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By Jody McCutcheon
Architects employ many strategies to achieve sustainability. From the application of basic design principles and use of environmentally friendly materials and construction methods, to the implementation of features promoting energy efficiency, the various tricks of the trade are becoming commonplace in contemporary practice, bringing eco-architecture into the mainstream
Mumbai-based firm Parin Shah Architects has its own preferred strategy, with the bottom line that sustainable design equals good design. The company’s idea of good urban design includes a transportation centerpiece.
Transit-oriented development (TOD) isn’t a new practice, but neither is it ubiquitous. The idea is for public transit to act as a central hub for sustainable communities–not just as in sustaining a community feeling, but also as in promoting environmentally friendly practices. As the number and size of cities grows, Parin Shah feels TOD is a form of urban planning that will maximize social, economic, cultural and community benefits while still placing prime importance on environmental responsibility.
Parin Shah is implementing TOD-based projects in four major metropolises across the Indian state of Gujarat, with the State Government and development firm Hubtown Limited teaming up to bring them to life. Each will consist of two primary spaces, a bus terminal and a mixed-use space consisting of areas dedicated to residential, hospitality, commercial, retail and food courts. The bus terminals will bring people into the community, benefiting the outer, commercial zones with added foot traffic.
But the primary goal of transit-centric communities is to reduce private auto transit and increase the use of public transit and non-motorized transport means, such as walking and cycling. The end result is a reduction in carbon emissions and the promotion of a greener, cleaner community.
Supporting sustainability features will be incorporated into the infrastructure, including solid waste management and rainwater harvesting. Most areas of the development will be designed with an abundance of natural ventilation, thus minimizing a need for mechanical ventilation. Semi-open and double-height areas will help maintain a comfortable interior temperature via adequate air circulation. Courtyards will serve double duty, as congregational spaces and as additional sources of natural ventilation.
These projects also seek to optimize overall function, efficiency and aesthetics of the urban space. Bus terminal traffic and regular traffic will be streamlined to facilitate efficient flow, as will foot traffic. Each area, whether residential, commercial or retail, will have its own entry and exit, with internal connections between retail shops, commercial spaces and transport hub allowing for a separation of commerce and residence. Large areas within the projects are designed solely for pedestrian use, and each development will offer accessible facilities. Finally, each building will boast a unique aesthetic with lively interior decoration, which is a welcome departure from the drab and generic features that typically adorn government transit depots.
Parin Shah has hit the refresh button with its TOD projects, providing not only a welcome dose of sustainability to urban planning in a place that needs it, but also a nice injection of colour to a historically stuffy building design.