Importance of creating Safe Spaces in today’s homes Greenply’s Session with Design & Health Experts in association with ABID Media FOCUS: KOLKATA - Telecast Partner Surfaces Reporter Magazine

The COVID-19 crisis has altered our lives. As we are trying to adapt and move ahead, the pandemic has provoked us to reconsider our lifestyle standards. Prevention and control are the vital factors to overcome the current calamity. That said, considering the different stages of the prolonged pandemic, creating safe & hygienic space is the need of the hour.


Green building is a milestone in the building technology development. And with the demand for sustainable lifestyle practices, architects and designers are put to task to create strategies and innovate designs that would not only meet sustainable goals but would also blend into a work-from-home environment with an aesthetic appeal and of course, up bring a healthy lifestyle choice. In accordance to the change in the living habitat amid the pandemic, Greenply in association with ABID, Kolkata and SURFACES REPORTER, questions the importance of sustainable living, spaces defining a healthy work-life balance and the transformation of architectural designs offering tangible energy-efficient solutions in panel discussion moderated by Vertica Dvivedi, Editor-in-Chief, Surfaces Reporter.

Ar Ajit Kumar Jain, President, ABID and Rajesh Mittal, CMD, Greenply Industries Ltd and Sandeep Gupta, Treasurer ABID welcomed all the speakers & guests. Dr Aru Chhabra Handa and Dr Shubhank Singh shared their points of view as doctors. The panel witnessed prominent dignitaries from the design fraternity such as Ar Subir Kr. Basu, M/S Subir Kumar Basu; Ar Ajit Singhee, Singhee and Associates; Ar Kamal Kumar Periwal, Architect M; Ar Deepa Agarwal, Deepa Agarwal Architects; Ar Bipratip Dhar, Epsilon; Ar Ajay Arya, A Square Designs; Ar Sunil Kumar Maniramka, Maniramka and Associates; interior designer and artist Abhijit Saha; Vijay Chokhani, Secretary, ABID; and Greenply Industries’ Partha Nath and Utpal Kanjilal.

“Even though we eventually get habituated to the smells and emissions inside our homes, but our bodies still face the repercussions. This is why we’ve seen a lot of younger people afflicted with cancer, which wasn’t the case before.” Dr. Aru Chhabra Handa Medanta Hospital

Human beings are apprehensive when it comes to pollution outside the four walls of their homes. However, Dr Aru Chhabra Handa brings to picture the harmful emissions that we are exposed to within the interiors of our houses. She adds, “It depends a lot on the materials which have been used for the interiors, which can affect our eyes, noses and skin. If the smell emitted in a freshly painted room is too strong, it might even cause headaches. Even though we eventually get habituated to such smells and emissions, our bodies still face the repercussions. This is why we’ve seen a lot of younger people afflicted with cancer, which wasn’t the case before. Asthmatic patients are also at risk in such environments, and their conditions can worsen if they live in a house with high emission. Since they are already suffering from asthma, their lungs are partly compromised. With the Coronavirus, the lungs are affected and the oxygen uptake becomes highly compromised. Now, if they are already living in an environment that is prone to high rates of emissions, then it could get much worse for such patients.

The onset of COVID-19 forced people to maintain social distancing and stay indoors. Although we are inside our homes since then, we must keep our immunity in check, suggests Dr Shubhank Singh, and opt for eco-friendly construction materials when renovating or construction new spaces or structures.

Understanding the new needs

Agreeing with Dr Singh and Dr Handa, Ar Subir Kumar Basu from M/s Subir Kumar Basu, who has noticed people incorporating offices into housing plans, shares, “I’ve had a client who asked for a space that could induce the feel of an office so that they could manage the work-from-home situation a bit better.” Ar Ajit Singhee, Singhee and Associates, sharing his insights on the changes in architecture and design in a post-pandemic world, he says, “We mostly work in urban areas and our clients tend to be quite discerning buyers. They constantly educate themselves on new products and often help us raise awareness about those products in the market.” However, for Ar Kamal Kumar Periwal, Architect M, the concept of green building is no longer just about the superficial changes to the outer designs of the building; rather it has expanded and gained more depth in the form of green interiors as well.

Greenply will always be there to help the people towards a better future and better health. We are planting 6 lakh saplings for our timber suppliers to help them manage their fields and forests. We will continue to take suggestions from the experts, for the foreseeable future. -Rajesh Mittal, CMD Greenply Industries Ltd

Throwing light on the emerging trend of distinguishing spaces yet smoothly blending it within the warmth of home, Ar Deepa Agarwal, Deepa Agarwal Architects, cites, “Earlier, occupants used to demand for a study area for kids. Nowadays, occupants are asking for separate staff area for domestic help. And ever since work-from-home has become a dominant format, people now want separate workspaces for themselves, in different rooms. Moreover, the requirement for a home gym and lounge area has also increased.

