Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the city, but still green

Think of institutions and it conjures up images of buildings nestled in large open spaces and foliage away from city limits. But you can still design greenery right in your buildings staying in the heart of the city.

GOING GREEN: The MERF building in R. A. Puram has landscape at various levels, and a sense of detailing is given to medical and research activities.

The smaller the land, the bigger are the challenges of building structures, commercial or the like. From the early days, the basic idea of an institution was a large space with buildings scattered at a distance to each other and long paths with trees around, all these located in a serene atmosphere away from the city.

With technological advances, the institutions are built very much inside the city. If we are speaking of vast nature that has helped several men in their intellectual flashes, it cannot be forgotten that Newton got his brainwave lying under a tree. It is also said that Aristotle always had deep thoughts lying under the open natural sky. Building good complexes for research institutions in a small property is a challenge to the designer. Various features are to be considered for building research institutes in smaller-sized land than larger areas where they are usually built.

Landscape at various levels

Parking in every building demands its own space. This reduces the plants and landscape in the ground area. Provisions can be made by providing an alternative plant-space on compound walls and huge blank walls.
The courtyards of the building can be well furnished with landscape at various levels. This concept is applied at the MRF building on Greames Road.
Terrace gardens and the flat areas of every floor create a relaxed environment with the right choice of plants for both the staff and the visitor to that floor.
Nature can be brought in right from the compound wall by bringing in natural stone and boulders.
Natural stones can be used in lower portico with a pleasant water cascade bringing the waiting area much closer to nature.
Double-glazing the exterior fa├žade reduces noise and pollution providing clean air and quiet surroundings in the building.

Green endeavour

A similar endeavour was undertaken for Madras ENT Research Foundation that aims to integrate all outpatients, diagnostic, surgical, teaching and training activities under one roof. Located in a small urban property right at the centre of Raja Annamalaipuram, it caters to the enormous city-based regular patients. Dr. Mohan Kameswaran is a pioneer, not only in cochlear implant procedure but has also integrated a welcome landscape urban presence with a small plaza in front for patients, attendants and the young cochlear implant children.

Some features

The building is a functional one with greater sense of detailing given to medical and research activities.
The ramp flooring is of flamed finished granite which has a tooth-edged finish for accident proof movement.
Separate entry is provided for pedestrian and car park for easy traffic control.
The phosphor lamp fittings are used as energy-saving external light features.
Photo voltaic cells are being employed to convert the solar charges for the light in the exterior.
The maintenance of the exterior is reduced because of granite extension up to a sill height of 7'0"
The AC service boxes are grouped on the terrace to avoid the ugly projections on the wall.
Floor ducts are provided along all sides to cover the electrical and plumbing lines.
The double and triple height in some areas helps sense a proximity amongst people in all floors.
The plumbing ducts are easily serviceable because of larger capacity .
The toilets are organised one above the other to minimise duct core and plumbing lines.
Proper planning of services is done by providing treatment plants, water recycling systems and sullage sump.
The UG sump has discharge point on the outside so that lorry need not move into the campus.
The cable entry provision for telephone, internet, broadband, cable TV and more are provided invisible in the exterior.
Exterior handrails are made of stainless steel for easy cleaning and good finish that lasts longer.

The author is the chief architect of Murali Architects

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