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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