History shows there are lessons about living in harmony with nature without great dependence on technology

Mili Majumdar, Green Business Certification, Inc. in India, reviews several historical buildings in India on the Business World website. Her analysis shows that urban planners and architects need to go back to the drawing board and history books to take a lesson or two on how to design green buildings and create sustainable cities


Historical Hacks: What We Can Learn About Energy Efficiency From Historical Monuments

History provides us with lessons that are invaluable, especially lessons about living in harmony with nature without great dependence on technology. For thousands of years before the advent of technology as we know it, people have adapted to their environment by drawing from nature to create shelters for living. Ancient Indian architecture is a prime example of this. There is enough and more evidence to drive home the point that old Indian civilizations were not only innovative but also devised ingenious ways to make their lives easier. And one does not need to look too far; Jaipur alone is replete with examples of their ingenuity of building naturally air-conditioned buildings at a time when there was no electricity.


Hawa Mahal

Not for nothing is this ornately-built edifice called the Palace of Winds. Architect Lal Chand Ustad designed the exterior of this Jaipur palace with 953 small, intricate windows, called jharokhas. Built as a screen to shield women of the royal household from the public view as they entertained themselves by watching city-dwellers go about their daily lives, the structure lets air currents flow through the jharokhas, air conditioning the entire area.


Khetri Mahal

The Wind Palace of Jhunjhunu gets its name from its architecture, which allows cool wind currents to blow throughout the palace. This structure is designed without any doors or windows, and uses archways and pillars instead of walls in many places to ensure a steady, continuous flow of cool air.


Amer Fort

Also called Amberor AmerPalace, this fort is situated a little outside Jaipur. Influenced by both Hindu and Persian architecture, Amer Palace houses the Hall of Pleasure or Sukh Niwas. This hall was built with a channel of cool water flowing through it. The water cascade worked in combination with the cool breeze flowing into the hall, to air condition the entire space.

As we come to depend more and more on electricity in our daily lives, we must take a few lessons from our forefathers. This becomes especially necessary as climate change continues to raise temperatures across the globe, and our demand for energy grows day-by-day.

There is growing consciousness of the reality of climate change and an implicit pressure to mend our way before it’s too late. Newer constructions are increasingly adopting energy-efficient and eco-sensitive methods and materials, to lessen the demand placed on global resources, and to create establishments that are sustainable. And even as we come up with novel ways to reduce our energy-load, it would be unwise to ignore the simple and efficient measures used by our forefathers.

Not all innovations need to be high-tech. Green building should include as many natural and low-cost ways as possible, to support our drive for energy-efficiency. In the absence of electricity and its myriad applications, older generations devised methods to use natural resources like air and water directly. In our mission to reduce energy use, we can do the same.

Buildings can incorporate the techniques used in these three iconic buildings to have unobstructed spaces that allow air to flow freely throughout. By designing windows and corridors in a way that they let in plenty of breeze but not too much direct sunshine, we can reduce our dependence on appliances such as air-conditioners and air-coolers, or at least reduce the time that we need them every day. We can even adapt the water cascade system by creating screens and lattices in building lobbies, foyers and corridors. By letting water flow down these screens and air flow through them, we can create natural air-coolers to regulate temperatures in those spaces. These techniques might seem rudimentary, but we would benefit from the savings, in terms of energy-use and cost.

With the unhindered rise in urbanisation, Indian cities have morphed into concrete jungles that are anything but sustainable and impact their environment. Urban planners and architects need to go back to the drawing board and history books to take a lesson or two on how to design green buildings and create sustainable cities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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