Sustainable Design
Green buildings in developing nations
What organizations and people do you think are successfully linking the innovations of "green" and high performance building movements to the needs of communities in the developing world?

Is the Green Building Council model relevant to nations like Indonesia and Pakistan?

Can the historical and vernacular traditions of Islamic architecture be mainstreamed into "modern" building through increased interest in "green" building?

I welcome your thoughts, particularly of people I should talk to about these topics.
Margaret McCauley
Green buildings in developing nations
Hi Margaret,

I don't know about the conditions in Indonesia or Pakistan. But maybe I can give you a hint of things happening in India, my native place, and the UAE, where I work.

First of all, the architecture community in itself should be well educated or informed about this in these countries- which is not the case. The importance of the topic is not understood or practised by the architects or given due importance in the architectural education.

Secondly, the architectural community in the countries should rise to a level of demanding a legislation or rule for implementation. Complementing this, proper awareness should be done among the public about the positive factors regarding the topic without which any new idea will be a failure in developing nations.

There are instances of such movements from NGOs or individuals like Laurie Baker in India, which were individual efforts.

But when you come to the UAE, what you see is a capital driven economy and construction boom which doesn't have time to think about sustainability or the environment. Here also awareness programs and lLegislation can only help.

Adopting vernacular Islamic architecture into modern building through the interest in 'green' buildings may be possible in specific instances in Islamic countries- but I feel it cannot be applied as a general guideline.
deleted user
Green buildings in developing nations
In India, a part of the 'Green' building movement (Sustainable and Appropriate Buildings) is being driven by a govt. agency called HUDCO.

It had started the 'Building Centres' movement, wherein the building centres provide low cost alternatives for local buildings.

This movement is specially succesful in South India where there have been a lot of buildings constructed in stabilised earth blocks, flyash blocks, ferrocement roofing channel, etc.

One can visit a couple of websites like:

For commercial buildings, however, there are probably only a few; very few, in fact.

Chitradeep Sengupta
Green buildings in developing nations
I believe that in India many architects are working successfully in thie field. Vinod Gupta and Rahul Mehrotra, to name a few.
The following links may be of some use:


P Das
Green buildings in developing nations
It was wonderful to come across this discussion while browsing today, I happen to be involved in post-graduate research in Australia for exploring ways and means to inculcate more 'green' architectural practice in developing countries like Pakistan.

What do you people think such a direction of thought should be called? Should there be a new name for it, or should the definition of 'Indigenous Architecture' be adjusted to accommodate modern reversion to green practices?

(P.S. may I contact each of you individually as well? Please send me your e-mail contact at, if you would not mind that).
Mohammad Ashraf Khan
Green buildings in developing nations
First of all,what organizations and people are successfully linking innovations of "green" and high performance movements to the needs of communities in the developing world?

From my experience as an architect working in India, for a firm that took its "sustainable design" efforts seriously, I would say that individuals catering to a limited corporate community are the only ones who have been successful, and only this community has been able to acknowlege and partake of the phenomenon of "high performance building". Which may be just as well!

Because, to get to your second question, no, the green building council model is not relevant to developing nations, as most developing nations belong to climatic conditions completely different from those existing in the nations that the GBC originates from, and derives its design principles from.

I have been able to attend the Green Building Council conference held in New Delhi this year, and I can see that not much effort has been made to modify this model to suit the needs of India, as a typical developing nation.

The most striking difference is the need for capital required to fund these high performance building projects, which the majority of people in these nations cannot afford!

Besides that, the vernacular architecture need not be mainstreamed into modern building if the concern is "green building," as vernacular built form is typically much more resource-efficient than the GBC model, considering they do not require and have sustained populations for centuries without the high energy consuming air conditioning promoted by GBC models.

I think it should be the other way around, I think the GBC has a lot to learn about resource efficiency from vernacular building, especially in the developing world, and that they should seriously consider investing in research in that area!
Sushma Shetty
Green buildings in developing nations
While there are several architects in India who are successfully integrating the "green" concept of high performance building; to my mind, however, their strength lies in their re-sourcing and being inspired by the traditional building responses and integrating of the same with the contemporary expectations rather than following any indexing guidelines. Nimish Patel, Gerard da Cunha, Dean D'cruz, Revathi Kamath, Shirish Beri are some of the architects.

