia, a detailed Baker Construction Technique Manual is featured. The following are the simple features included in an illustrative, easy-to-understand method in the book:

  1. Overall Building Construction
  2. Topography Construction
  3. Excavation of Soil
  4. Stone Wall Construction
  5. Wall Construction
  6. Furniture
  7. Lintel Construction
  8. Doors and Windows
  9. Roof

1. Overall Building Construction

The new-fashioned house is cubist, finished with cement and paint. The roofs fail to protect the walls from rain and sun. 

The old-fashioned house has a sloped overhang that protects it from sun and rain. Windows replaced with jali are a cheaper alternative, giving permanent light, ventilation, and protection to the house. 

2. Topography Construction

When your site has contours, construct the houses in the middle of the contour instead of on the corners.The foundation and basement wall cost will be saved.

In sloping site, place the entire building parallel to the contour instead of cutting across it. 

3. Excavation of Soil

While excavating soil to lay the foundation, instead of excavating the soil outwards, building the foundation and filling it back in, excavate the soil inwards. This helps save excavation costs.

4. Stone Wall Construction

Usually, a stone wall is constructed with big flat-faced stone on the outside, which is filled with smaller ones. This requires the use of cement or lime mortar to create a strong bond.

The stones should instead be dovetailed with stones on either side, giving a much stronger and more stable wall. This kind of stone wall will barely need any mortar. 

5. Wall Construction

For single and double storey houses, the 9 inch thick wall should be flush with the 18 inch wall below to prevent rainwater from seeping into the foundation wall.

A four and a half inch thick wall is structurally stable enough for single storey houses if it has thin burtresses 5 or 6 feet apart, or with recesses are created in the wall. The recesses can alse be used as shelving space. 

Cost of construction can be reduced by using the rat-trap bond instead of the english bond. 

Mortar can be filled over the sunken end of bricks to produce a clean exposed brick wall instead of coating the entire wall with cement or plaster.

6. Furniture

By building the basement wall up to a suitable height, built-in furnitures can be made to reduction furniture cost in the future. 

7. Lintel Construction

RCC, steel or cement lintels are often unnecessary for regular sized windows and doors. An ordinary brick on edge is enough.

For a stronger lintel, the brick on edge can be topped with a hollow arrangement of bricks on edge filled with one or two steel rods with concrete. This reduces cost by half. 

The cheapest way of spanning a hole in the wall is by creating corbel arches as no formwork or shuttering is necessary. 

8. Doors and Windows

Door frames are costly these days, and most often they’re unnecessary. Planks can be bolted with strap iron hinges and bolted to the side of the wall instead. 

The most inexpensive way of constructing a window is to put them on pivot hinges, one at the top and one at the bottom. 

One square foot of window costs 10 times more then the brick or stone wall it replaces, A jali wall can prove to be just as functional as a window in most use cases. These can also be made aesthetically pleasing by creating unique patterns. 

9. Roof

Roof construction has become so complicated and expensive these days. A traditional roof on roof upto 12 feet wide required just three pieces of wood nailed together to make a truss rafter. No wall plates or ridge poles are necessary.

When timber is scarce, a traditional filler slab can be preferred. The fillers can be terracotta managalore tiles, cutting the costof the RCC slab by 30%. The fillers are placed between steel reinforcement and filled with concrete. 

Bamboos can be split in half and used as shuttering instead of steel between brick units with thin concrete ribs. Three burnt bricks are joined together to form a small modular slab.

Laurie Baker’s module has been used in multiple projects, long after he was gone. His studies on low-cost building construction came from trial and error coupled with the study of thousands of years of expertise in vernacular building construction. 

The above steps are simple and efficient, but their impact is very high. Making low-cost construction a possibility gives hope to thousands of homeless people. 

Efficient construction practices are the need of society, regardless of the scale and budget, because there is a need for the conscious use of resources in all our building endeavors after all. 

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Raj Rewal is a leading Indian Architect known for his smart blend of vernacular and modern architecture. His designs have changed the perspectives and possibilities of architecture. 

Raj Rewal’s visualization of unique forms and geometric structures sets him apart from the rest of his colleagues. From being an assistant stage manager in several theatre productions in London to becoming a pioneer architect, it has been quite his creative journey. 

Raj Rewal’s Signature Style of Architecture

Raj Rewal’s signature style of architecture is undoubtedly his juxtaposition of vernacular architecture techniques with a modern twist. 

Some recurring architectural features in his buildings are:

Vernacular materials that Raj Rewal used in his buildings:

Raj Rewal’s Design Philosophy and Projects

Rewal strongly believes that all architects must learn about sustainability because the world is going to change quite drastically. All of his projects are curated in such a way that sustainability is given strong emphasis. 

Raj Rewal takes ideologies of the past and incorporates the design aspects fit for the future to design his buildings. 

