THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Numerous lights shine from the ceiling of the Hilton Garden Inn Trivandrum creating the perfect ambiance. The political drama from New Delhi unfolds on a giant television screen. A pleasing track is being played; the morning sun comes down with warmth outside while the air conditioners work away to keep the air inside the restaurant cool.
But Karan Grover for one is not impressed by these settings. “There is good sunlight outside but there must be around 300 lights in this place. If you turn them off, it’s dark and you can’t sit in here. This is stupid designing,” says Grover, one of the leading architects of India and a pioneer of green building movement, assessing his surroundings.
Grover, a flamboyant personality, - former national swimmer, conservator – is an all-in-one package. But his biggest claim-to-fame is the CII GBC building at Hyderabad, which won the US Green Building Council Platinum Award, the first one to do so outside the US.
“Buildings consume more than 50 percent of world’s energy, more than that of transportation and industry. In my buildings, I could cut 50 percent energy consumption. If everyone follows this, we can save 25 percent in energy,” he says.
“You build all these glass buildings that cannot be cooled and forget your ‘Naalukettu’ and ‘Nadumuttam’ in the process. I can help you remember them because I have used them in my buildings,” he adds.
Grover is in town to preach about such bygone traditions. He, along with two other well known architects – Prem Nath and Samira Rathod –performed a ‘jugalbandi’ of presentations in front of architects and architects-to-be from the city urging them to go green in their designs in a function organized by ‘Design Detail’, an English magazine on architecture and design.
“Green buildings could cost two percent more, but this can be redeemed in just a couple of years from the energy you save. We are pressurising the government to provide incentives like tax reduction, more floor space index and faster environment clearances to encourage green builders,” he says.
Ask him the meaning of ‘going green’ and he replies it is the copying, understanding and implementation of our tradition and history. “We are blessed with around 5000 years of civilization but somehow ended up copying the West blatantly. The clue to the future of building for mankind is buried in our past. If you can learn from the past, it is the way to our future,” Grover ensures.
An avid fan of the food and people in Kerala and as a person, who wishes to be a Malayali in his next life, Grover says the three things in the traditional Kerala architecture that he totally revels in are the courtyard, the tile roofs and the veranda.
“The centre of the building must not have the building. Here, the hot air rises and cooler air comes in. The courtyard is the place where life happens and the house becomes one. I can make a 25-storey building and have courtyards, tiled roofs and introduce greenery. These are lessons I have learned from Kerala,” Grover says.
“I have been to the Padmanabhapuram Palace five times and the place has had a most lasting impact on me. May be it’s because I have studied the building in depth, it is the most beautiful one here,” he says adding that without heritages like it, the people would cease to exist as Keralites.
Grover says he is a globetrotter, but every journey has a beginning and he recalls the day when he decided he would be an architect, “I was 12 years old and was asked to create a model out of cardboards at the Mayo College, Ajmer. I created a model of the LIC Building in Bombay and won the prize. That’s when I told myself I will be an architect”.
However, the road from an ordinary architect to a green builder was not easy. “I was involved in restoring the buried city in Champaner for 30 years and made it a UN World Heritage Site. I put in whatever I learned in that project and after 30 years, people said my architecture was green,” Grover says with a proud smile dancing on his face.