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| Last Updated:: 30/04/2015

What makes Imambara a green building

 LUCKNOW: A cool and healing calmness takes over the mind as one enters the majestic Bada Imambara from the scorching heat outside. The atmosphere inside Chhota Imambara, Dilkusha, Bibiapur Kothi, Chattar Manzil or any other Nawabi-era monument is equally cool. Besides making visitors feel good, the Nawabi buildings emphasize on the need of eco-friendly construction, something Lucknow desperately needs now.


"Each of the Nawabi building suggests that the understanding about eco-friendly architecture among the makers exited much before the term was coined," says PK Singh, an expert at the state archaeology department. TOI explores how architect Kifayatullah raised Bada Imambara as a 'green monument' over 200 years ago.


- It's vault rests on air: The Bada Imambara is a masterpiece to describe the power of 'ventilation'. "The vault in the central hall rests literally on air, a fact proven by sonography of the walls by experts from the Netherlands. Neither has an iron or steel frame been used nor have pillars been raised for support," says Raushan Taqi, a historian and expert on conservation. "The volume of air in the hall is very high because of cross ventilation which helps hold the vault," he explains, adding that orientation of the building was kept in the direction of the air. "There are air passages which facilitate maintaining the volume of air in side," he adds.


Twin walls to keep it cool: Bada Imambara is one of the few monuments in India where the double wall system was implemented. "The outer wall of the Imambara goes up like an ordinary wall in our homes. But there's another wall right next to it separated by a slim staircase. This prevented transference of heat to the inner wall. Ventilation along the staircases traps air and facilitates cooling of the inner wall," Taqi says, though he believes that present day architects and builders may not find it commercially viable.


Bio-binding material: The material used to raise the mammoth structure was gathered from nature. Be it the lakhauri brick or the unique masala comprising surkhi, choona, urad daal, sheera (molasses), choone ka pani or farez (a natural fevicol like substance derived from a tree); all ingredients absorb heat, unlike the currently prevalent RCC (reinforcement cement concrete). "RCC is a non-porous substance, which repels heat, thereby adding to the latent heat quotient of the air and contributing to global warming," said Aasheesh Srivastava, a city-based architect. The building standing tall even after 200 years is proof of the material's strength.


Green spaces: The Nawabs gave a lot of importance to open green spaces which absorb atmospheric heat. The Bada Imambara has three gardens to keep it cool. "The general design of any building in those days included green spaces. In fact, the building was constructed in the middle of green spaces," shares Yogesh Praveen, an author.



A green building refers to a structure which a uses process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the building's life-cycle- from design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. In this way, they absorb atmospheric heat besides reducing the need for heat emitting appliances such as airconditioners (AC). Its over all impact may lower global warming.




- It is energy efficient. The requirement of lights during the day is almost negligible because natural light keeps the home illuminated.


- Water efficiency. Wastage of water is reduced to minimal by efforts like recycling of water for toilet flushing, conserving fixtures to avoid leakages etc.


- Material efficiency: Green buildings are built from green, rapidly renewable, non-toxic, reusable and recyclable material as lumber, bamboo, straw, recycled metal/stone, sheep wool, compressed earth block, concrete, cork etc.


- Temperature Regulation: Green buildings compensate for 'urban heat island effect' (caused by heat generated from concrete buildings, roads and ACs) by having sufficient green areas around the buildings such as green roofs and rain gardens.


- Indoor air quality: Ventilation is given a lot of importance in a green structure. This minimises the chances of indoor air pollution which is 2-5 times more harmful than the outdoor pollution, especially for people with lung diseases.


Maintenance. Green buildings need less maintenance. For example most green buildings don't require exterior painting so often. Due to the use of natural resources in their construction they are not destroyed quickly.


As many as 318 buildings in the country are said to be green. The list includes


  • Suzlon energy limited Pune
  • Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad
  • ITC green center Gurgaon
  • Olympia technology park, Chennai
  • Biodiversity conservation India limited, Bangalore.
  • Jai Prakash International Center coming up in the city's Gomtinagar area would be the state's first green building.
  • State owned housing development board has announced that it would rope in green building specialists in their new projects.