1. Rasa in Architecture

Raj Rewal believes that every building has its own spirit or ‘Rasa’. This is formed by the integration of space, hierarchy, structure and sustainability

The dharma chakra or the wheels, the photovoltaic panels, the play of light and shadow in the internal spaces, all create an ambience at the State University of Performing and Visual Arts in Rohtak that essentially forms its rasa.

2. Hierarchy

A central congregation space in any site is given high emphasis. This encourages the users to socialize and connect, making the space more human-friendly.

©jalandhar.nic.in

The tallest built form in the Jang-E-Azadi memorial museum in Punjab is the Minar, making it the hierarchy of the museum. The other elements of the site were then built around it. 

3. Space and Urbanism 

Raj Rewal believes that space is one of the most important aspects of architecture. The courtyards and passages that form the space within the city is often the major element. 

Rewal’s works often feature expansive courtyards and well-interconnected circulation paths that are given as much emphasis as the building design itself.

The Asian Games Village in New Delhi features the interconnection of the open courtyards and the passageways that gives the design a sense of community. The placement of the courtyards and the design of the structures around them gives a sense of openness to all the buildings. 

4. Structure and Technology

Rhythmic or geometric patterns are designed to provide highly stable structural designs. The structure of the built form becomes the primary theme in almost all of Rewal’s works.  

Rewal lays high emphasis on the play of light and shadow, bringing the building come to life. 

The structure of the Hall of Nations, New Delhi, was inspired by the perforated Jali. The outer facade was made out of steel frames which gave it a unique identity of its own in the past. 

5. Sustainability 

Some standard sustainable practices followed by Rewal are:

-Passive design principles such as:

-Green terraces

-Photovoltaic paneling

- Rooftop PV panels

The Coal India Limited Headquarters in Kolkata has the featured integration of the photovoltaic panels on its sloping and curved features. The panels were not only a sustainable functional feature but were also the primary aesthetic appeal of the building itself. 

Raj Rewal’s Design Sketches

Raj Rewal’s design sketches were often simple renderings of plans, details, or views. His initial ideation for the building was in the form of simple line drawings that aptly represents his vision. 

Sketches of Pragati Maidan by Ar. Raj Rewal

Raj Rewal is a pioneer in design thinking and innovation through architecture and his versatile projects stand as a testament to that. 

His ability to visualize built forms into reality and his belief in Corbusier's idea of creating a modern India has been translated into several of his works that stand the test of time today. 

Choosing the right acoustic material can get tricky at times. Each acoustic material has its own unique property it can contribute to your building acoustics. And the materials are often classified on the basis of their soundproofing performance. And honestly, to someone who has no idea on what the rating systems are, those numbers will all be just jargon.

The soundproofing performance is determined on the basis of three types of acoustic rating systems. These are namely:

  1. Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) Rating
  2. Sound Transmission Class (STC) Rating
  3. Impact Insulation Class (IIC) Rating

The NRC rating helps determine the sound absorption of the materials in a room. STC rating helps us measure how much sound is transmitted between rooms. And IIC rating helps determine the soundproofing between different floors of the building. 

All three rating systems are very important to creating a well-soundproofed building. And prior consideration of these three values before deciding on the acoustic materials to use can prove to be extremely useful. 

  1. Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC Rating)

The Noise Reduction Coefficient rating represents the average sound absorption coefficient of materials. It indicates how much sound the absorber can absorb. 

NRC is measured on a scale from 0 to 1. 0 means that the material absorbs no sound and 1 means the material has the ability to absorb 100% of the sound.

How NRC rating is measured:

NRC can be measured for practically any material you want to put inside a room, be it furniture, decor, and so on. 

The sound-absorbing coefficients of material are taken and the arithmetic mean of it is taken, which is then rounded off to the value the nearest 0.05 to measure the NRC rating of a material. 

The range of sound-absorbing coefficients taken into consideration is - 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz. 

Acoustic Material to Increase NRC Rating: 

  1. Sound Transmission Class (STC Rating)

STC helps in measuring how effective a material is in reducing the sound transmission between rooms. 

The higher the STC rating, the more effective the material is at reducing sound transmission, and the better the insulation. 

STC is measured in decibels. And the STC rating of 38-42 dB is said to be good soundproofing. STC above 50 is said to be very good and is often achieved for commercial projects. 

How STC rating is measured:

STC Rating measurement is quite simple. Add all the frequency measurements together and divide the value by the total number of frequencies to get the STC value. 

Acoustic Material to Increase STC Rating:

  1. IIC Rating

Impact Insulation Class (IIC) measures the sound insulation and transmission of impact noise. This noise includes footsteps, vibrations, and so on, on floors and ceilings. 

It is basically the amount of sound that travels between floors. IIC is measured in Decibels where the higher the number is, the quieter the floor will be. 

According to the International Building Code(IBC), an IIC rating of 50 is required for residences to be ideally soundproofed. 

How IIC rating is measured:

IIC rating of a floor can be determined with the help of the tapping machine on an existing floor assembly. This helps determine the amount of sound traveling through to the lower floors. 

