Passive strategies enhance the usage of renewable sources of energy, which in turn make the build cost efficient. Different passive design techniques include building’s orientation, window placement, sizes, shading devices, built form and shape, and settlement pattern, along with efficient use of locally available materials for warm-humid regions.

S. K. Singh, Senior Principal Scientist and Professor, AcSIR, CSIR-Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee; Sara Ali, Project Assistant (Architect), CSIR-Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee; and Utkarsh Singh, Graduate Student, Manipal University Jaipur (MUJ), Jaipur

Incorporating passive techniques in building designs is becoming essential as they help in reducing the thermal cooling loads of buildings to maintain indoor temperature. These techniques can also be used for low- and mid-income housing groups, and for the economically weaker section (EWS) to provide better and more comfortable living standards.

Warm humid region climate is categorized by heavy rainfall and high humidity thus it is essential to provide maximum open spaces to allow cross ventilation. By using these strategies in housing, energy demand can be reduced by 25%-35%, thus making building energy-efficient. It is necessary to incorporate passive techniques in designing of houses in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Sustainable building techniques make a valuable contribution to sustainable development (Akadiri et al. 2012). Environmental evaluation and energy performance audit of buildings are becoming important parameters for sustainable design or green architecture (Ghaffarianhoseini et al. 2013). The sustainability of a structure is influenced by the materials used, technology and affordability. The aim of these buildings is efficient use of energy, water, and other resources, and improving the user’s productivity (Singh et al. 2010).

In sustainable designing of multi-story buildings there are four main strategies:
  • passive solar gain
  • active solar gain
  • active wind gain
  • facade designing.
Passive solar means building orientation according to the sun, while active solar involves appliance of photovoltaic cells. Elevation design along with considering building facade also acts a source for internal heat gain, thus appropriate materials should be used to maintain the thermal comfort (Wang and Adeli 2014). Following are the advantages of sustainable designing:
  • Minimizes operational energy, water requirements and thus less waste generation.
  • Utilizes locally available materials making it cost-effective.
  • Involves passive techniques to attain comfortable indoor environment and a healthy workspace.
  • Structure life is also increased (Radwan et al. 2015).
Depending on the climate, size of the house and development level, energy requirement varies. Construction projects consume 38% of the total energy annually (Yüksek and Karadayi 2017). The main usage of energy in a building is lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation etc. It is also consumed during production of materials (embodied energy), so there is a need to conserve energy during construction through appropriate designing, proper orientation, building form, knowledge of climatic conditions, site planning, use of renewable resources, and achieving thermal comfort (Thapa and Panda 2015).

Energy usage can also be reduced by using materials with low embodied energy like fly ash bricks; fiber reinforced bricks; timber and adobe bricks. Cost can be minimized using solar water heater or photovoltaic cells on the roof (Chel and Kaushik 2018).

Various policies such as Green Rating Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) developed by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) operated by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) with National Building Code (NBC), Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and voluntary green building rating systems (Sharma 2018), have been already initiated in the construction sector.

Warm-Humid Climatic Region
Classification of climate zones in India (NBC 2016)Figure 1: Classification of climate zones in India (NBC 2016)
India is divided into six different climatic zones as shown in Fig.1 .Warm humid region is comparatively high temperature region (300C-350C), heavy rainfall and relatively high humidity all over the year. The temperature remains the same through the day with light winds. The intensity of solar radiation is also high with heavy precipitation and humidity levels (Conservation and Code 2007). Temperature, humidity and wind are the main elements in a warm-humid climatic region, which effects thermal comfort of dwellings. As the low-income group (LIG) and the middle income group (MIG) cannot afford mechanical cooling to maintain the internal temperature, passive techniques are effective measures to have an energy efficient building with economical annual cost (Roux 2015).

Affordable Housing
There is a massive shortage of affordable housing in India. With the rise in economy, energy consumption in households is also increasing. Air conditioning units, operation and maintenance add to the building cost. In Affordable Housing, the building allows natural ventilation to maintain a comfortable internal temperature and reduce consumption of energy, as compared to commercial and institutional buildings (Sen 2014).The division of household according to JNNURM mission directorate (2011) is shown in Table 1 (TERI 2014)

Table 1: Definition of affordable housing: JNNURM directorate (2011)

Passive Strategies and Climate Responsive Design
To enhance the indoor temperature, insulation is required in walls and roofs. The shading of windows by overhangs and side fins and using energy efficient materials in construction are also needed (Kini et al. 2017). Buildings are placed in a scattered manner to allow air movement needed in warm-humid regions. Large openings are needed both in the plan and elevation; placement of bedrooms should be on the east side (Factors Governing the Design Aspects of Sustainable Building in Different Climatic Zones 2017). The studies are given in table 2.

Table 2: Passive design strategies by various researchers

Table 3: Passive strategies and their applications

Construction of Roof
The construction of roof using traditional techniques and materials is shown in Fig. 2 (Pingel et al. 2019).

