For the past three months, people from around the world have been confined to their residential spaces but these huge, concrete structures dominating our urban landscapes have not been able to control the spread of viruses. As our country starts to reopen in a phased manner, architects and urban planners are focusing on introducing more sustainable buildings to the cities. To drive this trend, several architecture colleges in India are emphasizing the importance of “green architecture” to students pursuing a Bachelor of Interior Architecture.
During their quarantined days, urban residents have realized how their offices, public places, and homes are not promoting personal health. The well-being of people is at a risk when these spaces are unable to follow necessary hygienic protocols. Our industries and commercial marketplaces are emitting harmful pollutants that not only lead to ecocides but also jeopardize the health of millions of Indians.
How Does Sustainable Urban Planning Help?
The COVID-19 outbreak has compelled Indians to stay put at their homes, which majorly comprise of apartments, single-story houses, and community settlements. These buildings play a significant role in controlling the spread of novel coronavirus. According to the World Green Building Council, strong preventive measures implemented in buildings can significantly support our fight against epidemics. Some of the key ways in which our buildings should be transformed include:
- elevator disinfection
- open windows for natural ventilation
- air sealing and filtration
- community management protocols
- environmental cleaning
In India, several leading architectural organizations are aiming to redesign residential and commercial spaces with an increased focus on hygiene, natural elements, and sustainable health. Their goal is to increase the presence of “healthy” buildings, which are equipped with green architecture and provide a natural defence against airborne vectors and contagious viruses.
The Role of Green Buildings in a Post-Coronavirus India
Green buildings or green architecture involves the use of advanced and eco-friendly building technologies. In this development process, urban planning authorities need to adhere to some technical routes. Architectures of buildings should be high-performance, top-quality, and people-oriented. Indian urban architecture needs to absorb new technologies and novel concepts that develop buildings that are more safe, durable, and healthy. These buildings must have a high livability index and should be easily accessible to occupants of all ages.
Here are some criteria for green architecture to bolster COVID-19 prevention and control:
- Indoor disinfection should be thoroughly implemented. Confined spaces of buildings should have proper access to proper hygiene control and disinfection. Eco-friendly cleaning products need to be used for disinfection. Natural ventilation should be instated for air quality monitoring.
- For prevention and control of epidemics, every occupant of buildings must have access to proper medical facilities. Health safety equipment must be maintained in working conditions. An indoor alert system should be put in place to notify occupants about emergency evacuations or quarantines. Each building should have medical rooms and should store the basic medical supplies such as sanitizers, immunity-boosting medicines, generic drugs, etc.
- To reduce the risk of infections and to avoid instances of cross-infections, buildings should be equipped with a controlled exhaust backflow for bathrooms and kitchens. Effective water seals can help in reducing water-borne transmission of bacteria and viruses. Robust drainage systems can curb the spread of viruses through faeces and stools. A well-ventilated and naturally filtrated air conditioning system can also dissipate harmful gases.
- Indoor environments must not have high concentrations for benzene, formaldehyde, or other volatile organic compounds. The moisture condensation of indoor environments needs to be negligible for restricting the growth and spread of pathogens and moulds.
- Smoking shall be strictly prohibited in the buildings. Concurrently, every building should have sports and fitness facilities such as gyms to promote physical movement.
In India, green architecture needs to be built solely with antibacterial materials. The green interiors of offices and homes in the country must be able to successfully stabilize the work and living environments during such a global health crisis. From ensuring high water quality to providing safe public service facilities such as hygienic vegetable markets, easily accessible hospitals, and sanitized public transport, the government of India must also play an active role in the prevention and control of such viruses.
Administrative authorities and city development bodies must collaborate with private green architectural firms to build reliable and sustainable buildings. These measures should be excessively implemented in slums and squatter settlements, which are at the highest risk during pandemics and viral outbreaks.
By introducing new and advanced technologies in the building & construction industry, India can develop a sustainable architecture for its urban environments by categorically focusing on health performance. Green buildings need to be assessed regularly, on the grounds of their performance. Effective measures can be implemented nationwide in homes and workplaces. In the view of the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s developing urban landscape needs to make a significant contribution as a response to such public health emergencies in the near future.