Acoustic Materials to Increase IIC Rating:

For careful consideration to find the right acoustic materials for your buildings, it is best to understand their rating systems. These rating systems will give you a good idea of how much soundproofing you will achieve with the material you choose.

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Most people spend quite a hefty sum of money trying to alter their existing spaces to make them acoustically bearable. Building a soundproof room at the initial stages of construction is way more cost-effective and efficient when compared to altering a room to soundproof it after it has been built. 

It is always important to design a comfortable and sound space. And a good building design will amount to nothing if the user experience is a horrible one. 

In order to understand how to solve potential acoustic problems, it is important to understand the basic principles that affect the sound and its behaviour in any space. Acoustic materials are then checked for their acoustic rating and implemented in the building design.

The behaviour of Sound Waves

  1. Reflection off of the surface
  2. Diffraction around the surface
  3. Transmission into the surface or new medium

1. Reflection

When sound waves are reflected, it can lead to one of the following:

  1. An Echo - this is when a sound is reflected back to the listener after hitting a surface or medium. 
  2. A Reverberation - this is when a sound persists even after its source has stopped beforehand. 

Both of these factors are known to adversely affect the acoustics of a space. Sound Absorbers are often used in such circumstances to avoid them. 

- Some common sound-absorbing materials include:

  1. Heavy curtains
  2. Fibreboards or fibreglass insulation
  3. Acoustic foam or panels

Natural Materials that have the ability to absorb sound are:

  1. Pure Cotton Fibres
  2. Bamboo
  3. Coconut husk
  4. Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF)

2. Diffraction

The change in the direction of the sound waves when it passes over an edge of a surface is known as diffraction. 

Diffraction depends on the ratio of the wavelength of the sound to the size of the obstacle, i.e., the longer the wavelength, the stronger the sound diffraction. 

Diffraction can also pass through openings. In this case, the smaller the opening, the larger the percentage of sound that passes through the opening. 

- Ways to provide good soundproofing to avoid diffraction are:

  1. Proper sealing of the room to avoid any openings
  2. Build tall fences to reduce the effect of diffraction at highly disturbing neighbourhoods
  3. Build solid walls so that they reflect some sound waves and absorb some, resulting in very little diffraction of sound. 
  4. Placing objects or plants on top of walls, such as shrubs, can help absorb some of the sounds that might get diffracted at the top. Dense vegetation is an excellent way to absorb sound and prevent diffraction. 

3. Transmission

Transmission is the propagation of sound waves through a surface or medium. Sound waves are transmitted as both longitudinal waves and transverse waves through a solid medium. 

Regardless, sound transmission happens through gas, liquid and solid. Although in the built environment, some amount of sound tends to pass through hard surfaces such as glass, tiles, hardwood, etc. 

- Ways to Reduce Sound Transmission in a Building

  1. Reduction of sound transmission between units can be done by providing a partition between each unit. 
  2. The sound reduction can be done by sealing holes and gaps so that sound doesn’t escape a certain space. 
  3. Soundproofing wallpapers, curtains or blankets can be preferred in spaces that require high amounts of sound reduction. 
  4. You can float the floors by laying insulation between the joists of the floor so that creaks can be prevented. It also primarily prevents the travel of noise between different levels of the building. 
  5. Insulate the interior walls to break the path of sound from travelling between different spaces. This also helps stop sound vibration and absorb the excess sound. 

It is never too early to start worrying about the noise from the crying baby next door, or the honking drivers on the adjacent street. Because acoustic consideration is as important as the building design itself. 

Architects hence have the responsibility to understand and implement the right building acoustic methods during the initial stages of the design process.

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In a natural landscape, a human being can be an intruder. It is important to realize that design must be done with minimal damage to the existing site properties and should rather accentuate them instead.

The essence of land planning for any project involves three important steps:

There are four ways to go about contours while designing your space:

  1. Preservation
  2. Accentuation
  3. Alteration
  4. Destruction

Preservation

Leaving the existing features of the site undisturbed. 

Accentuation

Taking advantage of the existing features of the site and accentuating it and in a way, building around the features to emphasize them.

Alteration

Make changes to the existing nature of the site and alter it to fit your personal requirements and needs. 

Destruction

Excavating or removing the existing features present in the site so you don’t have to consider the contour of the site. But this is often not preferred and is only performed at extreme cases with no other option. 

Contour Preservation Strategies:

It might be highly tempting to alter or destroy the contours to fit the needs of the site. But there are some exceptional characteristics of contours that might even help elevate your design to the next level.

The following are some of the reasons to preserve your contours:

1. Contour as a wind break

The existing contours can be made to act as a natural barrier to highly prevailing winds and help nurture a calmer environment on the other end of the contour. 

2. Contour as a visual screen

Contours can prove to be especially useful as privacy screens due to the level differences. 

