Of social responsibilities and rooted designs

Biome Environmental Solutions is a firm fundamentally associated with sustainable techniques and earthy, grounded and uncomplicated aesthetics. It imparts an easy, breathable and amicable mechanism to the built-environment it creates. While aesthetics are relative, the universal consensus perhaps lies in achieving structural beauty than superficial or cosmetic appeal. Environment and spaces are pivotal to design and successful design should be defined by the quality of life that the space offers.
  • Architects

  • Location

  • Design team

    Anurag Tamhankar(project lead), Shibani Choudhury
  • Client

    World Resources Institute, India
  • Civil contractor

    Ranganath L
  • Project area

  • Initiation of project

    July 2016
  • Completion of project

    December 2016
  • Project estimate

    INR 65lakhs
  • Photographs

    Dr Vivek M
June 21 / 2018

It is no secret that Biome Environmental Solutions has its precedence rooted in social responsibility and initiatives that emerge from and are aligned parallel to it. The World Resources Institute (WRI) works towards similar agendas on a macro scale with world leaders with an active presence in over 50 countries. WRI not only focuses at the critical connexion between development, an inevitable phenomenon but also the environmental responsibility that comes with it. And amidst their distinguished ideas; Biome Environmental Solution and WRI teamed together to create an office for the WRI Bengaluru office that assimilated their ideas into a micro-scale in the form of a workspace. .
The leased WRI office space is spread on two floors connected internally. While the space receives ample natural light, the existing structural columns posed spatial problems. The office building, although receives daylight, is sandwiched between two buildings less than 10 feet away from it. The quality of built space around the workforce is proven to impact productivity and psyche. Inhabitable and claustrophobic surroundings combined with sedentary lifestyles of being seated at desks for prolonged periods induces ‘sick building syndrome’ (SBS).
Given the impact of neighbouring structures at a close distance from the WRI office buildings, nature is brought inside building by using air-purifying plants like ‘Peace Lily’ and ‘Table Palm’ as dividers in the office interiors. To further facilitate natural light and air circulation, open seating plan was worked out for the office.
A major design intervention to tackle the issue of prolonged seated hours, some workstations are designed to allow working while standing. All areas are designed for universal access to create equality and growth opportunities. Going beyond the apparent physical challenges, platforms in dining areas are placed at varying heights to enable people with different heights; on wheelchairs or otherwise to have ease of usage.
The choice of material is based on their social and environmental impact. Walls are constructed from compressed stabilized earth block/ stabilized mud blocks. These newly built walls in stabilized mud blocks do not require plastering or paint. This reduces the recurring cost of maintenance, re-plastering and painting. The embodied energy of the walls is reduced considerably when compared with conventional table moulded brick masonry. The stabilised mud walls lends the space a characteristic earthy, easy and breathable vibe which is essential to a smooth functioning workspace. The existing walls on site are re-painted with a low Volatile organic compound (VOC) and lead free paint.
Pinewood sourced from dismantled packaging is used to make most of new furniture for the office. All of the existing furniture is modified according to new needs and reused in the new space. For remaining furniture, pinewood was sourced from plantations and not from forests. Pinewood is a fast-growing variety which is grown specifically for ‘cutting’ and makes it a pragmatic choice for furniture as no deforestation transpires. In the process, wood equivalent of 3 matured trees was saved by modifying existing furniture and of 4 trees equivalent was saved from using fast-growing wood from pinewood plantation. Curtains for the office are manufactured from banana pseudo stem.
Seemingly minor but highly effective interventions are incorporated to bring about gradual changes in the manner in which offices operate. For example, a foot pedal operated faucet provides hands free access to water avoiding contact of multiple hands with the handle. Also, there is often a tendency to keep the water spout flowing during the course of cleansing. The foot pedal can eliminate or keep a check on the wasteful practice. The water from the showerhead is released in a ‘wave’ pattern that results in an ‘illusion’ of increased flow, thereby reducing water usage.  A showerhead in place of a faucet is used in the kitchen sink. It allows water to spread over a larger area as opposed to the single stream that a faucet emanates. The water from the kitchen is then filtered by a plant based system and reused for gardening. These interventions do not call for additional efforts by the users; be it the employer or employee. While the built environment and techniques create and sound working space, it is often the passive details that enable sustainability through means of design.
All the electrical fittings were selected based on their power saving factors. LED lighting fixtures, brushless dc motor fan and BEE 5 star rated split AC units put in only meeting spaces reduce power consumption by half. Signage creating awareness about all the features and about our responsibility towards the environment was put in place to create awareness and to sensitize people.