Sustainability in Indian Architecture: Strategies & Practices
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is sustainability in architecture?
  2. History of sustainability in Indian architecture
  3. Sustainable architecture practices in India
  4. Strategies for sustainable architecture in India
  5. Case studies of sustainable Indian architecture
  6. Challenges and opportunities for sustainability in Indian architecture
  7. Future of sustainable architecture in India

Ever wondered how cool it is that the buildings you see around you can coexist with nature and contribute to a healthier planet? This is all thanks to a concept called sustainability in architecture. The idea is simple—designing buildings in a way that respects our environment and uses resources wisely. Now, when we talk about sustainability in Indian architecture, it gets even more exciting. India has a rich history of building designs that are in harmony with nature. This blog is all about exploring this fascinating world of sustainable Indian architecture, its past, its present, and its future. So, let's get started!

What is sustainability in architecture?

Sustainability in architecture, in plain terms, is about designing and constructing buildings that are environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and resource-conscious. This approach is not just about using solar panels or planting trees around the building—it goes much deeper. Here are some key aspects:

  • Energy Efficiency: This means designing buildings in a way that reduces the need for artificial heating, cooling, and lighting. For example, a building with large windows can make the most of natural light and reduce the need for electric lights during the day.
  • Water Conservation: This involves using techniques to save water, like rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, or water-efficient fixtures.
  • Material Selection: This is about choosing building materials that have low environmental impact. For instance, recycled or locally sourced materials are often preferred.
  • Waste Reduction: This involves designing buildings and processes that minimize waste. This could be through efficient use of materials, recycling, or reusing waste.

Now let's look at how these principles apply to sustainability in Indian architecture. In the next sections, we'll dive into the history, practices, and strategies that have shaped sustainable architecture in India, along with some inspiring case studies and a glimpse into the future. So, sit tight and enjoy the journey!

History of sustainability in Indian architecture

Indian architecture's relationship with sustainability isn't a new trend. It's a story that's thousands of years old and deeply rooted in India's rich cultural heritage. Let's take a step back in time and see how our ancestors embraced sustainability in Indian architecture.

Historically, Indian architects used locally available materials like stone, wood, and mud, which were both sustainable and well-suited to the local climate. They also designed buildings to make the most of natural light and ventilation, which kept the interiors cool even in hot weather. Take, for example, the step wells of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Known as 'Baoris', these structures were not only a sustainable way to access groundwater but also acted as cool resting places during summer.

Traditional Indian homes, called 'Vernacular houses', were also a testament to sustainability. They were made from locally-sourced materials like mud and bamboo, which made them eco-friendly and energy-efficient. The houses were designed with courtyards and verandas, which provided natural light and ventilation, reducing the need for artificial lighting or cooling.

Similarly, the concept of 'Vastu Shastra', an ancient Indian science of architecture, also emphasized harmony with nature. It advised on the positioning of buildings, rooms, and even furniture, based on the directions, to ensure maximum benefits from natural elements like sun, wind, and water.

Clearly, sustainability in Indian architecture isn't a borrowed concept—it's a part of our heritage. Now, let's see how this legacy is being carried forward in modern times.

Sustainable architecture practices in India

India is experiencing a resurgence of sustainable architecture practices, and it's exciting to see the innovative ways these principles are being implemented. Here are a few standout trends:

Use of Local Materials: Architects today are tapping into the wisdom of the past by using local materials in their designs. For instance, the use of 'laterite', a type of soil rich in iron and aluminum, is popular in regions like Kerala and Goa. It's not only locally available but also has excellent thermal properties, keeping the interiors cool.

Green Building Certification: Many architects are opting for green building certifications, like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), for their projects. These certifications ensure that the buildings meet certain sustainability criteria, like efficient use of water, energy, and other resources.

Integrating Nature: More and more architects are integrating nature into their designs. Known as 'biophilic design', this approach includes elements like green roofs and walls, indoor gardens, and large windows for natural light.

Passive Design Principles: Passive design principles are also making a comeback. These include orientation of the building to make the most of natural light and wind, along with features like overhangs and courtyards to keep the interiors cool.

In the midst of rapid urbanization, these sustainable architecture practices are not just a nod to our past, but a bridge to a more sustainable future. So, what does this future look like for sustainability in Indian architecture? Stay tuned to find out.

Strategies for sustainable architecture in India

When it comes to sustainability in Indian architecture, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are several strategies that architects can adopt to make their designs more sustainable. Let's dig into these:

Energy Efficiency: The first step towards sustainable architecture is energy efficiency. This includes everything from installing solar panels and wind turbines, to using energy-efficient appliances and systems. Remember, the less energy you use, the less you rely on non-renewable resources.

