Anyone driving around Bengaluru is bound to observe the major trend here today – mushrooming up of tall residential towers. Shamelessly dwarfing the neighbourhood and increasing the built densities, these towers altering the city skyline forever have been received with mixed response.
Without any policy on urban design, studies on the holding capacity of the area or criteria of supportive infrastructure as a checklist for sanctioning them, these seller-driven complexes can be questioned, but are here to stay.
More than the loss of urban character, a matter of concern is how the majority are painted boxes with least concern for the appearance or aesthetics. Not to blame the developers, who focus more on return of investment and supply to the demands, it would have been good to have some urban arts criteria for the looks of the city.
Within this maddening race to build, a good trend is the increased use of porotherm blocks of Wienerberger company, visible as reddish walls in the projects under construction. Basically hollow clay blocks, also called as Resource Efficient Bricks (REB), they save on steel by reduced wall weight, keep indoors cooler due to the voids, reduce mortar consumption with lesser joints and enable faster work thanks to large block size.
The manufacturers and users of REBs are not merely using a new idea, but are serving the society by reducing resource consumption and wastage.
Imagine if we could leave all these clay walls exposed without plastering and painting them! The effort of repainting them is eliminated for lifetime, reducing life cycle cost. There would have been no mortar to absorb surface heat to transmit it inside, enabling passive cooling.
Observers could see the difference between conventional and clay block buildings and Bengaluru would have got a new signature skyline with clay elevations! Missing on the chance to elevate the buildings to another level of eco-friendliness and cost effectiveness, we are losing a lifetime opportunity towards going green.
Unlike manufactured or painted surfaces which fade and peel, the natural surface of clay blocks stay the same for same – without fading, decaying. In the case of RCC frame construction, walls being non-load bearing, the hollow clay block walls can follow once upper slabs are cast, thus saving construction time.
Exposed clay looks of the building will give a unique elevation without additional costs, making the owners proud and distinguishing the building within the locality.
If the idea of using a material is to keep it in natural condition, then the naturalness of the material should also be visible. It is unfair to conceal it by plastering over it. Lest, we could as well use any other manufactured artificial material inside the wall.
To go green, we need to not only build with natural light, ventilation and materials, but also retain the appearance of the building as natural.