Environment day

World Environment day is here again – to remind us of our duties once every  year.  5 June suddenly makes us concerned about our home- our planet earth.

Mankind has evolved a lot in the past thousands of years. From the discovery of fire and the invention of wheels, we have come a long way down the roads of evolution – thanks to the scientific advancement. However nothing comes for free and this advancement has also came at a cost, a rather heavy one. The degradation of environment is no longer a prophecy albeit a non pretentious event which is happening every second, even as I write this.

With the rampant deforestation and the unbridled use of fossil fuels we have almost exhausted almost one third of the resources since industrial revolution.  Coal has been in use since 300 BC but was extensively used only after the industrial revolution. Most of the fossil fuels are used for generating electricity and for transportation.  Incidentally all these fossil fuels are big sources of pollutants as well, coal being the biggest culprit.

Around 14 lakh people died in India in 2013 due to air pollution, out of which 30,000 alone in Delhi. Air pollution accounted for 55% deaths in India in 2013, a figure which is expected to rise in near future. Already gasping for breath ?

So far I have been blasphemously commented against the pollution and unchecked use of fossil fuels, but what is the solution ? Shall we stop producing electricity ? We simply cannot, in fact our energy requirement is set to double within next 15 years or so. Alternate resources such as Hydroelectric power project cannot be utilized due to a number of socio cultural issues. We are not self sufficient in nuclear and given the safety of the citizens being of paramount importance, any further developments in this field is also questionable.

Though India recently touched the 1010 kWh mark for per capita energy consumption in 2014 – 15, it is not at all a figure to be proud of. Around 28 crore people do not have access to electricity. Not only this about 17 lakhs are homeless as well. With the increasing population and development of the country the energy requirement is set to increase by staggering  figures. Ambitious programs of the government such as housing for all and 24×7 electricity have further intensified the challenge of proving clean energy to the masses without harming the environment.

How nice it would have been to have a house that doesn’t consume any energy and releases surplus energy into the grid as well. How great it would have been to make a house in 15- 20 days lat with reduced carbon footprint and less materials. This would solve the two biggest challenges at hand – housing and electricity. You must be thinking that I’ve lost my mental balance due to the hot summers  but to yours and many others disappointment I haven’t. This idea is plausible and possible and as a matter of fact already have been implemented with success.

Enter Team Shunya , a group comprising students from different branches who came together to take part in finals of World Solar Decathlon Europe held in Versailles in 2014 and eventually became the first Indian team to do so. The team built an energy positive house within 10 days at the competition site and gathered accolades from all over the world for innovations that were incorporated. The house now proudly stands in IIT Bombay as a testimony to commitment of Team Shunya towards designing sustainable, self sufficient and energy efficient affordable housing. The house also serves as a office and work space for the current some 50 strong team of Team Shunya gearing up to participate in Solar Decathlon China in Aug 2017.

With smart cities in sight in near future, the present Team Shunya has once again taken up the challenge of designing and constructing an energy efficient, smart modular housing solution which could be built within a fortnight and would consume no net electrical energy from the grid. This house once constructed and tested would not only help in mitigating the energy crisis but also help in achieving the ambitious targets such as housing for all by 2022.

Author : P.Pradeep

The author is a post graduate student in DESE IIT Bombay, an  avid reader and writer. Sometimes he also tries his hands at cooking and photography. He is the Project engineer for TEAM Shunya for the next year edition of Solar decathlon to be held in China.

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Solar Decathlon: The Olympics of Green building design

Competition. It is not just another word in India. It is a way of live, embedded in our collective consciousness, be it something as major as a job interview or as simple as standing at the head of a queue while at the movies. And things are no different when it comes to the question of housing in major Indian cities. With the number of urban middle class houses expected to increase from 22 million today to 91 million in 2030, there is a pressing need to design and build homes that are comfortable, cost-effective and sustainable.

This is the challenge that has been up by Team Shunya, a collaboration of Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture and IIT Bombay- to build a sustainable, cost-effective, solar-powered house for the Indian middle class in urban areas.

Team Shunya is one of the 20 international teams selected for the prestigious Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in France. The Solar Decathlon was started as a biennial event by the US Department of Energy in 2002 and has since expanded to Europe and China. Collegiate teams from across the world are invited to design, construct and demonstrate full-scale houses powered entirely by solar energy, complete with all amenities from a dish washer to a building automation system. The houses are judged on 10 extensive criteria including architecture, electrical energy balance, comfort and innovation.  In the 18 month-long designing process, the teams interact with various industry leaders and conduct a multitude of events to raise awareness about renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The teams will construct the houses on their own premises, disassemble them and transport them to France where the final phase of the competition, a two-week exhibition typically with more than 200,000 visitors, will take place. The site for the 2014 SDE is in the grounds of the monumental Palace of Versailles, featuring 41 universities from 16 nations.

IIT Bombay and Academy of Architecture joined hands in November 2012 to form an interdisciplinary teams of architects and engineers working hand-in-hand to find the perfect synergy for our house. The team, named Shunya to reiterate the goal of a zero-energy house, became the first team from India to ever be selected in the Solar Decathlon, whose previous participants include MIT, Purdue, Cornell, CMU, TU Darmstadt among others. It consists of over 70 students and has received constant involvement and support from faculty and authorities of both institutes. Since its selection, Team Shunya has made significant progress in its design and engineering activities and is currently working on several architectural and engineering innovations.

The construction of the house is expected to begin in October 2013. The final competition is scheduled in June-July 2014.

Links: http://www.solardecathlon2014.fr/en
http://www.sdeurope.org/?lang=en (2012 website)

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