Published: 19th August 2019
Comparing a building to a mango tree? Ask Tarun Jami to explain how that works
He holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. Along with running GreenJams, he is also pursuing a PhD from AcSIR at CSIR-Central Building Research Institute (CSIR-CBRI), Roorkee
We all want to grow and improve quality of life for ourselves and for those around us. But what are we doing instead? For this, I am going to draw comparisons between a mango tree and a really efficient green building. The usual brief of an efficient green building would consist of four points — sealed windows with no gaps or seams that would allow interaction with the outer atmosphere, darkened glazing that does not allow for all the sunlight to filter through, supreme air conditioning and top-notch LED lighting. When nature decided to create a mango tree, the brief must have been something like this — hyper-active fecundity with a lot of abundance, widely spread out cover and foliage, have an intimate relationship with the atmosphere around and use about 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide every year, and provide food and shelter for 600 types of insects, 10,000 types of birds and several thousands species. The difference between the two scenarios is so stark that they are literally on two sides of a spectrum. The fact is that a really efficient green building will surely and steadily consume large amounts of energy, it does not let the occupants enjoy and interact with the outdoors, the buildings are so sterile that they ask an important question — are they for machines or for humans?
Let's go back to the mango tree now. A 10-year-old fully mature mango tree yields about 200-300 mangoes every year. Don't you think that's way too many babies for one parent? The tree is synonymous with abundance and generosity. For it to propagate its offspring, it only needs one of its mangoes to germinate into a tree. Literally, the other mangoes go to waste. It would also provide food and shelter so small animals and beings would grow and attain nourishment from it. Now imagine if a building is designed like a mango tree. Here's what would happen. The sunlight would filter through the green cover, the hot air would rise up and the cool air from the tree would cycle down to keep the space in between as cool as a cucumber. The waste from the building would nourish the soil around it and the rainwater runoff would replenish the water table. Most importantly, the building would not consume any energy and have a very low carbon footprint which can be easily offset by nourishing other plants. Above all, the occupants enjoy much better physical, mental and emotional health.
All ears: Tarun Jami during his speech | (Pic: Express)
I know it is a very aspirational concept and when I was trying to explain this to my brother, he said, 'So should we all go and live in trees like Neanderthals?'. Obviously, no! Why relegate to pre-historic times? Especially after such hard-fought and achieved progress. The answer is design. The biggest takeaway from the mango tree's example is the genius of design. The tree lives, propagates, thrives and how. Everything it does only has a positive impact on its surroundings. Similarly, when we design our buildings, or any product for that matter, the goal must be positive. Just the way the mango tree litters and life emerges from it, our products, when they reach their own end of life, must give birth to life. Getting back to buildings, in current times, built environments consume almost 40 per cent of the world's energy. They are the single largest source of carbon emissions and account for over 35 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. Just the construction and operation of built environments will be responsible for the loss of 7,200 square kilometres of land space as a result of carbon emissions related to climate change. This will not only reduce habitable space but make it tremendously unhabitable. So we need to act and need to act fast.
We are in this situation because of poor and unintelligent design. If we want to get out of this, the same kind of design thinking is not going to work. We have to move beyond recycling and move to upcycling. Here are three calls to action — Aspire to make carbon-neutral and choose hempcrete or agrocrete to make your homes thermally comfortable. Most importantly, design homes in such a manner that they do not need active cooling and lighting equipment. Secondly, pay attention to the design of your products. Examine the entire lifecycle and aspire to leave a positive impact. Thirdly, it is good to recognise the detrimental effect of certain substances like lead and plastic, but also think of alternatives before you ban them. There is no argument when it comes to the need for carbon consciousness but more importantly, we need to cultivating design intelligence.
(If you have heard of hempcrete (think concrete but made from the stalk of hemp) and agrocrete (uses agricultural wastes of fibre crops), then you have heard of Tarun Jami. His mission is to lower the carbon footprint of built environments and inculcate design intelligence, which is why he even started Visakhapatnam-based GreenJams. This is how he emphasised the role of design thinking during his speech at the event. He was speaking at TNIE's 40 under 40 Eco Conclave)