There are several in Auroville: Popo, Suhasisni Aiyer, Serge Maini, Helmut, Anupama Kundoo, Mona Doctor, Dharmesh, to name a few, who have been creating built solutions which are climate sensitive and also energy consumption conscious without albeit an index. Karan Grover and Sanjay Prakash will be the two who are following the indexing system as far as I know!

Indian Architect and Builder, a monthly magazine, in their May 06 issue (volume 19(09)), focused on sustainability in progress. The very last article is an interview with Che' Wall, the present Chairman of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) on the role of the organisation and the mindset. He very categorically states that the Green rating system should be localised not only for individual countries but also for individual cities! It is well worth reading this conversation (and I would have scanned and pasted only I am not sure if the copyright sanctity of the magazine allows it. If I can be better informed, I would do so for people who cannot access the magazine.)

It is the third point that urged me to write. 'Survival of the fittest' is more than just a Darwinian theory of evolution of species. The key word is evolution. Traditionally built buildings, (a term I much prefer to the 'vernacular' which in itself single-handedly labeled all things traditional with negative connotations in the colonial era; a viewpoint perhaps necessitating another discussion), as existing today are documents of the 'process' which is not otherwise documented. Surely, a building that not only survives but also still stands sound for further use is the resultant product of series of exchanges, observations, explorative refinement, innovations, etc., through the passage of time.

The key to read these documents, as I have experienced with my involvement as conservation architect and more so in the last year while researching the traditional architecture of Coorg, lies in unravelling the CONTEXT and then reviewing the built form within it.

While structured context as in climate, topography, materials etc are the first ones and easy to be sensitive to, and the socio-political aspects as well; but, I found that the value system of the society played the most significant role in generation and evolution of the form and ensured its survival as well.

While technical exchanges as in material usage, building skills etc have always taken place and consequent to trade travels, lifestyle too were mutually influenced, however, below the surface, all influences underwent contextualisation and were adapted.

In present times, while we feel ourselves to be highly empowered to exchange ideas, increasingly we are also assuming to have a common context. And intellectually, it may even be so. However, in intangible terms, we are still instinctively and subconsciously product of our context. Our reactions do stem from this unrecognised base when evaluating the premise of an idea presented on global platform. Alas, I do believe, the pressure to be 'one with all' being considered as preferred form of reaction suppresses that impulse to question the relevance. Thus when presented with 'general theories'; these are inscribed as 'universal' by our haste to be fashionable and to a great extent- laziness.

Thus I am propelled to put forward another impulse from my experience. I entered the world of heritage conservation post 5 years of exploration in alternative building technologies and sustainable development employing renewal energies while living in Auroville. I gravitated away once realising that impact of lifestyle choices remained central to the application of these and while many of the formats were researched as a low cost alternative, the resultant methodology when transferred outside the experimental perimeter became non-cost-effective. The underlying principle remained intact, which came to me as 'raising of one's awareness'.

When carrying out extensive listing of heritage building as component of Carrying Capacity Study of Kochi watershed area, Kerala for Govt of India, and in Panaji, Goa, I found enormous stock of buildings presenting their contextual relevance as climatic responsive designs, albeit under utilised and undervalued through sheer negligence. Surely making good use of available resources before adding more would be first principle of sustainability! So, I then embarked to learn more and went for MA in conservation of buildings. Thus my engagement with traditionally built buildings is now 8 years old(only).

Today when I evaluate the parameters and concerns of the two streams, sustainable development and those of the conservation of traditionally built buildings, I find so many similarities in the evolving two disciplines. Yet seldom have I seen the twain meet.

Academically, while architects, candidly admit that 'Architecture' is in response to a context and thus regional; the engagement with regional architectural evolution is minimal, both in academics and resultantly in practice. Increasingly we are creating niches, which is more like corners, within the canvas of 'professionals' engaged with construction under guise of specialisation. Sustainability is directly linked to resources and resourcefulness demanding holistic approach and yet we are witnessing increasing professional fragmentation, compartmentalisation and then departmentalisation.

