26 May 2020

Interview-Anup Naik (Space Matrix Architects & Planners)

Sustainable Heights


A qualitative and sustainable design can efficiently transform the high-rise structures into sustainable developments of urban architecture. ANUP NAIK, PARTNER AND DIRECTOR, SPACE MATRIX ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS writes…


It is a well documented fact that the built environment is responsible for half of the world’s CO2 emissions, leaving architects, engineers, designers and developers in a key position to make a significant impact by changing the way buildings use energy and affect the environment. Today these high energy, gas-guzzling, glazed buildings can be found in virtually every large city in the world, regardless of climate, orientation or site characteristics. High-rise buildings are massive consumers of energy. They are the dominant elements in urban architecture due to their scale and purpose, and should be the focus of sustainable designs. Many architects believe that, the danger of skyscrapers to the environment is more threatening than air pollution. Meanwhile most designers, engineers and architects believe, if these buildings are designed and built under appropriate conditions, they can indicate sustainable development and green architecture. By believing in such attitude, negative factors influencing the environment will be minimized while keeping health and welfare of the dwellers optimized.


Clearly, the design process is significantly complex since the designer has to understand the building performance in terms of different design factors and variables, under differing conditions. Few benefits of such high performance designs are - energy efficiency, design flexibility, resource conservation, indoor environmental quality, etc. The principal design factors that are crucial for achieving a high performance high-rise building are: site context, environment, structure and use of materials, energy consumption, use of water, ecological balance and community development. The design team involving varied professionals hence need to uniformly set their goals at a much earlier stage – only then can the building deliver an optimum performance. 


The interaction between the building and its environment can be visualized as a set of dependencies and exchanges:

  • External Interdependencies: The processes and activities that take place in the environment of the building
  • Internal Interdependencies: The processes and activities that take place within the building
  • External to Internal Exchanges: The exchange of energy and matter from the natural environment into the built environment (the building)
  • Internal to External Exchange: The exchange of energy and matter from the built environment (the building) into the natural environment

A high-rise building needs to synthesize all such interactions into a balanced ecosystem for creating an effective way to design an ecologically responsive built environment.



The affirmations of Green Principles largely cover the aspects of reduce, conserve and maintain.

  1. Embodied Energy- A high-rise building needs to make efficient use of raw materials (environment-friendly materials).
  2. Energy Efficiency- A high-rise building needs to consume a minimum amount of energy over its life span.
    Energy efficiency means minimizing energy consumption (energy requirement to heat cool-ventilate, to light and to power all machines in the building) without sacrificing either the comfort or productivity of the occupants through the entire life of the high-rise building.
  3. Bio-climatic Approach- A high-rise building needs to optimize the meteorological data to achieve comfort.
  4. Recyclability- A high-rise building needs to minimize new resources and generate a minimum amount of waste and pollution over its life span. Reducing the usage of non-renewable energy sources, mineral resources and water resources, through reuse, recycle, regeneration, and promoting the use of renewable resources (solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy).
  5. Flexibility and Adaptability- A high-rise building needs to respect its users and meet their needs now, and in the future.
  6. Toxicity- A high-rise building needs to create a healthy indoor environment.
  7. Response to Site and Surrounding- A high-rise building needs to use a minimum amount of land, and integrate well with the adjacent built environment.
  8. Comprehensiveness- A high-rise building needs to demonstrate a holistic approach to address the interdependency of the building and the environment



Harnessing Solar Energy: Technologies related to solar energy harnessing, conversion and distribution are divided into active and passive methods, based on their application and use type.


Structure and Material Preferences: At first sight it is hard to relate sustainability to the structure of a high-rise building. However, steel and reinforced concrete buildings are typically the materials of choice. In addition, the core provides structural stability and its positioning is important for sustainability.


Facade and Opening Technology: Day lighting and shading are usually the key aspects to façade design for typical green buildings. The façade covers over 90 to 95 per cent of the external building surface area in a high-rise building. Thus, the energy gain or loss for a high-rise building depends very much upon the materiality and technology employed in the façade treatment.


Orientation and Walls: Skyscrapers are strongly influenced by external temperature, especially sunlight. Building orientation hence is widely important for energy survival.


Harvesting Wind Energy:  Wind is a renewable energy source which can be advantageously tapped at higher altitudes. The energy resource can be potentially used at high-rises where the speed of wind is considerably large.

A wind turbine can be installed at the body or high altitudes of skyscrapers to generate and produce the necessary power for the building.


Urban Connect: As the skyscraper matures into a building type, its role in actively connecting to, and reinforcing, major threads of urban fabric become increasingly important. The creation of public spaces inside of, and adjacent to high-rise buildings allows for significant additions to the public realm, facilitating better connections between varied uses, providing needed access to critical transportation functions.


The insertion of new public open spaces, the addition of varieties of public use, and the connection to public circulation routes into tall structures can allow city life to flow effectively through otherwise dense environments. The ultimate efficiency of such high-rise building projects comes with the connection to transport networks and even adjacency to major transport hubs.


Degree of porosity can also naturally lend a measure of human scale, mitigating some of the psychological challenges of occupying mega scale buildings. The aesthetic effect of unmitigated mega-masses can otherwise become a deterrent to the happy acceptance of dense living. Porosity becomes a natural enabler of efficient density.


In conclusion the design principles should be the starting point for a new vernacular for tall rise buildings – a language concerned with creating –

  • Interesting tall building forms, beyond the glass box.
  • Tall buildings that are rooted both physically and environmentally into specifics of place.
  • Tall buildings that are responsive to the environmental challenges of tomorrow – that are future ready
  • Tall buildings that cater for more open, communal, recreational spaces pushing social sustainability on an urban scale.

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