3. Contour as a sound barrier

Due to the thickness of the contour, there are excellent sound barriers. They help screen the audio from one side of the contour so it doesn’t travel through to the other side. 

4. Contour as functional spaces

Contours, as is, can be exceptionally functional. The undulating surfaces could be put to real use in the design process itself. Some of the few ways contours can be used as functional spaces are:

Contour Accentuation Techniques:

There are some contour accentuation techniques that have been used for decades. You would’ve come across these same techniques being implemented in contours to enhance the contours across several projects. 

1. Cut and Fill

This involves the process of cutting the ground to level it and use the excavated soil at a different place to level it more. 

2. Excavation and Grading

Grading is basically the method of sculpting the land to fit the needs of the current requirements. This is done for the following reasons:

3. Retaining Structures 

These structures, often made of wood, stone or pre-cast steel or sometimes even vegetation, are used to retain the earth. These are situated at areas where there is an abrupt change in ground level.  

4. Providing bridges and decks

We talked about accentuating the landscape. Bridges and decks have both function and aesthetic purposes. They are often situated overlooking a fantastic view from the contoured landscape height. Bridges help connect on the ground plane to another from a height. 

Working with slopes:

Although working with contours might seem complicated and intimidating at first, they are in real life challenging and often exciting to work with. By knowing and understanding these basic principles are a great way to get you started with your contour design. 

To know more about landscape architecture and building with contours, do check out the following book this article was referenced from:

Landscape Architecture: A Manual of Environmental Planning and Design

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While performing the site analysis, we also derive the site contours. But often, they get forgotten somewhere in the design process, or we simply don’t know how to design with them.

And I can’t forget the first time I tried to read a contour map. All I saw was a bunch of lines and deciphering it seemed like an impossible task. Designing for contours is the most efficient way to make the best use of the existing topography of the site, and that begins by understanding how to read a contour map.

The first step to designing with contours begins with how to read and understand a contour map. 

When working with contours it is important to know and understand the following terms:

  1. Contour Interval
  2. Ridges
  3. Valleys
  4. Saddle
  5. Undulating Surface
  6. Slope
  7. Slope Lines
  8. Slope Analysis 
  9. Slope gradient

Contour Terms Explained:

1. Contour Interval

The difference in elevation between two contour lines is known as contour interval. The contour interval should stay constant throughout the contour plan. So the contour interval should increase or decrease at a constant ratio. 

2. Ridges

The taller or elevated parts of the site are referred to as ridges. They can be mountains, hills, dunes, etc.

3. Valleys

The lower or depressed parts of the site are referred to as valleys. They can be rivers, streams, etc.

4. Saddle 

The lower and less undulating area between two high elevations is known as the saddle. 

5. Undulating Surface

A surface is termed as undulating when it is a combination of ridges and valleys. The elevation constantly varies throughout the different parts of the site. 

6. Slope

A slope occurs when the vertical height increases over a horizontal span. A slope is calculated by dividing the rise height by the run distance. 

Slope = rise/run

To represent the slope as a percentage, the above ratio is multiplied by 100. 

7. Slope Lines

Imaginary lines connecting points of equal elevation are known as slope lines. 

The steepest slope is often perpendicular to the slope line.

8. Slope Analysis

Deriving the ratio of the slope by calculating the slope in each contour helps us understand the shape of the contour. 

9. Slope Gradient

The gradient is the measurement of how steep a slope is. This is calculated by dividing the vertical height by the horizontal distance. The gradient(slope) of a straight line helps us indicate the steepness of a slope.

A slope gradient is often divided into percentages and each percentage range is colour coded to show the gradient of the slope. 

0-2% - White

2-5% - Yellow

5-10% - Orange

10-15% - Brown

In the above case, 2% slope refers to 2m height of slope for 100m in horizontal span. 

Contour map
Contour Map (Source: Google Maps - Terrain)

Types of Contour Lines and How to Read 

In a contour map you will be able to notice 3 types of contour lines:

1. Index Line

These are thicker solid lines that are labelled with a number - the elevation of the contour line.

2. Intermediate Line

These are solid lines that aren’t labelled and are thinner than the index lines. All the lines preceding an index line will often be intermediate lines. And one index line often occurs between five intermediate lines, but this can vary based on the scale of the map.

3. Supplementary Line

These are dotted lines that indicate a much flatter terrain in comparison to the intermediate line elevations.

In a contour map, the following can be found:

Section and Plan of a Typical Contour Map
Section and Plan of a Typical Contour Map

Now that we understand what a contour map comprises, let’s get into how we read one of these maps. 

Step 1: Let us take a contour map whose contour interval is given as 10m in the map key. If you want to find the elevation of the fourth intermediate line, first read the index line. 

Step 2: For each line preceding the index line, the elevation adds up by 10m. Hence, for the fourth intermediate line, the elevation will be as follows:

Elevation of 4th intermediate = Index Line value + elevation x no. of intermediate lines

                                               = 500m + 10mx4

                                               = 540m 

Reading a contour map might seem super intimidating at first. But by understanding the contour terms and the basic ideology behind the way the map is structured, you will be able to read any contour map the minute you see it. 

