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Sustainability in Architecture and Design

TDC Interviews: Naman Shah, Architect & Founder, Sfera Blu Architects

We sat down with architect Naman Shah, founder of the Ahmedabad-based architecture, design and planning firm Sfera Blu Architects, a notable voice in resource sensitive and sustainable design. The firm has quickly made a mark for itself by producing cutting edge projects by integrating design and technology with an environmentally conscious approach. In this interview, Naman discusses his practice and how sustainable architecture is progressing in the Indian market.

Naman Shah

1) Tell us about yourself. Your education, initial days and your motivation to indulge into the field of architecture.

I completed my bachelor of Architecture from CEPT University in Ahmedabad and then went on to complete my Masters in Urban Management and Architectural Design from Milan, Italy. Son of an architect from CEPT and a ceramic designer from NID I grew up in a family of designers. Design as a whole was more important to me and was reflected in my upbringing. It was natural that me and my sister Shaili, both eventually studied architecture.

2) What is the story behind the inception of SferaBlu? Does the name stand for something? How would you describe its design ethos and the motivation behind it?

SferaBlu architects was established in 2007 upon his return from Milan. Its a Latin word meaning 'Blue Sphere', which is our earth. Earth being the only home of human beings, the firm stands for preserving and protecting its environment with a focus on mother nature.

3)How do you think the concept of sustainable design is progressing in the Indian Market among professionals and especially clients?

Being sustainable is quite fashionable. Truth is that there is no other way for us to continue living other than understanding that the earth needs us to protect it. Though there are less government policies for being sustainable in the built environment, the last few years have seen more and more guidelines come into the form of laws. The developed nations have strict policies and so we see more architectural approach being eco-friendly, we are getting there. Clients and professionals both are getting more aware of the situation and are trying their best to be more sensitive to the environment and choices are being made consciously towards this direction, though it is more difficult and expensive to execute it.

4) In the project you have made a conscious effort to reduce the overall carbon footprint of building, to ensure it has a minimum impact on the surrounding environment. At the same time, the building plays a key role in providing a healthy, passively-controlled environment for its occupants. What simple practices do you think every design can readily adopt to achieve the same?

Sustainable design is not difficult. One needs to be little more conscious in the choices made. There is a huge inclination towards generation of electricity via solar panels. This came about due to subsidy offered by the government. Now its there in every bunglow. Some regions in India have rain water harvesting as a given. Urban farming without pesticides is on the rise. So the 3 things to sustain a modern citizen - electric power, water and food, should be a must generation for every home. In addition to this we need to try and decrease use of cement as much as possible. Use more natural and less processed materials.

5) What is the most challenging aspect of bringing sustainability and architecture together?

The current eco-friendly practices are amazing but lack one key element of being aesthetically pleasing. The current use of these materials and products lack the 'glamour' and 'hi-design' appeal. This is what we are trying to change. We are trying to take sustainable solutions and use design as an instrument to make it appealing to clients. This way we can bring these products and solutions to main stream architecture. The Japanese way of 'Wabi-Sabi' or Indian rural methods of 'rough -cut' and unpolished or Asian inspired 'rustic' feel are being accepted into the main stream now.

6) In your opinion, do you think architecture professionals today are aware of the need to preserve the environment and its natural resources?

The architecture community as a whole is well aware of what is required. Architects design not just houses and structures but are also responsible for designing the clients lifestyle. Currently the expensive nature of this practice is putting off most of the clients. So its a luxury to be eco-friendly and sustainable. So we pitch this to the affluent clients as they can afford it. They in turn become trend setters and soon everyone else wants to follow them. Its a cycle and the wheels have started to pick up speed. Soon we expect it will be a way of life.

Q: The Design Collective

A: Naman Shah

About the firm: Sfera Blu Architects

Sfera Blu Architects was established by architect Naman Shah in 2006, with a vision to emerge as an influencial design consultant, emphasising on visual appeal of design combined with practicality and pragmatism in execution and future use. With their ability to create effective and efficient solutions, the firm has quickly made a name for itself by bringing innovative concepts and technologies to the forefront. In this short span, it has a number of projects to its credit, which include architecture, interior design, urban design, master planning and more. With physical presence in Ahmedabad, their work can be experienced all around the country, given a fast growing clientele.

Know more about the firm here.

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