Guest Column

Potential of Corporate Buildings in Sustainable Development

October, 2019

Construction on land occupies an area that was once a plantation or a forest. What if construction not only generates green cover but also enhances life, productivity and mental wellness. While cities and urban dwellings are criticized for stripping forests and unruly development, LVL AWSM can enable these developments with systems that contribute towards ecological welfare. Buildings today; be it your residence or office, often fulfil only a single criterion. They only provide shelter. Whereas these structures have immense potential to impact lives and remunerate ecology the loss of its flora and fauna.

Functionality of terraces in corporate buildings corresponds to the usage-efficiency of available real- estate space. In India’s Mumbai, the issue of low degree of accessibility to building-terraces by disallowance of lifts to the topmost floors was reconsidered and relaxed by the regional municipal corporation only in 2017.1 If realized earlier, the ever-growing urban concretization could be have been decelerated by enabling conscious usage of existing terrace spaces over new construction and development. This applies to other Indian cities accommodating massive corporate buildings especially, as terraces are opportunities to collectively compensate the lost energy and green cover. This compensation relates to the environmental impact of a building that is evaluated in terms of carbon equivalent produced by the construction process. Disrupting existing systems and everyday lives, demolishing buildings, replanting forests, abandoning cars or giving up the comforts of urban living are practices too difficult to attain. The solution can only be innovations that intervene and not interrupt – a design approach where construction generates green cover, enhancing lives, productivity and mental wellness. On a city level, sustainable development is always work-in progress and can travel through multiple dimensions, paths and methods – now terrace spaces are potential considerations in construction and corporate fields.

A terrace adds to the soul of a building – it has immense potential to bring the outside to the inside and to crack the usual enclosed spatial system. Activating outdoor spaces in work-environments are smart solutions in terms of sustainable development and act as major employee recruitment and retention tool in workspaces. Terrace design, landscape design, space design are the verticals that can enable activation of rooftop terrace spaces. This is recognized as a strategy used by companies outside India to improve productivity. But, this kind of innovation is meagrely attempted in corporate buildings in India other than the exclusive co-working spaces like Wework, Springboard, etc. that integrate such innovative interventions to generate social impact, style impact and service impact for better spaces and healthy minds. Also, buildings that are structurally unequipped to handle human load on their terraces can also join the bandwagon through solar panel and wind turbine technologies.

Multi-functional and environment-supportive setups are transforming barren terraces of corporate buildings world-wide. Considering that Corporate Social Responsibility is mandatory in India and the 2 percent bill demands large companies to allocate a minimum of two percent of their profits yearly on CSR, if such spatial design intervention is developed as a CSR project by corporates, a new dimension to environment and sustainability will be registered in the Corporate Social Responsibility arena. The framework of UN Global Compact constitutes human-centric principles related to society, environment, labour and human rights, the gap lies in inconsideration towards design, technology, knowledge, happiness and animals. When a radical design solution addresses a larger societal issue, the impact is more powerful and lasting. A CSR switch to social and environmental design solutions will embrace green design ideas for corporate buildings. On the other hand, the best ways for corporates to use CSR funds also internally begin with imbibing sustainable innovation in the company’s spatial planning which in turn leads to improved wellness, welfare, health and happiness of employees as well. Also, to parallelly consider is the potential of ideas to be innovative, productive, functional, growth-inducing, socially committed, and environmentally supportive and lastly fulfil the role of socially responsible corporate citizens.

Conflating environmental concern and employee wellness, a CSR proposal like LVL AWSM will potentially enrich the impact on buildings and cities by optimizing the space above the four walls, and to accommodate utilitarian, recreational activities, etc. for corporate employees. The idea firstly pertains to using terrace spaces in corporate buildings for micro-farming and plantation for produce and also be positioned as a stress-relieving, rejuvenating exercise. Secondly, it generates interactive, communal and gathering spaces progressing beyond ornamental landscaping and green vistas.  Such terrace spaces also create meeting and collaborative areas alongside an element of recreation and smart farming. Also, on a smaller level, cafes, restaurant establishments or malls can contextualize the concept and implement the idea over their rooftops. What was once a normal and simple empty terrace becoming a destination by itself!

The concept of LVL AWSM is recognized and nominated by Smart Cities Council India and ideation of this practice not only benefits individuals but works at a larger scale for impacting townships and cities. Taking up on this opportunity to make more conscious decisions for the society and not turning a blind eye to the issues, a one-time investment sets off a chain reaction that can gradually reverse and reclaim ecology. Now couldn’t be a better time to enjoy the perks of urbanity alongside the bounty of nature.

About Rajesh Kumar Das

He is a founder and director of 10by10. He started 10by10 in 2015 to envision the studio as a holistic solution provider oriented towards sustainability and technology that exhibit intense collaboration between Landscape, Space and Product design services. He has led many of the studio’s acclaimed projects such as Lumino cage, an Experience Centre in Bangalore for Schneider Electric, an RE100 company. The experience centre which had a futuristic spatial vision of exhibiting products without human intervention, won the Young Designers’ Competition held by Indian Architect& Builder in 2019. His nationally acclaimed expertise in leading experience centre projects has resulted in a collaboration with BESCOM Ltd. (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company) for the design of BESCOM Centre for Excellence in Bangalore.