Building Generation: A Sustainable Future

Saving Earth is presently our long-overdue project. Time is ticking by, her resources are getting depleted at an alarming rate and its environment is becoming uninhabitable in a style almost as dramatic as the science-fiction movies which presented to us the gloomy exaggerated pictures of planets getting destroyed in a sudden alien attack. The only difference in our case being that there are no aliens, there’s only us. The problem is, a huge fraction of the “class of earth (21st century)” does not know of the existence of the project.

The bigger problem is, that the select few who realize the importance of the refrain “sustainability is the need of the hour” hesitate to take the initiative of getting in more and more people in the loop. The hesitance perhaps stems from the fact that they fear that “awareness” may seem to be a shallow, fancy term for the people who have witnessed the age of plenty, have lived to witness the technological revolution offering a quick-fix solution to all problems and are accustomed to the encapsulation of all concepts of the machinery of our everyday existence.

But, what if the seed of awareness is sown in a piece of freshly mown earth?

What if, the next batch, the next generation, grows up with concepts of sustainability as their ABCDs ? Surely, that will be our tool to throw out complacency and inaction from the minds of the generation that is yet to come.

With all of this in mind,Team Shunya plans to organize a series of school workshops, in order to familiarize students with the concepts of sustainable energy production and ecosystem sustainability. The school workshop kicked in with the first one conducted at Kendriya Vidyalaya, IIT Powai, for 6th and 7th standard students, met with a positively overwhelming response. The enthusiasm of the students interfered constructively with that of the upbeat volunteer team, comprising of Parth, Abihmanyu, Rohit, Ankur, Sarthak and Sravya.

While the volunteers introduced the innovations in sustainable technology,such as economical solar-powered lamps, the bright faces gleamed with excitement and anticipation, marveling at the future possibilities that sustainable technology development holds. Many hands were raised when concepts about sustainability were cleared by the team. Eyes sparkled with excitement when the team interacted with the students and introduced them to the concept of a completely solar-powered house. What could be more heartening for the team, which has been working tirelessly to bring about a revolution in sustainability, than to witness eager responses from students and teachers alike? The success of the first workshop encouraged the team to carry forward this awareness movement, and similar workshops will be conducted soon in more schools.

Team Shunya hopes that this small bit done by us forms a part of the sustainability awareness movement the world sorely needs. Because, the time is now. Because, Sustainability is to no longer remain a buzzword but a way of living.

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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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