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We know that HVAC plays a significant role in the comfort of a built environment. We also know that it’s quite tricky to get it just right. That’s where a psychrometric chart proves to be most helpful, as it helps solve real-time HVAC problems in a building. 

With a single chart, we will be able to find multiple air properties such as the temperature and humidity of a space. 

Why Use Psychrometric Charts in Architecture?

Using psychrometric charts, we can assess the physical and thermal properties of air in the environment. This helps us find solutions to commonly occurring HVAC problems that can be fixed beforehand when taken into consideration in the early stages of design. 

The following can be assessed with the help of a psychrometric chart:

What All Can We Read in a Psychrometric Chart?

A Psychrometric Chart helps us read the following information:

  1. Dry Bulb Temperature
  2. Wet Bulb Temperature
  3. Dew Point Temperature
  4. Relative Humidity
  5. Specific Humidity

1.Dry Bulb Temperature

This can be measured using a thermometer. When we refer to the air temperature, we often refer to the dry-bulb temperature. It is called “dry bulb temperature” because it is not affected by moisture or humidity. 

Measuring unit - Degrees Celsius (°C) or Degrees Fahrenheit (°F).

2. Wet Bulb Temperature

This refers to the lowest temperature to which the air can be cooled through the process of evaporation of water into the air. We can measure the wet-bulb temperature of a space by wrapping a wet wick around the bulb of a thermometer. 

Measuring unit - Kelvin (K)

3. Dew Point Temperature

It is the temperature that the air is cooled to get achieve 100% relative humidity. If you ever get below this temperature, the air will change its state and begin condensing. Dew point temperature is measured in a saturation curve. 

Measuring unit - °C Td

4. Relative Humidity

Relative humidity helps us measure the amount of moisture present in the air in relation to the maximum amount of moisture the air can actually hold. 

There is no particular unit in which relative humidity is measured. It is instead measured in percentage. 

5. Specific Humidity

It is the weight of water vapour present in a unit weight of moist air. It is known to be the most reliable measurement of humidity in a space. 

Measuring unit - g/kg (grams of water vapour per kilogram of air)

How to Read Psychrometric Chart Step-by-Step:

  1. To read a psychrometric chart we first find the dry bulb temperature and locate it on the graph on the horizontal axis. 
  2. From the dry bulb temperature point, draw a 45 degree line towards the saturation curve, that line represents the wet bulb temperature.
  3. The vertical axis shows the humidity ratio or specific humidity.
  4. Locate the left most curved line for the dew point temperature or the saturation temperature where the relative humidity is 100%.
  5. The curved lines present in between two ends show the relative humidity.

If you know any 2 of these parameters for a space, you will be able to plot the rest of it on the chart by yourself. 

Psychrometric Chart helps understand thermal comfort and energy requirements of a space
Psychrometric Chart

Climate Consultant Software and Psychrometric Chart

By downloading the EPW file for the location you can studying and attaching the file to the Climate Consultant Software, you can automatically get a psychrometric chart plotted for that specific site location. 

Design strategies are represented by specific zones on this chart. The chart itself is divided into 16 design strategy zones and the percentage of hours that fall into each zone are also shown. This helps us derive the most effective passive and active design strategies for that particular location. 

The software then derives detailed design guidelines for each specific zone and comfort level. 

Although there are instruments that help us derive the measurements in the blink of an eye today, it is important we know and fully understand the correlation of each of these parameters with each other. A psychrometric chart is a visual representation of their interrelation that helps us best understand these parameters and their significance. 

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Bjarke recounts being questioned about the reason architecture has become so boring, and how the past had so much more to offer. We all wonder why heavy ornamentations, arches, gargoyles, and so on, are all now reduced to a box, and so did he.

Bjarke Ingels is a Danish architect and founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group. His passion for the fusion of technology and wild ideas breaks the monotony of most built spaces of today. 

Bjarke Ingels Group

The rise of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) coincided with the environmental movement. And they took that opportunity to introduce some important principles in design such as Hedonistic Sustainability that are still in use today. 

BIG builds everything from Museums to 1000-foot skyscrapers. And there was never a time when they felt that they needed to choose a niche. 

Bjarke Ingels’ Signature Style of Architecture

Bjarke’s primary goal is to make wildly fictional ideas into everyday reality. He plays with the idea of architecture and turns his fragments of contextual imagination into buildings.

A weird dream is crystallized into concrete reality

Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke thinks of architecture as “worldcraft”, which he defines as the craft of making our world. He takes knowledge and technology, and instead of letting it limit him, he uses them to create surreal spaces that excite everyone. 

His Philosophy

“Yes is More”

There’s one end of the world travelling to utopian and wild ideas, and the other sticking to the predictable and boring boxes. Bjarke hopes to create an amalgamation of both to take a pragmatic utopian approach to design. 

