Myths of modern buildings
Majority of new ideas in construction have been bad for sustainability and cause long-term harm to nature.
In social gatherings, we meet people who speak highly of the need to be eco-friendly but continue to believe in many myths which are against the principles of sustainability.
Modern construction technology with columns and concrete is superior to the traditional: The youngsters and the aged alike appear to claim that modern materials and construction technology are far superior to those followed earlier. The major protagonists of modernity are cement and steel, which can be found in every part of a typical house today. Houses with ‘wall over the wall’ system, termed as load bearing wall system, has been nearly wiped out by RCC frame constructions with columns and beams, though it’s a waste of money in most small projects.
The emerging construction practices also demand more machinery, equipment, training, software, and chemicals, besides leaving behind unusable debris upon possible demolition.
Buildings with increased technological services are more efficient and sustainable: From the days of simple ceiling fans, electric lights or lifts, today we are moving into sensor-based lighting, advanced elevators, occupancy-based air conditioning, access controls, burglar alarms, CCTV, remote controllers, ICT-based information, rotatable skylight louvers and such others in the name of perfection and efficiency. On a contrasting note, such houses become less sustainable, not only because of vulnerability to dysfunctions but also due to technological obsoleteness.
Adopting the new and discarding the old is necessary: The journey of so-called development in construction has seen mud, stone, red oxide, mosaic, marble, glazed tiles, ceramics, vinyl and vitrified tiles – all in floorings. Wooden windows led to steel and aluminium and UPVC is ruling. Masonry walls gave way to glass walls, reflective glasses, aluminium and newer façade treatments. All these and such other shifts have led to increased manufacturing and embodied energy, in the name of better quality and performance. Even if we were to keep such questionable claims aside, the majority of new ideas have been bad for sustainability. Maybe, they ensure short-term gains for people, but cause long-term harm to nature.
Comfortable living and working spaces are non-negotiable and do not affect sustainability. Every architect can predict what a typical house owner would expect – spacious house, furnished rooms, unique elevation, modern style, air conditioning, kitchen gadgets, large windows, false ceiling, fancy light fixtures, branded fitting, luxurious toilets, Italian marble, modern interiors, home theatre – the list can go on.
Typically, we do not think what impact all these would have on nature, for they define our image of a good house. Designing as providing for the essential is forgotten, for the designer look has to be pervasive.
Compromising on the above image has to be the first step in solving the climate crisis.