Traditional terracotta Madras roof and Sloped hollow block roofFigure 2: (A) Traditional terracotta Madras roof
(B) Sloped hollow block roof

Building Materials for Walls and Roofs
Hollow Concrete Blocks are economical, environment friendly and low maintenance, and have good thermal insulation, fire resistance and load bearing capacity. Also, their strength can be specified according to the site requirements (Fig. 3) (Chaure et al. 2018).

Hollow concrete blocks wall (source- Chaure et al. 2018)Figure 3: Hollow concrete blocks wall (source- Chaure et al. 2018)
    • Timber has good thermal resistance, high heat storage capacity, and good regulation of humidity as a warm-humid region has high moisture content (Fig. 4) (Harte 2018).

Timber constructionFigure 4: Timber construction

    • Bamboo Roofing Sheet is a successful roofing material as it has almost similar tensile strength as that of steel. It is eco-friendly, lightweight, tough and long-lasting and has minimum fire hazard (Refer Fig. 5) (Chowdhury and Roy 2013).

Low cost bamboo housingFigure 5: Low cost bamboo housing

    • Ferrocement is made up of cement mortar and wire mesh reinforcement. As it is thin in section it has less steel, and a lower embodied energy .It is strong, durable and cost-effective and used in the construction of hollow columns, walls, beams and for repair of deteriorated structures (Deshmukh, 2013).
    • Laterite stone is commonly used for low-cost constructions in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. Usually, plastered with lime mortar, it gains strength on exposure to air and sun (Fig. 6) (Maklur and Narkhede 2018).

Red Laterite stone constructionFigure 6: Red Laterite stone construction

    • Mangalore tiles are cheap, durable, and eco-friendly. They are used in roofs, applied in kitchens and bathrooms, to remove smoke through air gaps in between the tiles. They are made up of laterite clay and placed over sloping roofs in places that experience heavy rainfall (Fig. 7) (Sarathraj and Somayaji 2014).

Mangalore tiles used in roofs (Source -Sarathraj and Somayaji 2014)Figure 7: Mangalore tiles used in roofs (Source -Sarathraj and Somayaji 2014)

    • Coconut palms are used as a vernacular building material in Tamil Nadu and Kerala as they are available in large quantities, cheap, and used for making thatch and mats from woven leaves. Being eco-friendly, they are suitable for warm humid regions (Fig. 8) (Killmann, and Fink 1996).

Coconut palm roofs (Source-Killmann, and  Fink 1996)Figure 8: Coconut palm roofs (Source-Killmann, and Fink 1996)

    • Adobe brick is made up of sand, clay along with chopped straw, and moistened with water .For strength, cow dung is also added. It is then dried in the shape of a brick. It is eco-friendly, provides thermal comfort, low maintenance and cheap. It is used in construction of foundations, walls, door, windows, beams and roof (Fig. 9) (B. 2014).

Adobe Brick wall construction (Source-B. 2014)Figure 9: Adobe Brick wall construction (Source-B. 2014)

    • Rat Trap bond is a masonry technique with cavity inside the wall. It requires brick as a building material. Along with the thermal load reduction it also saves the electricity usage (Refer Fig. 10) (Ullah et al. 2018).

Rat Trap Bond masonry techniqueFigure 10: Rat Trap Bond masonry technique

    • Stone is the most ancient building material available in the form of blocks and can be cut into various sizes for construction of foundations, walls, columns, lintels, pavement of roads. They are durable, strong and economical (Fig. 11) (Balasubramanian 2017).

Flat stones and large undressed stones (Mitigation and Centre 2013)Figure 11: Flat stones and large undressed stones (Mitigation and Centre 2013)
Raw Earth as a building material
The Auroville Earth Institute and Centre for Sustainable Research (CSR) aims to build a link between raw earth as a building material with modern technologies. It has developed new techniques that save energy, is environment-friendly and feasible. It focuses mainly on reduction in the usage of steel and cement. Compressed earth blocks are most widely used as a building material in Auroville (Refer Fig. 12) (Auroville’s Case study). To prevent water erosion it is stabilized with 3-5% cement. The material is durable, ecological, cheap and requires easy workmanship. Most of the construction in Auroville demonstrates this through vaulted floor and roof designs. (Bhatia, B. 2014).

Buildings made from compressed earth blocks (CEB) (Auroville’s Case study).Figure 11: Buildings made from compressed earth blocks (CEB) (Auroville’s Case study).

The Auram Press 3000 can create 80 types of blocks with 18 moulds. They are compressed in a press (manual or motorised) and cured for 28 days.

Different construction blocks created by Auram Press 3000 (Source-Google images)Figure 12: Different construction blocks created by Auram Press 3000 (Source-Google images)

Challenges in building with passive strategies:
  • With fresh or renovated construction, early expenses of installation can be 10%-30% higher.
  • Climatic conditions may change the performance.
  • Exterior environment makes a difference in design
Climate responsive architecture helps in maintaining the indoor environment quality and helps us adopt traditional building methods using materials like laterite blocks, hollow concrete blocks, hollow clay blocks along with some energy-efficient passive design strategies. These strategies are a good alternative for artificial cooling methods and are cost-effective. Thus, it should be made mandatory for all the planners to incorporate passive strategies and make buildings energy-efficient.

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