Ensuring livelihood with equity & dignity”, with this virtue slogan, ASA has been working since 1996 in a northern sector of India majorly has been involved in—in villages of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. ASA (Action for Social Advancement) is a non-profit development organization whose mission is to ensure the livelihoods of the low-income group through providing development services with an emphasis on natural resources development.
ASA, a public charitable foundation has emerged as a prime field implementing organization. Water is one of the key sectors ASA has been working on. At its head office in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, ASA showcases its ethos of ecological principles. The client’s brief required the space to be comprehensive that promotes collaborative working culture.
To design a space that is a primary source of natural resources advancement work, the structure needs to be in sync with nature and made with natural materials. Chitra Vishwanath who is an Architect well-known for her work in ecology and architecture, designed this head office of ASA.
No other architect could ever give justice to this building other than Chitra Vishwanath. Her approach in evolving architectural designs has emphasized indigenous natural resources, both in an active and a passive manner. Mud forms the basic element in her architectural designs because of its easy local availability, labor intensiveness, and ease of construction, incorporating water, energy, and land-use processes.
‘’Architecture for me, is about connecting and creating spaces between the earth and human.’’ – Ar. Chitra Vishwanath; Founder Architect, Studio Biome
The plan of this office cleans functional zones by connecting structural elements. The major threat for the site is—the land available for building is situated at the lowest level of the plotted development and tends to get waterlogged frequently. In addition to it, the low water percolation rate of black cotton soil and the deficient designed outflows made the water stagnate at one place for a long time.
This water logging aspect is a challenge for architects but this challenge is incorporated in the planning as an opportunity for planning out of the ordinary structure. Instead of filling and raising land, planning is made to welcome water into the plot.
The building was raised by a floor and the ground floor area was converted into a wetland with a stepped well. This solution led to avoidance of flooding and replenishment of shallow aquifers. The stepped well is a communal space for the gathering of community, around. The first and second floor is dedicated to offices set up completely as per the requirement of the organization. Service areas like a staircase, toilet, pantry, and main functional areas are designed separately to avoid disturbance.
The landscaped court on the top floor and common court, and balconies on all four floors were brought in to facilitate interactive spill-over spaces. Spillover spaces help to bring in natural daylight deeper into the interiors with fresh air. Segregated spaces have been designed for interior landscape and herbs. The whole building has an edible landscape with native fruit-growing plants in the open land.
Water management, energy-efficient, passive building planning, and conservation of biodiversity are the key elements of the design. Architecture features like deep overhangs and courtyards ensure the control of heat gain and glare with an ample amount of daylight inside. Skewed windows are placed at the eastern and western facades to cut the glare of the horizontal sun without compromising on daylight and fresh air. These windows are efficiently functional and give character to the entire façade.
The overhang spaces and step-down well create interesting vertical levels. Higher ceilings, use of local brickbat Coba (thick layer of broken bricks on top of the roof) were intentionally incorporated to achieve an efficient passive cooling strategy and weatherproofing course. The wetland provides nesting spaces for birds with its aquatic and semi-aquatic flora.
The RCC framed structure was built with a mix of wire cut bricks and composite fly ash bricks made by adding site soil. The bricks were manufactured on-site locally by mixing site soil with fly ash, cement, and lime. The combination of fly ash bricks and wire cut bricks gives a subtle yet interesting façade to the building.
Details like camouflage curtains, terracotta pattern engraved on cement texture, and landscape adds an extra element to the design. The overall material palette of the building is in neutral colours.
Energy Conservation Strategies
The use of LED light fixtures, energy-efficient fans, and air-cooling systems reduced operational energy usages. This results in a reduction of energy consumption by 2/3rd compared to the previous office space occupied by ASA. All the energy is produced by a 20kVA solar panel system installed on the rooftop.
Rainwater harvesting provides water for four months of the year and excess from the storage is used for recharge. Additional to this, water-efficient fixtures have also reduced the consumption of water considerably.