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Subterranean build for Gandhinagar institute

Photography: Ar. Yatin Pandya, Kartik Rathod

Ahmedabad-based Footprints EARTH has designed the Environmental Sanitation Institute in Sughad, Gandhinagar, which was to construct a sustainable and free-flowing institute that promotes interaction, involvement and interchange.

The ESI conducts training, education and awareness programs in the field of environmental sanitation and health. The institute consists of academic areas, library and resource center, computer rooms, outdoor demonstration spaces, multipurpose halls, administration centers, amphitheaters and residential spaces – open and semi-covered for various purposes.

The entry is through the smaller triangular plot on the southeast, where three trees act as visual guides in the process. The junction of the rectangular and triangular plots leads to the residential and service areas to the south, with a garden on the north. Higher massing at the south provides views of the garden and shades the lower masses on the north, and are clearly visible from the bridge across the canal.

Spread over 7,418 sq. m, the building was oriented to regulate breeze and solar gain and respond to the hot and dry conditions of the site. Increased massing towards the southwest exploits shaded areas to the northeast by accommodating the activity areas, courts and streets. North-facing terraces on the upper floors, decks and open plinths offer multiple opportunities for interaction. Fenestrations regulate convective heat loss and optimize daylight, while brick cavity walls insulate the interiors from the high-ambient atmospheric temperatures and incoming solar radiation.

A subterranean build with shared adjacent walls prevents excessive heat gain, and selectively-controlled massing provides mutual shade, breaks up continuous spaces and reduces reflected glare. Overhangs determined by shadow-throw studies and sun-angle analysis control solar penetration and reduce atmospheric glare in the interiors.

The landscape facilitates microclimate control through local shading by trees against south-facing walls. Wind turbulences formed by built form and vegetation prevent soil erosion and aid in surface glare control. Landscape treatment in the form of cut-and-fill on a flat site promotes solar passive design such as evaporative cooling and berming. Kitchen gardens and orchards optimize available land resources and use treated sullage for irrigation and mulched organic waste as manure, which are cost-efficient measures as well.

Rainwater harvesting (rooftop, open ground and garden) is practiced for sanitation, drinking and gardening. Organic solid waste managed through soak pits is repurposed to produce biogas for the kitchen. The lavatories are designed with a minimized water-borne carriage system that enhances sustainability and maintains sanitation. Solar photovoltaic and heating panels along with dehumidifiers and fans were envisaged as low-energy devices to supplement the solar passive design.