National Faculty Development Programme: Sustainable Built Environment in the face of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the need for the built environment practitioners to reimagine and reprioritize how our built environment is being currently developed. As the cities have shut down, the importance of neighbourhood self sufficiency, mixed use planning have come to the forefront. Moreover as mobility inside the city comes to a virtual halt, the idea of better location-oriented planning and walkable access to everyday services have found more traction.

Currently, the building stock is being constructed with uniformed architectural design, layouts and choice of materials traps the heat, which pushes the building user to switch to mechanical modes of cooling. This especially becomes challenging as the COVID-19 scenario requires limiting recirculation of air in spaces to reduce exposure to the disease and the associated risk. This provides an opportunity to achieve thermal comfort through passive design strategies such as proper orientation, material choices and ventilation strategies rather than relying on energy guzzling mechanical modes. 

The five-day national faculty development programme titled 'Sustainable Built Environment in the face of COVID-19' was conducted with Amity School of Architecture and Planning Kolkata, Amity University West Bengal. The programme initiated a conversation on how the academic curricula and practices related to the built environment must respond to changing paradigm due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how we must plan and design our cities, neighbourhoods, and homes for health, safety, comfort and sustainability. 

The programme over the course of five days covered multiple dimensions of the built environment. 

Day 1: 9th July 2020
Ms. Anumita Roychowdhury's address on the overarching training theme of COVID-19 and how it has disrupted the entire paradigm of the built environment. Her session titled 'Reinventing Public Transport and Mobility in the New Normal' highlighted the linkages between climate change, air pollution, liveability and health and how these can be addressed by a new generation of built spaces, stimulated by the ongoing pandemic. The presentation shared an agenda for the built environment for a 'new normal'.

'Housing people, not diseases and Ventilation strategies for housing' presented by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen focused on housing and highlighted the need to revamp this sector. Interventions in master planning, decentralisation of environmental services, new typologies of housing such as the rental housing, among others are crucial to do this. The session also discussed ventilation strategies for mass housing with a view to increase indoor and ambient thermal comfort, improve air quality and reduce risk and exposure to communicable diseases like COVID-19.

Day 2: 10th July 2020
 The session on 'thermal comfort by design and material choices' by Mr. Sugeet Grover introduced the audience to the India Cooling Action Plan with one of it's primary aims being 'thermal comfort for all' before moving on to showcase how sensitive layout design at a macro scale could help in mitigation of urban heat island effect. The session based on CSE's research on affordable housing typologies in Telangana and Karnataka  further elaborated on how design principles of orientation, shading and material choices are able to enhance the comfortable hours for an occupant. 

The session 'Self-sufficiency and fiscal strategy for affordable housing' by Ms. Mitashi Singh answered the question of why it becomes important to invest into the extra cost of achieving thermal comfort in favour of the beneficiaries, also the developers considering the construction cost escalations due to COVID-19. Deep-dive investigations are needed to reinvent the fiscal support for affordable housing. To do this, she introduced the housing economic value chain and carbon impact frameworks as well as self-sufficient neighbourhood principles for liveability and resource efficiency. 

Day 3: 13th July 2020
The session on 'Introduction to CSE’s Green Campus Initiative' by Ms. Sonia Rani introduced participants to CSE's green campus initiative and the overarching themes of how resource efficiency can be implemented by educational campuses across the five themes of land, water, energy, air and waste. The session also discussed various case studies from different campuses across india who have adopted sustainable practices.

Mr. Sugeet Grover then continued the day's sessions with hands-on exercises and calculations that can be implemented in their respective campuses as resource efficiency measures. 

Day 4: 14th July 2020
 The session by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen on 'Environment Impact Assessment guidelines' discussed the Government of India's Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines for buildings and construction projects. A number of architecture and planning colleges do not teach the procedure, standards and requisites for gaining environmental clearance for buildings and construction projects. This comprehensive session was delivered to bridge that gap and also reinforce the mandatory environmental safeguards into the academic curricula. 

Mr. Dennis Thomson, architect of one of the greenest buildings in California, explained the journey and processes involved in the designing of a sustainable building in a session titled 'A Model Green Project in California'. The parameters included site selection, sustainable materials, passive design, renewable energy, water efficiency as well as indoor environmental quality. 

Day 5: 15th July 2020
The session by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen on 'Construction & Demolition waste management, estimation methodology and exercises' introduced and engaged the participants on the newest waste stream recognised globally. The session included introduction to the C&D waste management rules, status of compliance, estimation methodologies and case studies.

The last session by Mr. Sareen titled 'District Environment Plan' focused on comprehensive environmental management and planning. Introducing the mandate of preparing district and state environment plans following an NGT order, the session discussed the several indicators that can enable monitoring of performance of waste, water, air, land, noise and other environmental resources and status of compliance to statutory mandates as notified from time to time.    

The online programme ran from 9th to 15th of July and was attended by nearly 275 professors and teachers (330 registered) from architecture and planning colleges pan-India. These colleges include IIT Kharagpur, several National Institute of Technology (NITs), Jamia Millia Islamia University, Galgotia University, Jadhavpur University, Andhra University, GITAM University, among others and Amity colleges in different states.