“It’s about empathy towards nature and living things in general”
As a country develops in terms of its financial growth, urbanization is inevitable whether you like it or not. As more and more people flock to the cities every year, the concept of being in touch with nature is almost being forgotten. However, there is some hope as architects today are coming up with ingenious designs and plans to integrate greenery in modern buildings. To discuss this, we spoke to Sujaul Islam Khan, a practising architect and a senior lecturer of the Department of Architecture, North South University.
The issue of building sustainable structures and cities have been on the global agenda for a few decades now starting from the 1990s and that too for a very good reason. About 40 per cent of all energy consumed in the U.S. are for heating, cooling and lighting buildings, which suggests that if we could build more energy-efficient buildings, it would have a very significant positive impact—on a global scale.
How do we build more sustainable buildings?
I think we should come up with more sustainable building materials, for example, one of the key elements is concrete. Concrete is alone responsible for eight per cent of all the greenhouse gasses we emit all over the world. As concrete is made with cement and it takes a lot of energy to produce cement in the first place.
What components do we have to take into consideration to call it a “Green Building”?
Well in the developed countries there are few certifications that are used to classify a certain building. For example, there is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and in Bangladesh also they are introducing a rating method called BEEER (Building Energy Efficiency and Environment rating). That shows that the government is trying to ensure sustainability.
We need to also take into consideration how to manage the waste that the building occupants are producing. Making a “green building” is simply not the entire job that needs to be accomplished. We have to figure out how to treat our wastewater instead of dumping it in Buriganga in hope that it would magically take care of things.
Do rooftop gardens hamper a building’s longevity?
It’s very common in the western world, and there are many different types of green roofs. It can be done with very little soil. If we are using four inches of soil to grow anything, it should not be a problem, but if it is more than 4 inches then you probably need to consult with a structural engineer. Mainly, one needs to make sure that the water the soil holds does not cause dampness in the main structure. This is very easy to do, and as I said, it been done all over the world and is extremely popular. This doesn’t only have aesthetical benefits but can be used to control the temperature inside buildings as well.
Since you are a professor, is there any part of the curriculum that teaches students about this?
Definitely, there are courses that teach about environmental sustainability, we teach how to reduce heat gain, how to make a building more energy-efficient, basically how to make the optimum use of space and encourage students to learn the importance of preserving nature. But by the time a student reaches university, he or she already has a preconceived idea about the world and it is very difficult to teach someone empathy towards the environment.
Sujaul Islam Khan himself is very passionate when it comes to environmental sustainability and it shows. Architects have a huge role to play when it comes to improving the quality of life and making our cities much greener than it is right now.