SR Interview: Going Sustainable is Expensive. It is a Myth says Ar Snehal Shah, Principal Architect, EssTeam, Surat

Climatically responsive, ambient, resilient and efficient – these are the four words that define the hardcore sustainable practice followed and preached by Surat-based EssTeam. With an altruistic love toward Earth and a passion for architecture, EssTeam aims at creating glorious buildings, spaces and products that are sustainable, easy to maintain, a joy to use and cost-effective. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) indulges in a quick tete-a-tete with Ar Snehal Shah, Managing Director and Design Director, EssTeam, as he shares his strong views on sustainable design approach, IGBC’s green rating parameters and the future of green buildings in the country…

 

SR: How do you propose the idea of inculcating sustainable designs in your work, especially to your luxury clientele through EssTeam?

Ar Snehal: We propose sustainable aspects to the clients depending on their mechanism; for instance, we do a lot of diamond factories, hospitals etc., where saving cost or water take priority. At times, they  ignore the indoor air quality aspect. However, we have developed a default setting where we do the right things but only sell something that the client wants. Indians do value green certification. So for their next projects, they consider opting for green certification. This is the kind of wiring we try to do with our clients, otherwise it’s just preaching.

SR: Sustainability comes at a cost. How do you manage to convince your clients to opt for sustainable options?

Ar Snehal: 'Going sustainable is expensive', is nothing but a myth. I've been heading IGBC, Surat for the last five years, and often in discussions , we get stuck in the discussion on green building and certification. Honestly, it is not expensive; not even by 1 per cent if you’re going for a green building. The cost increases by 3 to 5 per cent only when you try to target the highest rating (platinum).

SR: With regards to technologies, what new expertise are you implementing in your design and what is its architectural point of view?

Ar Snehal: I stumbled upon BIM in 2009 and since 2010, we have been trying, struggling and often successfully using the BIM platform. This in turn gave us the idea on how to build green buildings and how its simulations can be done. Technology is ongoing when you follow new software. Software is the key and I can see the transition from drawing or drafting to creating building information models. We are in the transitional phase and more technological changes are likely to happen in the next five years.

More than 90 per cent of the population enjoys aesthetics that are borrowed from the west but do not fit well in our climate. The only way to control this is through a minimum benchmark. Just adopting a rating system is not the solution. There is enforcement of compulsion from the government. The basic approaches are becoming stringent. So if you are building more than 20,000 sqm, we will not take care of the wastage but the client.

SR: According to you, what is the unseen conflict between a green-rated project and IGBC ratings on sustainable projects?

Ar Snehal: Traditionally, whatever the constraints, the project had to be green. The images from the west started to flood our market where we started to observe extensive use of glass in the hot climate. In an attempt to keep these buildings, we started to forget their traditional wisdom. More than 90 per cent of the population enjoys aesthetics that are borrowed from the west but do not fit well in our climate. The only way to control this is through a minimum benchmark. Just adopting a rating system is not the solution. There is enforcement of compulsion from the government. The basic approaches are becoming stringent. So if you are building more than 20,000 sqm, we will not take care of the wastage but the client.

Professionally, from where I come, getting a green rating system takes you into a zone where you are not comfortable as a designer. When you go for the rating, everything has to be tangible and calculable – where architects and interior designers are usually not considered. They have a lot of resistance to learning it as they haven’t gone through the process yet. However, I can promise you that if you go through one green building certification process, you’ll feel that you have learned something. As an architect, it is my humble request to everyone in the design fraternity to try to do one certification process.

SR: What is your advice for young architects and designers and startups?

Ar Snehal: I would like to borrow this from someone who had told me – ‘if you want to help the planet, do not build.’ Instead, try to find out what all can be done in the existing infrastructure. Learn to remodel. Reuse can become a huge career if you master it.

About the architect

MD and Design Director Partner at Essteam Design Services LLP, Ar Snehal Shah is known for creating architectural structures that are true to their time, place and climate and above all, are sustainably fit. Preaching and practicing ‘practice before you preach,’ Ar Shah created the firm’s office which is the first platinum-rated green interiors in Gujarat. Other than endeavoring multi-disciplinary services, his work has contributed extensively to the society at large by nurturing the human value of commitment, responsibility and ethics.

About the firm

EssTeam loves this planet, and would love to serve their clients and help them in creating wonderful buildings, spaces and products. The team’s insistence on excellence, technology integration and scientific approach help them to achieve this. The firm is committed to doing only sustainable development right from a small residence interior to a giant corporate house or even a large industrial park. 

 

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