Water Conservation: With water scarcity becoming a global issue, sustainable architecture must consider water conservation. This can be achieved through rainwater harvesting systems, greywater recycling, and water-saving fixtures.

Waste Management: Solid waste management is another important aspect of sustainable architecture. This involves reducing, reusing, and recycling waste during construction and throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Indoor Environmental Quality: A sustainable building isn't just about the environment—it's also about the people who live or work there. Strategies to improve indoor environmental quality include using materials with low VOC emissions, ensuring adequate ventilation, and providing access to views of nature.

Site Selection and Development: Finally, the site itself plays a vital role in sustainable architecture. Factors to consider include proximity to public transportation, preservation of the natural landscape, and minimizing disturbance to the site during construction.

These strategies can help architects create buildings that are not only environmentally friendly, but also economically viable and socially responsible—a true embodiment of sustainability in Indian architecture.

Case studies of sustainable Indian architecture

It's always helpful to see theory put into practice, isn't it? Let's dive into some real-life examples of sustainability in Indian architecture. These case studies offer a glimpse into what's possible with a little creativity and commitment to the environment.

Suzlon One Earth, Pune: Suzlon One Earth is a shining example of sustainable architecture. This office complex uses 100% renewable energy, thanks to wind turbines and solar panels. Water conservation strategies, such as rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment, also play a significant role in its design.

The Pearl Academy, Jaipur: Designed to withstand the extreme climate of Rajasthan, the Pearl Academy is a testament to the power of traditional architecture techniques. The building features a jaali (lattice) screen, which provides shade and reduces energy consumption. Plus, the school's stepwell-inspired cooling system is a fantastic example of innovative, sustainable design.

Infosys Campus, Mysore: This tech campus has multiple green features like energy-efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting, and a wastewater treatment plant. In fact, Infosys has managed to reduce its per capita water consumption by over 40% and its electricity consumption by 44%.

The Green House, Bangalore: The Green House is a residential property that takes sustainability to a whole new level. From recycled construction materials to a rooftop garden for reducing heat gain, this house truly embodies the principles of sustainability in Indian architecture.

These case studies show how sustainable architecture isn't just a concept—it's a practical, achievable reality. With the right approach, we can create buildings that meet our needs and preserve the environment for future generations. Isn't that a win-win?

Challenges and opportunities for sustainability in Indian architecture

Let's be real for a moment: implementing sustainability in Indian architecture isn't always smooth sailing. But it's crucial to understand that every challenge also presents a new opportunity. So, let's take a look at some of the hurdles and how we can turn them into stepping stones toward a greener future.

Limited awareness and education: Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the benefits of sustainable architecture. This lack of knowledge can lead to reluctance in adopting eco-friendly practices. But here's the silver lining: There's huge potential for increasing awareness through education. As more people understand the importance of sustainability, the demand for green buildings will grow.

Higher initial costs: It's true that sustainable buildings can cost more upfront. But remember, they provide significant savings in the long run through reduced energy and water usage. Plus, as more people invest in green architecture, costs will likely decrease. So, while it might seem like a challenge, it's also an opportunity for long-term savings.

Regulatory hurdles: Navigating the various building codes and regulations can be tough. But on the flip side, the government can play a key role in promoting sustainable architecture. By offering incentives and easing regulations for green buildings, they can significantly boost the adoption of sustainable practices.

In a nutshell, while there are certainly challenges to sustainability in Indian architecture, there are also fantastic opportunities. With a little creativity and commitment, we can overcome these hurdles and pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future. Don't you agree?

Future of sustainable architecture in India

So, where are we heading with sustainability in Indian architecture? Well, if you ask me, the future looks pretty green!

Consider this: The Indian government has set a target to achieve 40% of its power from non-fossil sources by 2030. That's a big goal, and it's going to need a big boost from sustainable architecture.

What's more, according to a report by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), India is expected to have the third largest construction market globally by 2025. With this growth, the demand for green buildings is set to skyrocket. So, if you're thinking about a career in architecture, now would be a great time to get acquainted with sustainable practices!

But it's not just about the big picture. On a smaller scale, homeowners are investing more in eco-friendly options. From solar panels to rainwater harvesting systems, people are finding innovative ways to make their homes greener. And as more individuals take action, we'll see a ripple effect across the country.

So, as we look to the future, it's clear that sustainability in Indian architecture is more than a passing fad—it's a movement that's here to stay. And with the right strategies, we can all play a part in shaping a greener future. Are you ready to join the movement?

If you're passionate about sustainability in architecture and want to explore more on this topic, we encourage you to check out Daisie's classes for more valuable insights and inspiration. With a wide range of workshops and resources from industry experts, you're sure to find the perfect class to help you further your knowledge on sustainable practices in architecture. Visit Daisie's classes to explore more on sustainability and other creative fields.