Surely and most importantly, the 'green' building index system offers an opportunity to evaluate, encapsulate and promote the traditional building systems along with the planning principles, which has undergone an evolutionary process and is present for us in its product form - heritage buildings and settlements! The relevance and impact for developing nations where controlling the built footprint is a challenge in itself- can be enormous. The value addition to such a built fabric may pave way for not only its survival but celebration and ensure its continuity and establish its relevance.

The question is will the twain meet!!!
Poonam Verma Mascarenhas
Green buildings in developing nations
I found Ms. Poonam's response extremely relevant and interesting. I would use this opportunity for my benefit as this is exactly what my present research interest is.

I will be attending a training programme in Osaka, Japan where I am required to present a paper. The theme is " Renewal and Preservation in sustainable global environments."

I would like to know your interpretation of this topic with case studies in India ( I would like to focus on urban historic precincts) which could be taken up for the same. I could also mail the abstract of the paper to anyone who is interested and willing to help.

Thank you.
Brinda Sengupta
Green buildings in developing nations
Isn't it 'sustaining preservation and renewal for sustainable environment in globalising world?'
Poonam Verma Mascarenhas
Green buildings in developing nations
Actually I like the way you have put the topic.

In my paper I first wish to establish clearly how different the pace of urbanization is in developing countries, like India is from the West. Renewal and preservation are completely different concepts in India where the past and the present are not distinct entities.

Unlike the West, where renewal probably deals more with abandoned industrial sites and preservation relates to the built environment of an era that is frozen in time and space, we have a situation where the issues are far too complex.

Then I would focus on how our problems we face in our cities are due to our inability to manage the "resource value" of our historic cores/ precincts/ traditional settlements. I think renewal and revitalization (not necessarily always preservation) is a far more sustainable (environmentally, socially and economically) alternative than urban expansion/new development in the periphery, which would mean investments in infrastructure, materials, energy costs than upgrading existing urban building stock....

I would then look at models how such development should be oriented at three levels:

1. within a historic fabric (eg. within a walled city)
2. in between two areas spanning different timelines
3. new intervention in the "modern city": case studies to be taken up and analyzed for the same.

Do let me know your views.
Brinda Sengupta
Green buildings in developing nations
Hi Brinda,

Could you please mail me your abstract? I am currently a graduate student at the Carnegie Mellon Univ,PA doing my MS in Sustainable design.

Minu Agarwal
Green buildings in developing nations
I am a student of architecture in Chandigarh.

We were planning to come up with an easy-to-use manual/handbook for sustainable architecture; this would address the following:

1. Tthere are a lot of discussions and seminars happening but not much is being practised/used in normal designs and construction. So this would give somthing simple to refer to.

2. Most of the material available is not in context to Indian (or rather local conditions). So this would provide solutions in context to local conditions.

3. People don't believe until they see, so we would include some case studies/best case practices.

I found Ms. Poonam's response very relevant and practical to the problem.

So please, if you have any suggestions,links, or case studies, please post it here or if possible mail it to me at
Rajat Malik
Green buildings in developing nations
Certain general guidelines that one should know:

1. Sustainable building in Kerala may not be so in West Bengal or Gujarat. Hence if you have practised 'sustainable building' in Auroville, it may not be applicable in Pune.
2. It has to be seen with reference to the local context.

For example parts of South India have good soil for making compressed earth blocks, hence a mud block building can become sustainable there, whereas parts of UP have soil conditions that are good for making fired bricks, hence such bricks become sustainable there; etc., and not necessarily vice versa.

Another point is the life cycle of a building and its maintenance aspects. In a long run which materials last long and require least maintenance is also a major question..; a lot depends upon local geo-climatic aspects.

Some very good examples of sustainable buildings that I have seen are not the ones designed and built by any company.. but by villagers, such as the bamboo-mud houses of villages of West Bengal.

One can also study the bamboo houses of villages in Assam, or traditional houses in Kerala, or stone houses in Rajasthan.

All these traditional houses use local resources primarily due to the limitations of the end-user or the owner are worth a look for a lesson or two on traditional houses.
Chitradeep Sengupta


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