|Torrent Research R&D Centre, Ahmedabad, India|
The same thoughts are highlighted in an opinion piece by UTS academic Leena Thomas. She is part of a collaborative effort to develop appropriate comfort standards for India, hopefully for incorporation in a regionally sensitive rating scheme. Read the full post here.
My comment on her article highlights that it's a race between two unequally matched phenomena. There is the staggering speed with which buildings are going up, emulating what their developers and occupants think are normal in 'advanced economies'. Slick, air conditioned buildings are therefore highly desirable, not just for their actual utility, but for their symbolic value confirming India's rise as an economic power.
And then, there is the deep seated feeling that not everything is right with this trend, that there may be a better, more 'Indian' way of doing things, tapping into pride in the longevity, ingenuity and resilience of the culture.
You would think that the latter would provide fertile ground for the sort of localised climate sensitive standards and building practices that Thomas' article describes. But in fact, the exemplar projects mentioned are far too few, done by far too few committed professionals, for far too few enlightened clients, over far too many years. The original Torrent Research Centre outside Ahmedabad demonstrated fifteen years ago that passive design could not only overcome the climate extremes of that location, but that you could do so for the stringent requirements of a pharmaceutical laboratory. Yet Torrent's own extensions since then are fully air conditioned buildings.
India will end up in serious trouble if it doesn’t curb the momentum of its energy hungry development. The only way it can do that is by decisive and appropriate government regulations. But government can only act on good advice, and in India, the people will only comply with regulations that make sense. The importance and urgency of the project described in Thomas' article can’t be overstated.