Launching the next three decades of climate action with young engineers and architects

Buildings are our first defence against storms, floods and heat waves caused by climate change. And, changing how we design these buildings could help us better navigate climate crisis.

Prasad Vaidya

Janani Venkatesh

Launching the next three decades of climate action with young engineers and architects

Thursday September 15, 2022,

4 min Read

The climate crisis has hit closer to home this year: be it the flooding in Bengaluru, the devastation in Assam that destroyed two lakh homes, or the heatwave we felt in 16 states. Our homes and cities are more vulnerable to climate change because of the copy-cat uniformity with which we design and build them throughout the country, instead of a climate and region-sensitive approach.

Buildings account for nearly a fifth of India’s CO2 emissions. About 51% of our population is projected to live in cities by 2047. Our energy-related emissions will grow as we build more buildings and cool them. Our cooling demand is expected to grow 15-fold over the next 20 years. But it need not go this way.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an ambitious target at the COP26: to achieve net zero by 2070. We can make our buildings efficient and net-zero-energy to achieve this goal. And, buildings are our first defence against storms, floods and heat waves caused by climate change. We can design our buildings to protect vulnerable communities, and provide critical functions in the absence of basic services like electricity and water.

sustainable business

This Engineer’s Day, India’s students and young professionals in engineering and architecture can commit to bringing rigorous innovation in how we develop our infrastructure for the future.

Consider the fact that about 70% of India’s urban infrastructure by 2050 is yet to be built. About 95% of GenZs and millennials in India are trying to reduce their impact on the environment.

The time is right for our youth to push towards implementing sustainable solutions. But they need to acquire new knowledge and learn new skills for that.

The gap between education and practice

How do they tackle climate change with energy-efficient, net-zero and resilient buildings? This kind of building design is at a nascent stage in India.

Each year, about 500,000 students graduate from building sector-related courses, but their curriculum doesn’t prepare them to implement net-zero energy buildings (NZEB). Out of the 450-plus architecture colleges in the country, less than 20 offer courses on energy efficiency or sustainable design. Students often end up being in learning silos, with no interdisciplinary interaction, and almost no exposure to ground realities.

Changing education to usher change

Educating architecture and engineering students about NZEBs will influence the buildings that they will work on over their 30-plus-year careers.

Their learning needs to be integrated with building science, energy efficiency, water sufficiency, material science, and resilience. Their curriculum should enable them to explore technologies like innovative low-carbon building materials, smart controls, IoT along with UI/UX design to enable behavioural change of building occupants.

To tackle extreme heat waves, energy efficient and affordable cooling systems should be explored. Resilient design requires multidisciplinary collaboration between architects, engineers and other disciplines to plan for structural resilience, strategizing to reduce risks and addressing the impact of hazards to build back.

Students must be exposed to live projects and develop soft skills to become industry-ready. The engineering and architecture faculty too, need training and support to mentor students into innovative thinkers and doers. All of this supports our new National Education Policy.

The way forward

India’s youth is facing a unique challenge with the climate crisis, but it’s also an opportunity to do things differently from the past. We must build smart, green, energy efficient and resilient to climate hazards. We must make this affordable, durable, and designed for the future.

Engineers and architects who learn to do this well, will be successful in our future economy. Businesses, governments and institutions need to empower them to learn this, so we can reduce India’s building energy demand by 50% by 2050.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)