 Via 57 West is a climate responsive structure
Via 57 West

The first project after BIG migrated to New York City is Via 57 West. He incorporated aspects from Barcelona and Manhattan to create this dynamic masterpiece that’s both climate-responsive and unique. 

Hedonistic Sustainability

Bjarke coined the term ‘Hedonistic Sustainability’ in 2011, and since then, the idea has been widely incorporated throughout the AEC Industry in several ways. 

Hedonistic Sustainability aims to make the idea of sustainability more approachable to everyone. Bjarke’s aim was to prove that design can be made economically profitable and environmentally sustainable. 

Bjarke urges people to stop thinking about buildings as masses or structures, but instead as ecosystems that we thrive in. 

Copenhill is a carbon-neutral waste to energy conversion plant that incorporates a ski slope in the roof
Copenhill

Copenhill is a waste-to-energy conversion plant in Copenhagen. Bjarke had fun with the design as he incorporated a ski slope in the roof with CO2 emitting from the Chimney. The green panel mimicked the feel of snow and the building also managed to successfully reach its carbon-neutral goal. 

Vertical Suburbia

Bjarke’s larger-scale residential projects all have the same principles in common- spark harmony between integration, accessibility, users, and the community. 

He realized that everybody living in a large apartment has different lives and unique interests. So it didn’t make sense for everyone to live in the same kind of building. 

BIG’s buildings not only hope to create conversational spaces that connect private and public lives, they are also built to reflect their surrounding environment and nature. They incorporate cheap materials in their design to prove that good design doesn't have to be an expensive affair. 

8 house

The 8 house is built to meet the unique needs of its 475 units’ residents. The ‘8’ shape allows for 2 large courtyards, turning the space into a huge comminutiy rather than an apartment. It encourages social interaction that is unrestricted to just the ground level and is instead on all levels now.  

Bigamy

Instead of remaining faithful to a single idea, Bjarke urges designers to connect more than one idea together to collectively create what is most desired. 

This new genre of architecture, Bjarke believes, can turn pure fiction into hard facts. Meaning whatever you dream of can be a reality. He takes multiple elements that might not seem to fit together and puts them together.

By making the parking structure levelled and in the form of a mountain, The apartment building is designed to provide good views to all the residential buildings. 

Design Sketches

“Architecture is the canvas for the stories of our lives”

“Architecture is the canvas for the stories of our lives”

Bjarke’s ideation process for every new building they design at the BIG often begins with a meeting with his team and conceptual rough sketches. This interactive session of visual and conversational meeting gets them started with the design process. 

The link below has Bjarke’s idealization of the world and how he believes that architecture is just ‘worldcraft’. He talks us through the thought process of his various projects as he sketches them. 

A Youtube Video Published by Future of Storytelling

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Have prolonged periods of staying inside a building made you feel uncomfortable or sick? Or have you noticed a major decrease in productivity? Well, then you might have had a case of Sick Building Syndrome.

What Exactly is Sick Building Syndrome(SBS)?

Sick Building Syndrome is a condition in which building occupants feel discomfort or health issues. Although no specific cause can be identified, these issues are known to be linked to the spatial organization, design, and time period spent within the space. 

Symptoms that can tell you have the Sick Building Syndrome:

Sick Building Syndrome can lead to minor health disturbances such as throat pain or fever or sometimes even major health complications such as miscarriages or cancer. 

Some of the commonly recurring symptoms due to the Sick Building Syndrome are:

Key Factors that Hinder the Productivity of Users

  1. Inadequate Ventilation
  2. Contaminants
  3. Inappropriate Lighting
  4. Bad Acoustics
  5. Psychological Stress and Irritability

1. Inadequate Ventilation

If the fenestration isn’t designed to complement the prevailing wind direction and climate of the space, there will be a feeling of claustrophobia and suffocation.

Malfunctioning HVAC systems or increased building airtightness can be a cause of poor ventilation. 

Ways to Improve Building Ventilation:

2. Contaminants

From sources both indoor and outdoor, if not cleaned can lead to illnesses.

Indoor contaminants are primarily due to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) inside the building due to the upholstery, carpets, adhesives, and so on. Outdoor contaminants are primarily due to vehicular exhaust, building exhausts, and so on. 

Ways to Reduce Contaminants inside the Building:

3. Inappropriate Lighting and Lack of Natural Light

Poor lighting, especially in digital working environments automatically increases strain on the eyes. 

The lack of natural light inside the building may either create an extremely synthetic or overly lit environment or lack of lighting. Natural light is known to increase productivity and optimism and a lack of it can be problematic. And the positive effects of natural lighting cannot be replaced by artificial lighting. 

Ways to Improve Lighting:

4. Bad Acoustics 

Poor acoustics has the ability to trigger Sick Building Syndrome. If reverberation, sound quality, and loudness are not ideal, it can result in discomfort to the users. 

