Preaching vs Practicing
This essay emerges from an interesting comment about how architects, and many others too, live luxuriously and drive posh cars, but advice mud and clay to their clients!
Practice first: Show eco-friendly ideas in your house and office
It could be partly true, though such a generalisation will be unfair to many architects who live a modest life. Living green never meant suffering, being deprived or denying comforts, either for the self or for others. Limiting our needs and being judicious about consumption is the key to green living. Individually, there could be subjective variations to these needs – there are eco-friendly architects who refuse to own cars or own offices, but many others have good cars and offices. As specialists in green architecture, there are architects who jump on prestigious outstation projects, but there also are consultants who prefer to stay local believing that travelling has high carbon footprint.
Having said this, let us accept the universal truth and Gandhian philosophy in saying better practice first, than preach. A prospective house owner need not preach, instead may directly start with an alternative idea of one’s choice for the house to be lived in. However, it is the consultants and contractors who are in a fix, especially so if they are themselves living in a conventional house. Also, they may preach dozens of eco-building ideas, but cannot have a single house full of all such ideas. While it may be ideal to showcase eco-friendly ideas in one’s own house and office, or also in living, criticising such ideas only because the consultant does not live in them would be a loss for the construction industry at large.
Belief in the alternative has to evolve not from a fancy standpoint, but from a heartfelt belief to change. It can not only be a desire, but also has be an action. Trust me for saying this – most of us who have been designing with a difference, have struggled in the beginning where questioning client, lack of prior projects, apprehensive contractor, ignorance of ecology and every such issue was a major obstacle.
Prior to our own first few projects, we showed what other consultants had already built to convince the clients. Often there were cases of first-time idea itself, with no exact precedent to show, which was a challenge. However, with a willing client, cooperating contractor and seemingly foolproof idea, the construction took off! With more than a dozen architects in Bangalore working out of the mainstream, today, there are hundreds of alternatives, already proven.
Themes and justifications apart, we need to realise that green or eco-friendly ideas have their own aesthetics. Building with mud is an apt example. Despite having been the most common construction material in the world, today it is the last choice simply because the urban world looks down upon this option. The alternative has to become an attraction not only for eco or cost or cultural reasons, but also for its new aesthetics.