Deflating the Popular Myths Around Sustainable Designing

A Traditional courtyard interpreted in contemporary language – Kochar House

Though the history of green architecture is unclear about its origin, the traditional knowledge of innovatively designing and building spaces to efficiently endure for long-term is centuries-old. A modern take on the green building concept first emerged in 1960 when eco-awareness was on the rise as a response to industrialisation and technological advancement. Ever since then, the concept has evolved to mutually benefit nature and man, even in this hi-tech era. But over the years, poor marketing and lack of conceptual understanding have given birth to several myths. So, let's take a look at some of the popular myths that revolve around sustainable architecture and debunk them as we go:


Sustainable architecture is for anyone who wants to embrace a healthy lifestyle that's in sync with nature, wealthy or not. Since most of the building materials are sourced locally, green spaces are not just sustainable but cost-effective as well. Also, the end product is a sustainable building complete with aesthetic elements that require no further finishing, which means spending on additional interiors isn’t required. Hence, the overall maintenance cost of a green building throughout its span of life is far more economical than conventionally built spaces. For example, filler slabs, jack arches, or vaults used instead of conventional false ceilings bring down the total expense on building and maintenance.


Another common misconception people have regarding green architecture is that it’s ideal for building spaces of short-stay rather than long-stay. This is why, a lot of people invest in building extravagant, costly, green spaces such as vacation homes, farmhouses, etc. where they spend less time. But in reality, sustainable spaces are great and practical for everyday living because they offer healthier conditions to live in. Considering green designs for primary spaces will prove to be beneficial for the end-user/s. For example, using brick or mud block masonry for walls completely eliminates the need for wall paints that release toxic fumes, thereby keeping the occupants healthier.


"Contemporary designs cannot be achieved with eco-friendly architecture" that's the general idea among people. Going solely by its name, many feel that green architecture can only weave traditional designs, which isn't true at all. Green designs are perfect for achieving clean, contemporary lines in any structure, be it office spaces, houses, restaurants, etc. A team of skilled designers and engineers can very well fashion spaces to suit the lifestyle and changing trends, all while keeping the traditional wisdom alive. For example, using stone slabs as steps for the staircase by resting them within the masonry makes it look cantilevered.


It’s a common misbelief among people that it takes more time to build a structure using green design as opposed to conventional methods. The concept of sustainability encourages the use of locally available materials, which reduces the time spent on transporting them to the site. And as the completion of construction itself is the end product, less time is spent on finishing, therefore shortening the project timeline for green spaces. For example, the constructed building does not require finishing (plastering, painting & cladding), so the time spent on construction is less.


The idea that green buildings are less comfortable couldn't be further from the truth. For many, the word ‘comfort’ is synonymous with plush curtains, thick carpets, rich wooden finishes, and lavish wall paintings. But this style of furnishing is limited to a certain time and era of interior designing, not at all on par with the current trends. In this modern-day and age, materials used in sustainable construction can very well be adapted to impart comfort throughout the interiors. For example, using brick, mud blocks, or wood contributes a warm hue and cosy feel to the interiors.


The misconception has more to do with the advertisements run by realtors and developers, focusing solely on the landscape aspect of green designing. Landscape integration in site development plans indeed helps in passive cooling which helps reduce the overall energy consumption, but it’s not everything. Green building is a vast concept involving many processes and elements, not just limited to landscaping. For example, eco-friendly structures also include rainwater harvesting, recycled materials, sewage treatment plants, etc.

Whether it’s a school, home, restaurant, or an office, sustainable architecture is the perfect way to go regardless of place or time. The green building concept is for anyone who wishes to lead a healthy life without compromising the environment. In addition to being cost-effective, trendy, and comfortable, green buildings promote an ambiance much loved by all.

Written: Remya | Edited: Varsha & Sanjay Jain