The furniture, wall, and ceiling finishes need to be given priority while considering the acoustics of a space. 

Ways to Better Building Acoustics:

5. Psychological Stress and Irritability

All the little physical discomforts that aren’t apparent sometimes add up to result in Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI).

MPI is the occurrence of a set of physical illnesses in two or more people without any identifiable pathogen that links to the disease. This often results in stress, claustrophobia, anxiety, and other mental health issues. 

Ways to Reduce Stress

Although the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome often coincide with other issues in our day-to-day lives, it creates the possibility of lack of productivity in the space. 

With simple design alternatives and careful spatial organization, we can create spaces that truly positively impact our lives.

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When you want to design a sustainable low-cost building, you wonder how far you can go to maximize the energy-saving potential. What if there are ways to make them zero-energy consuming?

Net-Zero Energy Building(NZEB) or Zero Net Energy(ZNE) Building refers to the production of enough energy within the site to sustain all energy costs of the building all year round.

Features of Net-Zero Energy Buildings

  1. Passive Design Strategies
  2. Energy Production and Conservation 
  3. Smart Energy Efficiency Devices
  4. Water Efficiency
  5. Energy-Efficient Lighting
  6. Energy-Efficient Ventilation
  7. Solar Energy Harvesting 
  8. Improved Building Durability
  9. Low Building Operational Cost

Why Choose Net-Zero Energy Building Construction?  

1. Passive Design Strategies

Passive Design Strategies for ventilation, insulation and Orientation
Passive Design Strategies for Buildings

a. Reduction of Energy Demand

Low energy can be achieved in buildings with high insulation, high airtightness, and ideal ventilation. 

b. Building Massing and Orientation

Building thermal loads can be reduced inside the buildings by focusing on the right type of massing and building orientation. The considerations for these are the building plan, site plan, natural light, and ventilation.

c. Natural Daylighting

The window arrangement, shape, and size of the window and the shading devices can be customized to make maximum utilization of the natural light available inside the site. Window-to-wall ratio and window glazing are the other considerations. 

d. Natural Ventilation

Prevailing wind direction can be made use of while constructing open and closed spaces inside the site for occupant comfort. Exterior facade porosity can also help improve the use of existing natural ventilation.  

2. Energy Production and Conservation

Energy Efficiency in Architecture with wind turbines, building envelope and photovoltaic panels
Energy Efficiency Methods in Building design

a. Building Envelope

The building envelope must be designed to obstruct the infiltration of air inside the buildings and to also effectively reduce heat transfer. Thermal zoning and ventilation setbacks are a few ways in which the energy efficiency of a building can be improved. 

b. Photovoltaic Panels

Conversion of existing natural solar radiation into electricity is an excellent energy production method that can prove to be highly cost-effective and energy-efficient. 

c. Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines set at the maximum levels of the building aids in the production of electricity through aerodynamic force. They are a cost-effective and sustainable source of electricity production 24/7, all year round. 

3. Smart Energy Efficiency Devices

Smart Energy Efficiency Devices and Sensors used for lowering energy consumption
Smart Energy Devices to Lower Energy Consumption

a. Smart Thermostats

It is a home automation machine to control the thermal settings inside the building. Temperature settings can be programmed for the weather condition, daily schedule, occupant usage, and so on.

b. Home Energy Monitors

They are used to regularly monitor the energy consumption inside the buildings, set budgets, and reduce the overall energy usage through time and monitoring. 

c. Smart Home Sensors

They help control all the lighting and ventilation systems inside the building. They are programmed to automatically detect activity and changes in the environment, control them and turn them off when not in use. 

d. Smart Lighting

By connecting all the lighting devices to an external sensor or an application, traditional light switches are taken out of the picture, and efficiency is added in its place. 

e. Smart Appliances

Smart home appliances help reduce energy wastage through automation of controls and are also created to be responsive to the occupants. 

f. Aerating Shower Head

The water droplets are mixed with air to form bigger droplets, which ultimately creates the same shower experience, with only less water involved in the process. 

g. Dual/Low Flush Toilets

Dual flush toilets are becoming the most preferred as they have two buttons that regulate the amount of water that needs to be flushed based on the need. 

Low flush toilets are made to be more effective than a full flush toilet as they are specially designed to remove excreta with less water. 

4. Water Efficiency 

Water efficiency methods like groundwater recharge and rainwater harvesting to reduce water consumption in building design
Methods to Reduce Water Consumption in Building Design

a. Improved Water System Assessment and Maintenance

This can be done by regulating the water supply system for management and service of water supply management systems. 

b. Artificial Groundwater Recharge

Recharge wells can be used to replenish groundwater. They can also effectively be recharged by redirecting across the surface through canals, sprinkler systems, and so on. 

c. Rainwater Harvesting 

Rainwater catchment systems help promote the groundwater and make the most use of the rain falling onto the site and on the roofs of the buildings. They are sometimes fitted with filtration systems and used for regular use inside the building as well. 

d. Landscaping to reduce surface run-off

In sloped terrains and contours, surface runoff of rainwater can be actively avoided by planting vegetation whose roots hold onto the soil. This helps avoid soil erosion and helps promote healthy vegetation inside the site. 

e. Advanced toilet Appliances 

As discussed earlier, smart faucets, dual flushes, aerated showerheads, and some simple ways to improve water efficiency in the building. 

f. Xeriscaping

By choosing plants that do not require a lot of water supply to sustain, one can reduce the water needs of the landscaped parts of the site. 

