Interview: Satish Srikaran, Architect from India Combining Empathic Design with Green Awareness Talks About Green Building and The Mambakkam School

Satish Srikaran

Satish Srikaran is an Associate at Studio Parametric Architects, Bangalore, India. He has 10 years of experience in designing & developing buildings. He combines his passion for environment responsible designs along with his on-going pursuit to deliver buildings using BIM (Building information Modelling).
In this interview,Satish Srikaran goes into detail about Green Building in general and the IGBC Platinum rated Mambakkam High School in particular, a project he knows well for having closely collaborated with Priya Lourduraj, Mambakkam project’s architect.

Cuomo Foundation: What are the challenges the architects face today in contemporary India amid the climate crisis?

Satish Srikaran: Architects in India today face a lot of challenges in terms of climatic crisis. India is rapidly developing and one of the fastest growing economies. With this tremendous growth, making a building greener by reduction in carbon footprint is required like never before. What India lacks today is a strong conviction on how it should build itself to respond to climatic issues. I believe short terms plans have to be combined with long term investments to deal with climatic issues.

CF: Building is all but going against nature? For the sake of the argument, I’d say that we build Culture on Nature. How can the contemporary architects reconcile with this apparent paradox?

SS: Creating a building by wiping out its natural context has been in practice from time immemorial. This paradox was seemingly agreeable in the past, as human settlements left behind lesser carbon footprints. But given today’s scenario, contemporary architects can minimise what is left behind. A building might not exist for eternity, so any opportunity to re-use and re-build and employ green building principles can reconcile this paradox.

When a building responds to its immediate surroundings, a town or city responds to its macro climate, I believe the society gets to experience its benefits at a larger scale.

CF: What is a Green Architecture ? Is it even possible, the green-most option being not building at all, at least for the sake of the argument…?

SS: Not building at all might be the greenest option but how we build and adapt to the context can ensure that we can coexist and preserve what is left after we build. Green architecture emphasises this aspect of coexisting and being respectful to its surroundings. When a building responds to its immediate surroundings, a town or city responds to its macro climate, I believe the society gets to experience its benefits at a larger scale.

Pupils inspecting their future school compound

CF: Do you feel that reducing carbon imprint is among the main concerns that architects share among them in today’s India ?

SS: Reducing carbon imprint is certainly one of the aspects contemporary Indian architects are considering in their practice. Today, it might not be a key design factor but architects are aware of how this has an impact. In most cases, the decision to reduce a buildings carbon imprint is promoted by many practicing architects. But I would say the developers and clients should also consider this aspect and work hand-in-hand to ensure a project is socially responsible.

CF: Your ecological awareness has changed the way you go about your practice ?

SS: Not entirely, but it is changing at a slow and steady pace. Due to India’s rapid urbanisation and the scale at which the cities are growing, the awareness to be ecologically sensitive is wide spread among professionals in the industry. There are lot of initiatives undertaken to ensure this awareness which is considered by decision makers and the general public.

[…]This school can act as a precedent for many such schools in the region to follow and adapt green buildings principles…

CF: What is the basic principal that underlines your personal practice as an eminent architect ?
One of the basic principles is empathic design [Empathic design is a user-centred design approach that pays attention to the user’s feelings toward a product. Editor’s note]. I believe that there is always a solution a through design and this belief drives the quest to solve the challenges encountered at various scales and levels. Being respectful to the context and the client’s needs, I try to evolve a design that is sensitive and responsive.

CF: What do you find the most appealing about Mambakkam green project ?

The school has abundance of natural light with courtyards and optimum use of fenestrations. Some of the renewable energy sources are already in place and working.

CF: It’s a pretty expensive project. Several « standard » school builds could have been built with its budget. Do you find it’s worth it ?

Fair question. I see this endeavour as a worthy investment. Like any green building, the initial costs might prove beneficial in the long run, as the running costs can be minimised if the right systems are maintained. Also, this school can act as a precedent for many such schools in the region to follow and adapt green buildings principles.

CF: According to you, what impact the Indian Green Building Council is capable of making in India’s building industry ?

There are various initiatives taken by the IGBC to promote green concepts across the country. They are making a slow but steady impact in the construction industry.

An inner courtyard of Mambakkam Compound