Sunday, December 28, 2008

Glass is not Green.

A walk or drive in some of Bangalore's tech parks and industrial complexes can be a breath taking experience. Beautiful modern architecture complete with shining glass facades really make you gaze at them in awe. I did my internship at General Electric, which had four beautiful buildings, all of which had at least 75% of their walls covered with glass. Glass has become the new building material in Bangalore.

But what is the logic behind thus trend? The answer is that most of these offices belong to MNCs and that their offices in India also should also have an international (read American or European) look. Ah, the same old story of us Indians aping the West. So what is the cost of this stupidity?

A huge energy bill which implies a huge carbon footprint! In times when large parts of India have to put up with load shedding on a daily basis, here we have people who are virtually keeping hot plates in their refrigerators! The point here is that all these swanky buildings have central air conditioning. All of us know that glass structures trap heat very effectively and so, we have a tug of war between the cooling and heating processes of the building. What a waste! These buildings make a lot of sense in the colder countries where the heating needs are much higher than the cooling requirements and so it is a good idea to trap whatever natural heat they receive. But what sense it makes in India, specially the south, where the day time temperatures never go below 25 degree Celsius.

In fact in IISc we have brick and mortar buildings with windows that can be actually be opened!! We do not have AC and i do not even switch on the fan. Another point, digressing from the issue at hand, is the high incidence of respiratory illnesses in those building with central air conditioning. Buildings which have central cooling systems are estimated to be recirculating up to 92% of the air leading to the sick building syndrome where people, even sitting at great distances from each other, are at high risk of getting respiratory allergies and disorders from co-workers. Doctors in the city say that the number of people with respiratory problems are on the rise, owing to not just the pollution, but also cross infection inside buildings. So much for all the glitz and glamor of these glass marvels!

It is high time the govt. comes with some legislation banning buildings with glass walls. It can be the first step in reducing the insatiable demand for electricity in India's Silicon Valley.


  1. well ya, except for the beautiful look and lower maintenance, there is very less glass walls have to offer. You rightly pointed out the problems. But , besides poor ventilation and higher operation costs of ACs there is a bigger problem of inferior fire proofing... many a times glass buildings collapse before evacuation is completing...thus its a big safety hazard as well

  2. Well..doesn't that hold true for our campus too?

  3. our campus has glass windows that are not exposed 2 direct sunlight.. Jus a couple of classrooms have full glass windows..

  4. So does IISC obtain carbon credits coza reducing the carbon footprint?!