5. Energy Efficient Lighting

Energy efficient lighting techniques like LED Lamps and Lighting Controls
Sustainable Lighting Techniques in Building Design

a. Use of CFL or LED Lamps

CFL and LED lamps can be preferred over the conventional ones to improve the power factor and save energy at the same time.

b. Lighting Controls

Automated lighting controls and sensors can help in the power-saving aspects of the building so they can be turned off promptly when not in use.

c. Energy-Efficient Accessories

Some lighting accessories help in increasing the light emission and decreasing the power used. They help in increasing the productivity of light sources as a whole. 

6. Energy Efficient Ventilation

Energy efficient ventilation techniques for sustainable building design using stack ventilation, louvres and vents
Sustainable Ventilation Techniques in Building Design

a. Stack Ventilation

The stack/chimney effect can be used to make the most use of the existing natural airflow in a building. This is done with the influence in air pressure between the internal and external atmosphere. 

b. Cross Ventilation

Strategic placement of windows in adjacent walls helps in effective circulation of the incoming and outgoing air, improving the indoor atmosphere and keeping the air fresh at all times. 

c. Openable Windows and Louvres

Based on the ventilation needs of each of the spaces in the building and the direction of the prevailing wind, louvers and openable windows can be designed. The size, shape, and amount of louvers for the right air pressure can be considered.

d. Air Vents and ‘Trickle’ Ventilators

Trickle vents are a good addition to the windows to allow small amounts of ventilation at all times. This helps prevent poor ventilation and humidity due to condensation inside the built spaces. 

e. Automatically Responsive Inlets

Windows can be mechanized to be automatically responsive to the external environment and the airflow. By understating the needs of the occupants, windows can be automatically adjusted to maintain comfort. 

7. Solar Energy Harvesting

Solar energy harvesting using photovoltaic panels, solar glass and solar panel control and monitoring system in building design
Solar Harvesting Techniques in Building Design

a. Photovoltaic Panels

The latest technology in the photovoltaic realm has resulted in minimal and elegant-looking solar panels of different kinds, including solar shingles, integrated solar roofs, and so on. 

b. Solar Glass

Solar glass is an aesthetically pleasing method to make the most out of the natural solar radiation in the buildings. This is done through the integration of solar cells in the glass in the windows and other major glass facades.

c. Solar Panel Control and Monitoring System

This is a great way to monitor the efficiency of solar panels. The data received can be assessed and efficiency can be improved. 

8. Improved Building Durability

Methods to improve building durability through insulation, corrosion resistant coating, and locally available materials
Methods to Improve Building Durability in Building Design

a. Insulated Building Envelope

The building envelope, when sealed, can increase the overall durability of the building. This can be done through spray foam insulation, exterior/interior sub-walls, rigid sheets, and so on. 

b. Use Durable and Locally Available Materials

By using locally available materials, you can reduce external transportation costs and minimize fuel consumption.

Durable and sustainable materials can be used to make the building long-lasting and for it to withstand all the climatic extremes. 

c. Seal the Building against the weather

Weather sealants are waterproof and help cover all the small openings in the fenestrations in the building. They help improve the overall ability of the building to withstand external moisture absorption and other climatic conditions that can harm the structure. 

d. Corrosion Resistant Coating on Metals

Corrosion can weaken the internal and external structure of the building when excess moisture is being absorbed by the building. Making the metals used corrosion-resistant during the construction phase can help avoid this.

e. Fire-Resistant Building Design

Insulating the building from fire and using building materials that are fire-resistant or with fire-resistant coating are some ways to help prevent the spread of fire and reduce the impact. 

f. Earthquake-Resistant Structures

In earthquake-prone areas, it is essential to have a strong foundation and use methods to make the building earthquake-resistant to maintain its stability. 

9. Low Building Operational Cost

a. Accurate Estimation for Waste Reduction

Before the construction begins, a precise area and cost estimation need to be done to avoid wastage of materials.

b. Automated Construction Workforce to Reduce Labor 

Mundane work at the construction site can be automated to reduce labor and service costs at all phases of the construction process. 

Through the combination of the architectural techniques rooted through time and the upcoming advanced technological improvements in the field, Net-Zero Energy Building construction has become easier than ever. 

There is constant innovation in the field of architecture and sustainable architecture through time. Some exploration and lots of early choices are ways in which NZEB can ultimately be achieved. 

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