That said, Ar Ajay Arya, A Square Designs, adds, “A major change that I have noticed is that people are looking forward to have certain spaces in their homes for hygiene practices; for instance if someone brings groceries from the store, they can sanitize the products and themselves in that space before stepping into the main area of the house.”

Proposed Solution

Spreading from interiors to exteriors, the construction industry heavily relies on conventional materials which are susceptible to contaminants. Offering solution, Dr Handa urges architects and designers to opt for eco-friendly materials, which bears cost to benefit ratio in the long run. Advocating to use sustainable and organic materials, Ar Bipratip Dhar, Epsilon, says, “To increase awareness amongst architects, designers and clients, we need to ensure that the material has a proper certification. Material selection is majorly based on cost, aesthetic appeal and longevity of the material. It is seldom that we ask for the construction of the material itself.” He believes that post COVID-19, these questions will be raised as people are more aware.

We have seen many people now asking for a separate staff area, for domestic help. Earlier, we had to add a study area only for the kids. Ever since work-from-home has become the dominant format, people now want separate workspaces for themselves, in different rooms. - Ar. Deepa Agarwal Deepa Agarwal Architects Kolkata
I’ve noticed, of late, that many people are trying to introduce an official atmosphere into their housing plans. I’ve had a client who asked for space that could induce the feel of an office so that they could manage the work-from-home situation in a better way. - Ar. Subir Kr. Basu M/S Subir Kumar Basu Kolkata
I would like to ask the architects to focus on reducing wastage. Not only will they help their careers but it would also help in bettering the environment. Ar. Kamal Kr. Periwal Architect M, Kolkata

Greenery is an important part of these massive spaces and natural ventilation should be the need of the hour. “The time has come for us to look at both interior and exterior as green spaces. The government should be ready to create laws and bylaws which will uphold the need for healthcare facilities in such spaces,” proposes Ar Basu.

According to Vijay Chokhani, Secretary, ABID, material manufacturing companies need to be aware of the standards and accordingly create awareness programs. “New techniques and new machines will come and go but the drive to be aware needs to be kindled properly,” he adds.

“There is not enough space. Use the basic knowledge and elementary understanding of architectural planning to not waste space,” adds Ar Ajit Kumar Jain, President, ABID, as the session signs off.

Achieving Sustainable Goals

Raja Sinha informs that at present, though in sparse moments, clients are aware of their requirement. Few years back customers were not concerned about health while dealing with ply products. On account of social distancing and staying indoors, there has been an unquestionable demand for indoor air quality. “When we polish the ply, the spray gun used can leave behind harmful after effects. Greenply’ E0 ply will drastically reduce the harm that can come from such processes,” he adds. Additionally, Sinha hints on the possibility of rise in customers’ prospective budgets due to the shortfall of labour caused by the pandemic.

I would like to thank Greenply for introducing the E0 ply. It is important that we all start somewhere in this regard, and Greenply has become the pioneer for zero-emission. I hope more companies follow suit. - Raja Sinha Decorlab, Kolkata
I’d like to thank the panelists. This branch of study is immensely important to our future health and lifestyle. - Vijay Chokhany Secretary, ABID, Kolkata

Partha Nath, Greenply Industries, informs that when it comes to architecture in India, nearly 80 per cent accounts for interior construction. “In India there are no governmental standards for plywood. Hence, we have taken the American standard as our very own and used it to produce zero emission plywood.

On a concluding note, Vertica Dvivedi gives the design fraternity its due credit and advices everyone to collectively come forward and embark on the quest for sustainable green living. Signing off, she adds, “When it comes to Indian architecture, architects and designers have made it their mission to the raise the bar of living standards. Although historical and cultural preferences still direct the design world, what is really stealing the show is contemporary design with a lucrative panache of sustainable growth. Molding future growth outcomes is important as the world is at stake, and the time to act is now.”

Material selection is mostly based on the cost, the aesthetic appeal, and how long the material will last. It is seldom that we ask for the construction of the material itself. Post-covid, these questions will be raised because people are more open and aware. - Ar. Bipratip Dhar Epsilon, Kolkata'
A major change that I have noticed is that people are looking forward to having certain spaces in their homes for hygiene practices. For example, if someone brings groceries from outside into the home, they can sanitize the products and themselves before stepping into the main area of the home. - Ar. Ajay Arya A Square Designs, Kolkata

Rajesh Mittal appreciated the work being done by architects and designers and thanked all for their immersive participation in this important discussion. The anticipation over the end to the ongoing pandemic is unclear. In unison, the panelists believe the changes observed would continue to go on to a greater extent in the near future due to market demand and prolonged pandemic. Driven by consumer demand and ongoing innovation, the days ahead look green and sustainable for the construction industry.

(Note: We couldn’t add all the quotes from all the panelists here due to space constraints, please watch the video to know more from all the panelists.)


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