With the current climatic situation being what it is, designing sustainable buildings that use passive strategies to their fullest is becoming vital. These strategies are cheaper than active strategies and more efficient. To attain sustainable building ratings, the designers emphasize using active features and neglecting passive elements defeating the purpose of sustainable design. To achieve a sustainable building, passive design strategies responding to the local climate should be given importance, with active strategies complementing them. To see how passive design techniques have been used to make a building environmentally friendly while elevating its design, examples of a few buildings in different climates that use passive design techniques to take their designs to the next level are shown below. 

Gadi House, Pune | Passive design strategies

Gadi house is a unique blend of Indian regional traditions and the amenities of modern architecture, as well as an attempt to discern vocabulary for modern Indian architecture. It is located on the outskirts of Pune, where the project does more for the contextual landscape than just providing visual reprieve It also broadens architectural understanding of the people residing there.

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet1
Passive design strategies-Gadi House_©Hemant Patil

The structure is sensitive to its natural environment. It is designed and oriented accordingly, and implies maximum use of natural techniques for light, ventilation as well as water and energy conservation. It contains multiple internal courts with plantations and openings producing the ‘Venturi effect’. The plantations within the courts maintain a certain level of humidity which is supplemented by the sprinkler. 

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet2
Passive design strategies-Entrance court of the house with the water body and openings_©Hemant Patil

The cooled wind coming through the openings in the wall passes through the garden to then circulate inside the house. Due to the thickness of the brick wall, the insulation effectively keeps the insides cool. The presence of multiple open-to-sky courtyards which also have a turbo ventilator and a glass on top, act as a solar chimney and facilitate cross ventilation. The water bodies present within the house enable evaporative cooling and all of these factors comprehensively create a microclimate that reduces the temperature of the house by a few degrees. 

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet3
Passive design strategies-The turbo ventilator facilitating cross ventilation_©Hemant Patil

There has been a strong focus on the integration of traditional construction knowledge of the local artisans in this project which has been built exclusively by local laborers, providing jobs and promoting a circular economy. The use of redefined traditional construction techniques, like the building of walls with horizontal bands layered vertically, eased construction, and helped reduce the cost and wastage of time and material. The project creates an identity for itself to diversify and propagate the sensitivity of regional architecture to the masses.

American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurugram

The essence of traditional Indian architecture is reflected in the design of a contemporary building to attain energy efficiency and environment-friendliness. From the exterior, the building appears to be a modest single-story structure, yet it opens up into a number of functional courtyards, gardens, and pavilions, which have traditionally been utilized as climate modifiers in Indian design.

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet
Passive design strategies-Building appears to be a modest single storey structure_©Space Design Consultants

The structure was partially buried in the earth to enhance the insulation and efficacy of the courtyards. The building’s façade was staggered at 45 degrees to the site boundary, allowing the windows to be oriented north-south, decreasing heat gain. To decrease direct solar gains, adequate shading was provided for north-south windows, and small slit-like openings were made on the east-west faces, filled with glass brick to let in light without heat and increase light distribution inside the space. 

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet5
Section of the building showing the partial sinking of the building into the ground to take advantage of the thermal storage capacity of the earth_©Energy Efficient Buildings in India

On top of the sunshades and below the vents, light shelves in the form of white ceramic tiled surfaces were placed to maximize light penetration into the interiors by reflecting exterior light onto the ceiling. To lower air-conditioning demands, passive solar techniques such as earth berming, proper orientation, and fenestration design are utilized. The use of two-stage evaporative air-cooling in the summer, with minimal air-conditioning in key areas such as the archives, decreases the need for grid power even further.

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet6
Passive design strategies-Functional Courtyards_©Space Design Consultants

Sangath – an architect’s studio, Ahmedabad | Passive design strategies

Sangath designed by the Pritzker winner B.V. Doshi is his architectural studio comprising reception areas, design studio, office spaces, workshop, library, conference room, and other ancillary spaces. Situated in Ahmedabad where the heat is very intense, the spatial, landscape, and constructional responses of the studio have been designed to respond to and manage the forces of nature. 

How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet7
Passive design strategies-Sangath by BV Doshi_© Nicholas Iyadurai
How passive design strategies can help take your design to the next level? - Sheet8
Passive design strategies-Sectional model of Sangath by BV Doshi_©VSF Pritzker Architecture prize

Themes that adapt well to hot and dry regions include relative organization of form elements, layering of spaces, regulated interiors and transitions to outdoors, interruption of the skyline through varied outlines that break the sun into shadow, and opening the roof into the night sky. The buildings are mostly buried in the ground to provide maximum insulation to the subterranean spaces which have very thick walls hollowed out as alcoves to provide storage. 

A section through Sangath showing subterranean spaces with vaulted roofs_©Energy Efficient Buildings in India

The vaulted roof is built of local clay, which fuses over the concrete slab to create a non-conductive layer. The white and glossy top finish of China mosaic glazed tiles further enhances insulation by reflecting sunlight.  The inner and external temperatures of the roof skin differ by roughly 8 degrees Celsius. Indirect diffused light is brought in by north-glazing, skylights, and roof cut-outs so as to maximize daylight. A favorable microclimate is created by way of vegetation and water bodies.

China mosaic glazed tiles at Sangath by BV Doshi_©Sangath

The passive design techniques in the above mentioned buildings and the sustainability aspect make the spaces habitable. Gadi House’s utilization of passive design techniques while raising architectural awareness among the masses, AIIS’ use of courtyards as climate modifiers and not just as lightwells, Sangath’s earth berming and sandwich vault construction to create a temperature difference of 8 degrees, all show how far passive design techniques can take design. 

  1. ArchDaily. 2022. AD Classics: Sangath / Balkrishna Doshi. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/158300/ad-classics-sangath-balkrishna-doshi> [Accessed 25 April 2022].
  2. ArchDaily. 2022. Gadi House / PMA madhushala. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/965169/gadi-house-pma-madhushala> [Accessed 25 April 2022].
  3. Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources, 2001. Energy-efficient buildings in India. New Delhi: Tata Energy Research Institute.
  4. Sangath.org. 2022. Sangath – V&amacr;stu Shilp&amacr; Consultants. [online] Available at: <https://www.sangath.org/projects/sangath-ahmedabad/> [Accessed 25 April 2022].
  5. Space-design.com. 2022. American Institute, Gurgaon (1998)| SpaceDesignConsultants. [online] Available at: <https://space-design.com/aiis-gurgaon-1998/> [Accessed 25 April 2022].

Rishima is a fifth year architecture student currently interning in Pune. She is an avid reader and occasionally blurts out coherent thoughts. She believes creating an equitable space for all and providing a uniform experience regardless of gender, sexual preferences, age, abilities, class and caste is the responsibility of each architect.