Nature is facing the brunt of human actions. The consequences of said actions have given rise to problems that affect the world of design either directly or indirectly. Climate change is one such issue. It is not a foreign concept as it is one of the greatest challenges faced by human society. Architects themselves have begun focusing on creating structures that have a lesser impact on the environment. Climate responsive architecture is one such design practice that functions in adherence to the climate of the location it is in. Its application in design reflects the weather conditions of the location the structure is built in and reduces its dependence on artificial energy.

India is home to a variety of climatic regions and has its own share of energy-efficient and climate responsive designs. The climate of India can be segregated into 6 climatic zones: Hot and Dry, Warm and Humid, Moderate, Cold and Sunny, Cold and Cloudy, and Composite. Based on the climatic zones, architecture and design elements have gone through various modifications to create comfortable spaces.

Here are a few interesting examples of climate-responsive architecture that is found in Indian cities.

1. Solar Passive Hostel, University of Jodhpur (Hot and Dry)

The structure was part of the research project undertaken by the Centre of Energy Studies, IIT Delhi. Designed by architect Vinod Gupta, the building was an attempt to test as well as exhibit methods that would provide thermal comfort in the hot and dry climate of Rajasthan. The building houses 14 double room suites as accommodation for married students. The suites are split between the first and ground floor, which is partially sunk into the ground to take advantage of the natural insulation of earth.

Stonemasonry, the local material was used for the walls as it helps balance out temperature variations. The roof was treated with small inverted terracotta pots to combat the summer heat gain. A wind tower that connected both floors supplied cool air to the units and helped aid ventilation by expelling hot air during the evenings and night. The design makes use of favorable orientation, massing, external finishes and elements such as deep sunshades to create a structure that not only conserves energy but also makes use of passive methods to the best of its ability.

Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet1
Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet2

2. Silent Valley, Kalasa (Warm and Humid)

Designed by architect K. Jaisim, the Silent Valley Resort is an eco-friendly holiday home that consists of several cottages that were constructed with a herbal theme. The resort fuses modern demands with ecological balance by creating a sustainable habitat with a minimum footprint. The cottages adopt circular plans as well as forms, which helps reduce solar gains from the building envelope and windows.

The usage of materials like solid mud blocks, timber, and Mangalore tiles as well as the position of the cottage i.e partially sunk into the ground further help in aiding energy efficiency. The resort merges with the natural landscape and adopts sustainable measures such as water harvesting, biomass, energy-intensive spaces, etc.

Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet3
Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet4

3. TERI SRC Building, Bangalore (Moderate)

The Energy and Resources Institute was designed by architect Sanjay Mohe. Set in a location with a moderate climate, the design depicts an interplay of the five elements of nature i.e. air, water, earth, sky, and fire (sun) with the built form to attain aural, thermal, and visual comfort. The simplest measure taken to tackle the climatic conditions was the orientation of the building, which is along the east-west axis.

While the building opens up towards the northern wall and takes advantage of glare-free light, the south walls allow the breeze to flow over the building. To minimize heat gain from the roof, insulation techniques that consisted of filler slabs and roof gardens were applied. The fenestrations and integration of atriums were designed after detailed studies to minimize the usage of artificial lighting in a day. The air chimneys help enhance the convection currents in the building. An efficient rainwater system also helps preserve water, which in turn is used for landscaping as well as in the toilets.

Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet5
Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet6
Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet7

4. Degree College and Hill Council Complex, Leh (Cold and Sunny)

Designed by Arvind Kishan & Kunal Jain, the institution is built on a rectangular site that is along the north-south direction and is surrounded by snow-capped ranges on all sides. The individual structures are oriented in various directions and treated specifically based on their orientations. However, the buildings on the north side of the complex have thick walls to minimize heat loss and those on the south side maximize heating and daylight distribution.

The openings have been maximized to tap into natural light sources and the double glazing helps control loss of heat without condensation. Ventilation is achieved through a connective loop activated by buoyancy and it is also coupled with cross ventilation through the eastern-western fenestration. The usage of Trombe walls, glass, and insulation on the roof allows the building to attain internal thermal comfort based on the conditions outside.


5. Residence of Mohini Mullick, Nainital (Cold and Cloudy)

The residence is an example of traditional hill architecture and maximizes solar energy to meet its operational needs. The structure is load-bearing in nature and has a timber-framed roof. While the compact shape of the cottage reduces heat loss, the living spaces on the south maximize solar gain. The walls are made of thick random rubble. The roof system is clad with local stone and insulated with rock wool.

Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet11

6. Monama House, Hyderabad (Composite)

The underlying ideology behind the design was to generate minimum environmental impact. Due to the high solar radiation and ambient temperature in the summer, the windows on the west wall were made smaller or replaced with other solutions. The openings are oriented specifically to attain continuous ventilation after careful consideration of pressure differences and wind direction.

The open plan allows full movement of air throughout with little to no internal resistance. Evaporative cooling is attained with a system that consists of a water pond and a fan. The structure also reduces energy load whenever possible, and reverts to renewable sources to attain energy efficiency.

Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet12
Climate responsive architecture in Indian cities - Solar Passive Hostel - Sheet13

With a notebook and pen in her bag and an arsenal of questions in her mind, Arathi Biju has always had a keen interest in telling a story. Currently pursuing her degree in architecture, she has always been a strong advocate of expression be it through art, architecture or words.

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